Puducherry family coexists with over 1,000 dusky leaf-nosed bats at house

A family in Lawspet, Puducherry, has been co-existing with over 1,000 Dusky Leaf-Nosed Bats in their house for the past two decades.   | Photo Credit: KUMAR S.S.

At a time when bats are being looked upon with suspicion and vilified as carriers of coronavirus, a family in Puducherry has been co-existing with over 1,000 dusky leaf-nosed bats (Hipposideros Ater) in their house for the past two decades.

The family members, most of whom have grown up watching the nocturnal mammals in their two-storey house in Lawspet over the last 21 years, coexist without disturbing each other.

It all happened when Prabhu A. Ponmudi, a businessman-cum-environmentalist, started constructing his house in Lawspet in 2000.

A few bats started to roost while construction work was under way and by the time the building was completed, an entire colony of bats had settled.

“We built a swimming pool at the first storey of the house and left space on all the sides of the pool to prevent seepage of water into the house.”

“The bats started to occupy the space on the unplastered walls, and we didn’t disturb them,” said Prabhu A. Ponmudi, who opens a glass door to show the bat colony occupying all the walls separating the swimming pool.

The L-shaped space separating the swimming pool from the rooms on its sides is now occupied by a colony of bats, and there are also multiple hives of rock bees.

“We have learnt to coexist and haven’t faced any issues so far,” said Mr. Ponmudi.

“When children in the house open the glass door adjoining the swimming pool, the winged mammals fly inside the rooms. We switch off the ceiling fans for two hours and the bats use a range of ultrasonic sounds to detect obstacles and navigate through vents connecting the swimming pool.”

“The mammals swoop down to drink from a pond in front of the house at 6.30 p.m. and exit. They again enter the roost at dawn through these vents,” he said.

According to S. Vimalraj, a naturalist, “ “There are so many misconceptions about bats. This species is an insectivorous bat and helps in eliminating insects, including moths. Bats are important nocturnal pollinators and seed dispersers. They pollinate flowers of mangroves and are pest controllers for farmers.”

“The dusky leaf-nosed bats eat thousands of insects, including mosquitoes, every night and help in keeping diseases at bay. Bats like other wild animals are natural carriers of viruses. However, they should not be vilified with new diseases.”

Destruction of their fragile habitats and contact with their body fluids and consumption of bush meat will put humans at risk of encountering new viruses, Mr. Vimalraj added.

K. Raman, founder of Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF), a non-profit organisation, said bats normally roost in abandoned buildings, disused wells and palm trees.

“Tiled roof houses built in Tamil style had separate vents for natural lighting. These vents were used by bats for roosting. Their numbers are decreasing now due to destruction of their natural habitats and hunting,” he added.

The IBF has now started making artificial houses for insectivorous bats. A single box can support a colony and the idea is to increase awareness through conservation and education, Mr. Raman said.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 5:18:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/puducherry-family-coexists-with-over-1000-dusky-leaf-nosed-bats-at-house/article35482056.ece

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