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June 12, 2020

Flocks of megabats attack mango orchards in Multan

Peshawar

June 12, 2020

MULTAN: Flocks of megabats attack mango orchards in several villages located along Chenab River, particularly at Basti Dulla on Nawabpur Road.

The megabats attack has created a panic among the villagers as the mammal is the key source of transmitting a range of diseases and viruses lethal to humans and cattle.

The megabats are found hanging from the branches of mango trees in daylight when this scribe visited Dulla Basti across the unpaved Nawabpur Road. Megabats have destroyed acres of lush green mango orchards in the area mostly dominated by the Kalro clan of landholders.

The megabats are seen clinging to branches of trees. They have larger eyes and stronger sense of smell than microbats, but have smaller ears because they don’t echolocate. The rare megabats with wingspans of more than 4-5 feet and weighing 2.5 to 3.5 kilogram each speedily eat premature mangoes in dark times and the mammals cause huge financial losses in millions of rupees to the growers.

The villagers, which are already experiencing locust attacks, are now facing another critical threat of megabats in the area of Nawabpur Road, which is alone known in the country for the production of delicious mangoes.

Progressive grower Malik Mujahid Raza Kalro owns a mango orchard of 32 acres on Nawabpur Road. He says he has tried to save his mango orchards from megabats but unable to achieve the success against bats. He says the megabats attack has caused huge and unbearable financial loss to him. "I have auctioned my premature mango orchard this year and the auctioneers offered me Rs 5.1 million due to the thickness of mango trees, which were planted by my forefathers. Now, the situation has quite changed to rosy, as the auctioneers have offered me just Rs 0.8 million. The offer cannot even meet expenses incurred for the growth and development of my orchards", Malik Mujahid Raza Kalro says. Malik fears if the mammals continue to attack the mango orchards, then they will cause a huge loss in terms of decline in the fruit yield this year.

Punjab Agriculture Information Assistant Director Naveed Asmat Kahloon says the matter has been come into the notice of the Agriculture Department. He says teams of the Agriculture Department will visit the affected areas for remedy.

Reports say megabats were earlier observed in parts of interior Sindh near Sukkur in 2015 and now they have started appearing in south Punjab after five years. Zoologists say the megabats live in the tropics and eat fruits, nectar and pollen. The megabats spend their daylight hours hiding in roosts around the tropics, dense forests and wetlands. Roosts are where bats go to rest, usually in cracks and crevices that keep them hidden and protected.

The most common roosts are existing structures such as caves, tree hollows and old buildings.

There are two types of bats: microbats and megabats. Most bats are microbats, which eat insects like moths that come out at night. Vampire bats are the only species of microbats that feed on blood rather than insects. They prefer to drink from cattle and horses, not humans.

Seasons often dictate where any megabats choose their homes, depending on the time of year because they hibernate during the winter. In the winter, some may hibernate in caves, and in the summer, they will return to an attic.

Because good roosts can be hard to find, many live in giant colonies with millions of other bats. No matter where they spend their seasons, all bats roost upside down. They can hang from their hind feet and legs while resting. Scientists still aren’t sure why bats do this, but here’s one theory: bats have to fall into flight, which makes hanging upside down the best way to escape quickly.