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Heavy bat invasion in HP apple belt
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Kullu/Nandpur, October 23
An invasion by bats seems to have caught farmers in this region by surprise. The number of bats in the hills could be counted on finger-tips earlier but their number, they say, has grown alarmingly in recent years. “ We now spend much of our time chasing monkeys and wild parrots during daytime and trying to drive away bats at night,” rues Laxman Thakur of Nandpur.

While bats are known to feed on mosquitoes and insects, they seem to have developed a fancy for apples too. Farmers confirm that orchards close to forests and away from human habitation are being increasingly ‘attacked’ by the creatures of the night.

The Wild Life Conservator (Kullu-Mandi) Ajay Srivastava told The Tribune that while it is a fact that the number of bats is growing in the valley, no survey has yet been done on their movement, breeding etc. “ They appear in July-August and disappear once the winter sets in,” he informed.

The Chief Wildlife Warden, AK Gulati, said “We have no scientific study available on the migration of bats from the plains. We are now planning to track their movement and study the seriousness of the problem in the apple belt.”

The bats seem to have emerged as a major menace in the apple belt of Kheel-Dharmour in Karsog (Mandi), Spail-Chirgaon, Rohru, Nandpur, Sarasvatinagar in Pabbar valley of Rohru division in Shimla district and Shamshi, Parbati and Kullu valleys, Ani and Jaban areas in Kullu district, according to all available accounts.

Curiously, neither the forest department nor the farmers seem to have photographs to

support their claim. In daylight hours, they explain, the bats nest on the highest branches of trees or in the crevices on hillsides, making it difficult to photograph them in groups.

Farmers have tried lighting up trees at night and lighting fires in the hope that smoke would drive the bats away. But the ploys have largely been ineffective, they say, and rue that the bats have been damaging 5 to 10 per cent of the crop. The President, Upper Kullu Apple Growers’ Association, Prem Sharma demanded a more pro-active role by the state government. “ The ban on killing wildlife restricts the farmers’ ability to deal with monkeys and bats and protect the crop,” complained Sharma. 





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