At BCT we often receive enquiries regarding the legalities of selling bats. Such enquiries most commonly relate to bats being offered for sale on Internet sites such as EBay or Gumtree, but we also receive calls where bats are being sold in shops, in markets or at car boot sales. Most commonly the offers relate to taxidermy specimens, specimens encased in resin or preserving fluid and less commonly mounted skeletons. What is the law relating to such sales?
In order to answer this question we must first establish whether the bats being offered for sale are of a species that can be found in the wild in Europe. If that is the case then any sale or offer for sale will be illegal unless licenced, this includes not only complete animals but also any part of such an animal. In practice we find that very, very, few instances of bats being offered for sale relate to species that can be found in the wild in Europe. Our investigations reveal that most bats being offered for sale are of species to be found in the wild either in Asia or South America. Clearly such species are not protected under legislation framed to prevent trade in European Species of bats.
The international trade in wildlife is regulated through the Convention in Trade of Protected Species (CITES). This law does however only apply to species considered to be endangered where trade has been identified as a cause of population decline. All species subject of the legislation are listed in appendices, but these lists include very few species of bats. Most of those that are listed are fruit bats.
It is possible that legislation in some of the countries concerned prevents the taking and trade in native bats. However we have not been able to confirm this. BCT do not currently have the resource to engage in international work of this nature.
One last avenue of enquiry has been explored and that is whether the importation of bats may be illegal under legislation relating to animal health. Regulations were introduced in recent years to address the importation of bush meat. In principle these regulations apply to the importation of dead bats. Enquiries with the Animal and Plant Health Agency reveal that such imports are allowed where the specimens, in the view of the importer, do not pose a threat to human health. At present we have no evidence to suggest otherwise.
In conclusion it seems that the great majority of trade in dead bats undertaken in the UK, whilst distasteful in the opinion of BCT, is legal.