CHENNAI: In a first-of its kind move in the State, the Forest Department is all set to undertake a survey of bats in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts. As of now, there are no clear figures available on the number of these winged mammals that are killed for their meat.
“We will start the survey by the end of this month and it will be completed in two months,” said S David Raj, Forest Ranger of Chennai. As bats are categorised as ‘Vermin’ under Schedule V of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, naturalists feel that hunting of this species cannot be curbed as there is no legal protection.
“The sad part is, bats come under the category of vermins, which are pests, and this allows them to be killed without any permission,” said Kumaran Sathasivam from the Madras Naturalists Society.
Being a nocturnal creature, unsurprisingly, there are many myths connected to bats, making them look anything from despicable to fearsome. However, naturalists point out that bats are also one of the most prolific predators of insects with an ability to eat them by hundreds every hour.
“Some believe that bat’s meat has a lot of medicinal properties and helps cure asthma. Myths like these are the main reason for killing of these mammals,” said a prominent naturalist from Chennai, who did not wish to be identified.
According to the Asian Journal of Conservation Biology, there are 1,116 species of bats in the world, of which 117 are found in India. Flying foxes, short-nosed bat and fulvous fruit bats are the common ones spotted in Tamil Nadu.
From the dark old caves in Villupuram, Theni and Namakkal and in other parts of the State, these mammals can be spotted at different places across the State.
“They help in pollination and distributing seeds; they are very active during summers where they feed on fruits,” added Kumaran.