U.K.-based construction company Bellway housebuilders has been fined 600,000 pounds (about $800,000) for demolishing a bat roost in South London. This is the largest fine issued to any party for a wildlife crime in history, according to local police. The company carried out the demolitions in 2018. When faced with the charges, the representatives admitted to destroying the home and breeding site of bats in Artillery Place Greenwich. The location is a well-documented bat roosting and breeding site. Before the demolition, soprano pipistrelle bats had been documented at the same location in 2017.

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In the U.K., all species of bats are protected by the law. Anyone found tampering with the mammals or their habitats is subject to prosecution. According to the Metropolitan Police, Bellway has now been forced to pay the fine plus other charges. The court required the company to pay an additional 30,000 pounds (about $40,000), and Bellway agreed to donate 20,000 pounds (about $27,000) to the Bat Conservation Trust.

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“With the expert assistance of colleagues from specialist units within the Met, the officers constructed evidence to prove that the company had indeed committed an offense by carrying out work at a site where bats were known to inhabit,” said Metropolitan Police Inspector David Hawton. “Bellway Homes has admitted responsibility for this and I hope it reinforces the message that this legislation is there for a reason and should be adhered to.”

The case was decided at Woolwich crown court in early December, when the company pleaded guilty to the destruction of a bat habitat. Due to compelling evidence, Bellway had no other option but to accept the charges and pay the fines imposed. Evidenced revealed during the hearing showed that Bellway was notified in its planning phase about the need to find mitigating measures for the protected species as well as to secure a protected species license. Still, the company defied warnings and went forward with the project.

Via The Guardian

Image via Rodrigo Curi