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Odisha village turns bat friendly

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Kendrapara (Odisha), Jul 17: Thanks to the locals' animal-friendly endeavour, a sleepy river side village under Garadapur block in Kendrapara district of Odisha has turned into a safe habitat for endangered bats.

Local residents have come forward to ensure the safety of the mammals. Not long back, poaching of bats was rampant in these areas. However, the species is now firmly ensconced in the village with people keeping tight vigil on poaching activity.

"The banyan trees on the banks of Paika river are abuzz with the sound of bats. The sight of hundreds of bats clinging on to the branches of two banyan trees adds to the natural beauty of Kundilo village. These creatures have become a major attraction. Villagers have made it a point to feed them with grains. Due care is taken so that the harmless mammals are not disturbed", said Prakash Jena, who heads Evergreen Forum, an environment protection outfit.

"There was a general belief that raw meat of bats cured respiratory and asthmatic ailments. That’s why, bats were being killed indiscriminately. We convinced the people that consuming bat meat was not a remedy for asthma. People later discarded the myth and pledged to save these endangered species," he said.

"People have now nurtured the belief that the bats are harbinger of peace and prosperity. Killing them would invite danger. Natural beauty of the place is heightened by the sight of thousands of bats hanging from the branches of the large trees. We have formed a bat conservation committee to protect the mammals. This has resulted in rise in the number of bats inhabiting in the village", said Diptiranjan Kanungo, a local.

The committee has decided to impose penalty on anybody found catching the nocturnal creatures or causing harm to the species, he further added. Bats numbered less than one hundred about four to five years ago in the village. Now their population has shot up to more than one thousand because of change in people’'s mindset, sources said.


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