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BATS AND CHURCHES – RESPONSE TO THE TIMES OPINION PIECE

3 February 2015

An opinion piece written by Matt W Ridley in The Times on Monday 26th of January entitled “It’s common sense: kill the rats, move the bats” (view it on his website HERE) presented an ill-informed picture of the serious topic of bats in churches. BCT did write to the Times but our response has not been published. Mr Ridley neglected to highlight the full suite of evidence available including several case studies where people and bats share places of worship (downloadable from HERE). How this can be done successfully was most recently shown at St Hilda’s Church in Yorkshire. Sharing places of worship with bats can be challenging, but with the right support and by working together, practical solutions can often be found even to the trickiest of problems.

Moving bats out, as suggested by Mr Ridley, can harm bat populations particularly where they are reliant on a single church to roost as was highlighted in a recent Defra report. There is advice available to churches via the National Bat Helpline (0845 1300 228) which may include a visit by a dedicated and highly trained Natural England Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor, who will listen to the problems encountered and assess possible solutions in liaison with Natural England. 

Mr Ridley states that most British bat species are not rare or declining and although there is evidence for recent increases in populations of some species, these need to be viewed in the context of large historical declines. Bat numbers now are much lower than they were at the beginning of the last century. This was caused by a number of factors such as habitat destruction and the widespread use of pesticides. Indeed, that is why bats have legislation protecting them.

Bats play an essential part in the natural world and are indicators of a healthy environment. Conservationists are trying to address the concerns of people using places of worship and those protecting our cultural heritage. BCT welcomes the debate on bats in churches and we are keen to find long term solutions. We have been and will continue to work with individual churches and other organisations to find sustainable solutions.

The current situation is bad for churches and bad for bat conservation. We would like to see a balanced debate and partnership working to achieve these solutions whilst making sure that bat populations do not suffer.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Bats and Churches

English Heritage

St Hilda’s Church

Defra RESEARCH

If you require further information please contact Joe Nunez on:  020 7820 7168 OR jnunez-mino@bats.org.uk

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