Maharashtra gives Rs 3lakh each for 2 bat conservation projects
Sandeep Ashar, TNN | May 20, 2013, 02.06 AM IST

MUMBAI: Close on the heels of a successful tiger conservation campaign, an initiative to conserve bats has now been taken up in the state.

Alarmed by dwindling number of bat colonies in Maharashtra, the state government has sanctioned Rs 3 lakh each for two unique conservation projects, under its call for green ideas initiative.

The projects will involve using GPS and bat detector devices to assess roosting places for various bat species. A unique ID will be assigned to the roosting spots to implement conservation actions.

"Conservation of bats is vital to maintain balance in the food chain. While insectivore bats enable vector control, fruit bats, which thrive on ripe fruits, give timely indication to farmers that their produce is ready," said Mahesh Gaikwad, who is spearheading of one of the two projects.

While Gaikwad will implement the project first in eight talukas of Osmanabad, another agency will implement a similar drive in Bhandara. Environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh said the idea is to encourage such innovative projects in biodiversity conservation to sensitise the public towards environmental issues .

Gaikwad, who has a doctorate in bat biodiversity conservation, said his project would also involve identification and colour-coding of trees. "The idea is to encourage locals to conserve these trees," he said.

He identified the trend to replace traditional trees, such as palm, banyan, tamarind, with exotic varieties as one of the prime reasons for the loss of habitat for the mammals. He added that bat colonies were being adversely affected by redevelopment of old buildings and cave restoration projects. "We tend to overlook preservation of bat colonies while taking up such restoration and redevelopment projects," Gaikwad said.

With loss of habitat and rampant hunting seen as two main reasons for the decline of the bat population, the project will involve conducting rallies, workshops, dramas and lectures to spread awareness among the public. It will also involve studying and recording economic advantages of bat conservation for the society.While there is no official census, Gaikwad said, there were documented instances and records pointing to a worrying drop in number of bats. "More than 2.5 lakh species of a particular bat variety were recorded in Robert's Cave in Mahabalehwar in 1932. Our survey of the site in 2002, revealed that the number has dropped to 50,000. Another species found in abundance inside the cave earlier is not sighted anymore," he said.