All bats are legally protected throughout Europe and Russia. In Britain the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 became law on September 28, 1982. It prohibits all unlicensed disturbance or harming of bats or their roosts, including colonies in human dw
ellings. Householders wishing to get rid of bats must first obtain permission from the Nature Conservancy Council. Most inquirers receive a free visit and expert advice. In the past, home owners or "authorities" acting in ignorance have gone t
o great expense trying to kill the bats, while the bats could have been excluded at virtually no cost. The law does not force people to live with unwanted bats. The consultation requirement benefits both people and bats. Licenses are easily obtained fo
r educational and scientific purposes, and more than 100 novices have licenses enabling them to gain expertise in studying bats.
The new law is necessitated by bat vulnerability and rapid decline. A 1978-1982 survey in Britain, using 200 volunteer observers at 200 roosts in houses, indicated a decline of more than 50%. Probable causes included bad weather at critical times and
remedial timber treatments us ing highly toxic chemicals in buildings. One species, the endangered Greater Horseshoe Bat apparently has declined by over 98% in the past century, due mainly to destruction of colonies in buildings and caves. Bats appear
to be declining rapidly in many industrialized countries. For example, conspicuous species, such as the Greater Horseshoe and Mouse-eared Bats (Myotis myotis), are already believed to be extinct over some areas of Europe, with remaining population
s in decline.