SUBJECT :Yerukala tribals have traditionally hunted them, but now they are sought for witchcraft, faith healing. 

Upside down: Bats under threat.

By: B. Pradeep

Augusr 4, 2018: Yerukala tribals have traditionally hunted them, but now they are sought for witchcraft, faith healing.

“It should be easy to trap at least four, which is sufficient for a week,” says Suresh, who belongs to the Yerukala community in Telangana. The young man, with three of his cousins, has just placed a high net between two ficus trees at the old municipal park in Nalgonda.

The men are out on a bat hunt.

Once a bat flies into the net, gets entangled, or slips and falls, other members of the group rush to capture it.

But on this particular day, Mr. Suresh senses trouble from onlookers. Folding the thin net, the four leave the park on a motorbike.

Some members of the Yerukalas — who come under the Scheduled Tribes — traditionally eat bats as bushmeat. “Goats and chicken are costly. But bats are free, and a natural delicacy whose nutrition is only from the nectar of fruits,” his cousin Raja says.

Like chicken, bats are smoked, stuffed, fried or cooked and eaten with rice. “The only problem is while cooking it. They produce a strong odour that is similar to urine. But there is no other meat as juicy and delicious,” a tribesman avers.

Usually, four bats, each weighing about 1 kg are caught for one family.

In recent times, Mr. Suresh and other tribesmen, who control “territories” in the district, have been taking orders — starting at 8,000 a night, for a dozen large bats. They cater to a non-tribal clientele that includes natural healers, witchcraft practitioners, some medicine men and officers, and a few who cite “research purposes.”

Belief in myths

Some buyers believe that bat meat helps cure respiratory and rheumatic diseases. Others go by the myth that its fat is an aphrodisiac.

At the Department of Zoology, Osmania University, Dr. Chelmala Srinivasulu says bats are the most maligned and misunderstood species in the country. “Subsistence hunting (by the Yerukala) is negligible. More serious is the killing of bats through destruction of habitats, cutting down of fruit trees and conversion of forest land into SEZs,” Dr. Srinivasulu points out.

According to Telangana State OSD (Wildlife) A. Sankaran, use of pesticides in orchards on which the bats feed is also a threat.

Although several species of bats are listed under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, fruit bats remain listed as vermin in Schedule V of the WPA. Bat biologists say they help in pest control and aid in pollination and dispersal of seeds.

Source: The Hindu