Bats are eaten here, sold for Rs 300 a pair
With spreading of Nipah virus infection, bats have become an icon of terror in Kerala. But people from the eastern region of Palakkad district see bats as an item for dinner and are fond of bat meat. Bat meat is sold there for Rs 100 -175 as per the size. People of Meenakshipuram and Chittur area consume bat meat.
Thousands of bats are living on trees in Thazhathepurakkal compound in Kambalathara. But the householders do not allow people to catch bats from this compound. The bat colony has been living there for about 30 years. Even if all the trees in the compound are chopped off, the bats are likely to nest in coconut trees and other trees. So the householders have not cut the trees to get rid of them.
The bats camp on large trees and start hunting for food by 7 in the evening and return by 5 the next morning. They fly in the same route to go hunting and return. Nest is tied between the trees in these routes to catch the bats. They get trapped in the nest in wee hours of morning and are collected loosening the nest before daybreak.
The large bats weigh upto ¾ kilogram. The head and wings are chopped off before sale. People from all walks of life arrive to buy bat meat discreetly. Though bat meat is believed to have medicinal powers, it has no scientific base. It is not yet confirmed whether bats are the source of Nipah virus, people in these areas avoid taking fruits bitten by bats. Mangoes and guavas are available in plenty here.
Ajith K. Raman, Assistant Forest Conservator of Wildlife Department, said that not all bats come under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The fruit bats commonly found in the place are included in Schedule 5 of the Act. They are listed as vermins along with common crow, mouse, rats, voles and jackals. So, if they are caught, eaten or kept in possession, no case can be charged. However, Salim Ali bats and other varieties come under the purview of the Act and so catching them is an offense, he said.