What is bat persecution?
Bats suffer persecution, harassment and cruel treatment, for various reasons.
The persecution may be deliberate or reckless (e.g. continuing with roofing work even though bats have been uncovered) or may be due to a lack of awareness of bats and the places they live in (e.g. entombing bats in walls while repointing stonework.)
Some of the typical persecution that bats face is;
injury or death - caused by working on buildings or trees while bats are present
loss of roosts - caused by felling of trees, demolition or changes to buildings
loss of dark places to fly in - caused by street lighting or floodlighting of bridges or buildings
intolerance - people know little about bats or are unnecessarily afraid of bats and don't like the idea of having them in their homes
disturbance to bats while they are sheltering, feeding or caring for young - bats are especially vulnerable while females are pregnant or looking after young bats, both males and females are vulnerable during hibernation
Building development and maintenance accounts for two thirds of bat crimes that are reported to the Bat Conservation Trust, and more than three quarters of crimes take place at the roost.
Whatever the reason behind the incident it is important to report incidents to the police. Reporting incidents helps to deter further deliberate crimes and highlights areas where advice and education are needed to prevent "accidental" crimes in future.
By reporting an incident you can help to protect bats and the places they live, now and in the future.
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Why does bat persecution matter?
Numbers of British bats have declined rapidly over the last few decades; as a result all bats and their roosts are now protected across the UK. Without protection this decline would continue and some of our bats are already so rare they are almost extinct.
Wildlife crimes affecting bats have devastating consequences for bat populations, either directly through killing of bats, or indirectly by removing essential roosts used by the bats.
Bat roosts are protected to give bats safe places to shelter and to look after their young. Most of our bat species rely on buildings for roosting, although some roost in trees. Bats will use many different roosts to meet their different needs for each season and for each stage of their life. Bats are faithful to roosts and return to them again and again year after year, even if they do not stay long. This is because there is something special about the roost that the bat needs at that particular time.
Bats are very slow to reproduce. Each mother can only have one baby a year and may not breed every year. Baby bats are huge when they are born compared to the size of their mother, and take up a lot of the mother's time and energy during pregnancy and nursing. Disturbance at a maternity roost can result in all the babies being abandoned and starving to death (as they are too heavy for mothers to carry). Work such as reroofing, demolition or felling may result in injury or the deaths of all the mothers and babies in that roost. One single action could affect hundreds of bats. Bat populations may never recover from these losses. Building development and renovations are ongoing activities, and bats will continue to be encountered in these situations. Raising awareness and enforcement of the legislation protecting bats is essential to allow our bat populations to thrive in Scotland.
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What does the law say about bats?
All bats and their roosts are protected in Scotland. The most important piece of legislation for bats in Scotland is the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc) Regulations 1994 including subsequent amendments.
There is a long list of offences in this legislation, but the main ones are summarised here:
to damage or destroy a bat roost
to deliberately or recklessly capture, injure or kill a bat
to deliberately or recklessly disturb a bat or obstruct access to a roost
to possess or sell a bat or any part of a bat
There are special exceptions. For example, a disabled bat can be tended as long as it is to be re-released into the wild, and a bat can be killed humanely if it is disabled and has no chance of recovery.
It is also possible to apply for licences, either from Scottish Natural Heritage or the Scottish Government, to allow certain activities to go ahead. These licences allow bat roosts to be disturbed as part of development, and for bat workers or others to go into bat roosts to study them or to keep bat specimens.
Further information on licensing
The law is there to protect bats and roosts but not to stop anything ever happening at a roost. It is designed so that bats are taken into account when work needs to be carried out, and that any work that is done is completed in a way that causes the least disturbance to the bats, reduces the chance of injury and safeguards the availability of roosts.
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What can I do?
REMEMBER- who, what, where, when
Who is involved (number of people, description, names on vans etc)
What is happening (eg a roof being removed, bats spotted flying away)
Where - note the location precisely (a map reference or local landmark nearby can be useful)
When- note date and time
Take photos (using a camera, video or mobile phone) if you think it is likely any evidence may be removed and if it is safe to do so.
Contact your local police station immediately. Explain that you think a wildlife crime is being committed, ask for the Wildlife Crime Officer if they are available and mention 'Operation Bat'. Operation Bat is the police Standard Operating Procedure for dealing with bat-related incidents, because bats are a police wildlife crime priority. Make sure you get an incident number from the police.
- Directly approach suspects, leave that to the police.
- Pick up any bats at a site. Contact the Bat Conservation Trust for further advice on what to do with grounded, injured or dead bats.
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