RAMESH KUMAR POUDEL
Moreover, bat meat is a much preferred delicacy among members of the Chepang community.
But a recent move by Chepangs in hilly Shaktikhor VDC in Chitwan district indicates that the community is also acknowledging the benefit from bats. For the last one and half years, the Chepangs have been conserving bats instead of eating them.
“We realize now that bats are not to be destroyed, but rather preserved. They are good for humans as they protect us from mosquitoes,” said Baburam Chepang, a resident of the VDC.
Earlier, bat meat was easily available at almost every lodge or eatry in the hills. But over the years, this item has become rare. “And villagers have also stopped eating bat meat,” informed Baburam.
The killing of the flying mammal for food purposes has declined drastically, echoed Govinda Shrestha, chairman of Samphang Community Forest in the VDC. “After it was explained to locals that bats devour insects that destroy crops and even help protect us from mosquitoes, they have been for the preservation of the unique mammal,” said Shrestha.
Previously, restuarants in the villages would sell roasted bat for Rs. 40 per piece.
The locals became active in bat conservation after a non-government organization launched a public awareness program in the village with the support of the United Nations Development Program.
The fruits of the churi plant and its seeds are a major source of income for members of the Chepang community. And these fruits and flowers are much liked by bats. “We encouraged locals to cultivate churi and preserve the flying mammal,” said Keshav Prasad Regmi, director of Yuwa Samaj.
Bashu Bidari, a conservationist, informed that the bats available in the hill region of the districts are also known as ´fruit bats´. They live on the churi fruit and flowers.
Besides the fruits, the bats also eat small insects and mosquitoes, admitted Bidari. He said various studies have already proved that a bat can consume over 2,000 mosquitoes in an hour.