Jaipur, May 7
Fearing the spread of COVID-19 by bats, people in four districts of Rajasthan have been spotted killing Indian bats, affecting their breeding season and useful role in agriculture and environmental balance.
“Killing of bats by local villagers, fearing the spread of COVID-19, with the help of forest workers in Churu, Sikar, Jhunjhunu, and Nagaur districts’ old monuments and ‘havelis’ in Rajasthan, has been very frequent in the past fortnight,” Dr Dau Lal Bohra, conservationist and member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Rajasthan, said.
As many as 45 bats were killed in Sadulpur of Churu district, and over 150 in Lohargarl area of Jhunjhunu district recently, Bohra, a key researcher on bats and vultures, visiting Sambhar Lake, disclosed to The Tribune.
“There are two reasons of hunting bats — one, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the other being number of myths that bats are inauspicious in family life if seen near their domicile. Both reasons are baseless and non-scientific as bats found in India are ‘fruit bats’ and good for pest control in agriculture and environmental balance,” Dr Bohra added.
“People should shed their belief and stop killing bats as they are not a vector of SARS CoV-2 to human beings in India. If their ongoing breeding season is disturbed, fruit bats will face extinction in the north-west of Rajasthan as mostly male bats were knocked down allegedly by the people,” Bora apprehended, adding SARS-CoV-2 was carried by Horseshoe bats of Rhinolophidae family in China.
“Even the recent report from the ICMR on the discovery of coronaviruses in two species of South Asian bats poses no known health hazard. The viruses found in the study are different from SARS-CoV-2 and cannot cause COVID-19. People have misinterpreted the ICMR’s other report on bats,” he quoted.
“As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature study, there is a chance of reverse transmission from infected human to domestic animals and even to bats. In a severe community spread conditions of COVID-19, like in Maharashtra and Gujarat, there might be a possibility of reverse transmission if this deadly virus is mixed in to sewage, ponds, water body and any other waste material. No country is aware of this warning, but it should be dealt carefully by government agencies. This may be more disastrous after lifting of the lockdown in hotspot cities in the country,” Bohra warned.
“To protect bats during the COVID-19 pandemic, earlier the Karnataka government and now the Rajasthan government’s Wildlife Warden has issued guidelines and warning that bats should not be hurt or killed by any means as bats fall under Schedule-V of the Indian Wildlife Act, 1972. To date, there was no provision of punishment for killing them, but now harming bats will attract a legal action against offenders in Rajasthan,” the Chief Wildlife Warden, Arindam Tomar, said in his order issued on Wednesday.
Reacting on the government’s intervention, Bohra hailed saying ‘better late than never’. Now, the Wildlife Department would depute its guards and other officials to prevent the alleged hunting of bats for betterment of their growth and natural way of pest control management, leading to balanced ecosystem.
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