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Sunday, August 26

The lone bat species in Kutch district threatened by serious habitat destruction near Hamirsir Lake

Bhuj is gradually recuperating from the devastating earthquake which claimed 12290 lives in 2001. Now, the developmental activities are at full swing, the wreckage is being replaced by new constructions. However, the developmental and rehabilitation activities around the Hamirsir lake in the Kachch district is adversely affecting the population of the lone bat species in the district in the Indian state of Gujarat, the Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus).

Indian flying fox, Pteropus giganteus, Pteropus giganteus in Kutch
Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus)
Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Fondly called as 'Vagol' in local Guajarati, the bat species is the only large-sized fruit bat species found in Kachchh District. According to a research correspondent published in the latest issue of the Current Science Journal, the bat species has been using the small vegetation patches near the Harmisir Lake as a major roosting site. However, it is facing serious habitat destruction due to cutting of large trees in and around the lake as part of the reconstruction and developmental activities, says the correspondence reported by researchers at the Institute of Desert Ecology, Gujarat.

“The reconstruction and developmental initiatives have resulted in the cutting down of large trees which had provided shelter to the flying fox population in the past.  The natural habitat like forest patches and larger trees are disappearing due to rapid industrialization, urbanization” says the correspondence.

Disturbance from Laser shows

Moreover, the tourists activities in and around the lake are also taking a toll on the Indian flying fox population here. The influx of tourists and the resulting vehicular traffic are additional threats. According to the correspondence the laser light shows during the ‘Kutch Carnival’, a tourist fest, is also disturbing the Indian Flying Foxes in the area.

According to the correspondence, the wide presence of an invasive plant Prosopis juliflora, is also posing a major threat to the natural habitat of this bat species in Kutch district.

Conservation significance of Pteropus giganteus in Kutch

Earlier studies have shown that bats usually play a major role in pollination and seed dispersal of many plant species. Since it is the lone bat species in the district, it will be crucial in the pollination of many plants in the area. The disturbances caused to the habitat of the organism will thus take a toll on the population of many plants here thus bringing down the quality of the eco system, points out experts.

Though Indian Flying Fox is categorized under the Least Concern group in the Red Data book of IUCN, experts point out that the population trend of this organism is decreasing.

Calling for immediate attention towards the conversation statusof bats, the correspondence says that the bats have been given a least conservation priority in the area.  

“The time has come for the conservation of all animal groups, including the Flying Fox for maintaining ecological balance and conservation of biodiversity”, says the correspondence. 

Do you think conserving Indian flying foxes in Kutch as important? Share your views in the comments. 

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