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| Last Updated:12/09/2020

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Bats in the belfry? Catch them at govt museum in Egmore




The nipha virus scare is giving bats a bad name, but there’s a whole colony of them minding their own business living peacefully in the tall trees that line the government museum compound in the city. About 6,000 fruit bats have made the museum compound their home, up from intamarind and mango trees located in the premises.



Museum officials are at pains to stress that the bats are harmless. “They do not disturb or cause any nuisance to the visitors. There were no reports of any visitor being bitten, so far,” a museum official said. Museum officials are quite protective of the elusive mammals that made their home in the museum two decades ago, when some 100 fruit bats started to nest in the trees there.



Kumaran Sathasivam, author of Ma-2,000 in 2012 when WWF India conducted a survey. These flying foxes roost rine Mammals of India, said fruit bats had colonies at two other locations in the city — a large group at the sprawling campuses of the Theosophical Society and a smaller one IIT Madras. “Generally, flying foxes prefer tall trees and undisturbed locations,” he said.



According to the WWF-India study, the 1.5 acres of land around the museum building are home to 116 species of flora and fauna. “Initially, the fruit bats used to roost on tamarind trees; now they have spread to mango trees as well,” a museum official said. What is crucial is that these trees are in a secluded spot at the rear of the museum, where people rarely visit. The bats don’t stay there all the time though. As night falls, they leave the trees and fly out over the city in search of trees with fruit, often feeding on the banks of the Couum.



K V Sudhakar, president of Madras Naturalists’ Society, says he cannot put a number to the fruit bats in the city. “But, I can say that the numbers have drastically increased,” he said. Naturalists stress that the bats pose little risk to Chennaiites as they are reclusive and stay well away from people, high in the trees.








Source: Times of India, 07 June. 2019, Chennai