Cornwall Bat Group,has been running training sessions for police officers after discovering that the county has the highest levels of crimes against bats in the UK.
The group, part of Cornwall Wildlife Trust says it has been concerned for some time about the levels of reported bat crime within Cornwall and decided to fund a training session for police wildlife crime officers in Cornwall.
After interest from police officers in other counties, the group decided to jointly host the event with Devon Bat Group at Roadford Reservoir to reach as many officers as possible from Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.
A spokesman for the group said: "All UK bats and their roosts are legally protected, even if the bats aren’t there all of the time. Of the 11,000 calls to Bat Conservation Trust every year, about 300 are those relate to bat crime, despite this number of calls, very few lead to successful prosecutions and fines in the past were not high enough to act as a sufficient deterrent to some un-ruthless people.
"Bats were once far more common and the police officers were told about dangers to bats. As well as bats being vulnerable to attacks by cats and large birds, their biggest threat is humans. With increasing development and home improvements, bats do get illegally disturbed, killed and their roosts destroyed.
Adding that as some types of home improvements and conversions don’t require planning permission, often surveys are not carried out and bats can be disturbed or their roosts destroyed due to a lack of knowledge by a home owner or builder. When planning permission is sought, protected species surveys may need to be carried out before permission can be granted, with possible measures to protect species in place.
Steve Marshall, chair of Cornwall Bat Group said, I would like to thank South West Lakes Trust for hosting the event, everyone who helped with arrangements, attended and a special thanks to all the people who gave talks, brought bats along and gave their time freely. It was clear that many of the crimes could have easily have been prevented by responding to the advice given by consultants. It was also very clear that planning authorities are under pressure but that they play an important role in preserving wildlife and preventing wildlife crimes from being committed.
Police Sergeant Dave Knight from Devon and Cornwall Police Wildlife Crime Group said: The nature of the training provided a better understanding of the issues relating to bat ecology, to planning law and to the legislation relevant to bats. There was also the opportunity for PWCOs to meet with partners from the Bat Conservation Trust and the Devon and Cornwall Bat Groups.
"This is particularly important as PWCOs conduct their wildlife crime officer roles in addition to their primary policing responsibilities. My thanks also go to the South West Lakes Trust who hosted this training’.
Devon and Cornwall police have recently brought successful prosecutions in an attempt to respond to the highest level of reported bat crimes in the UK.
For more information about bats visit the Bat Conservation Trust’s website www.bats.org.uk where you can also find out details about events and your nearest bat group.