Respite for rare bat species

OU researchers convince Karnataka govt to protect the Kolar Roundleaf Bat

By Author  |  Published: 11th Jan 2019  12:40 am
rare bat species
Last known roosting site at Hanumanahalli Betta in Mulbagal taluk of Kolar district in Karnataka

Hyderabad: A group of researchers and students from Osmania University here have successfully managed to nudge the Karnataka government into initiating crucial steps to protect the extremely rare Kolar Roundleaf Bat.

Their efforts, which began way back in 2013 after they rediscovered the bat, which was earlier known as the Kolar leaf-nosed bat, and its last known roosting site at Hanumanahalli Betta in Mulbagal taluk of Kolar district, have now been rewarded with the Karnataka government, according the site ‘Conservation Reserve’ status.

The rediscovery was significant since there are only about 250 individuals of this rare bat species in the country, with the conservation reserve status coming after the 11th meeting of the State Wildlife Board chaired by Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Wednesday.

The team headed by Dr. Bhargavi Srinivasulu, a post-doctoral fellow-scientist at Zoology department, OU, including research scholars and students Harpreet Kaur, Tariq Shah, G. Devender and Aditya Srinivasulu, had conducted a series of surveys and studies in Kolar from November 2013.

Conservation awareness

Measures to ensure protection to the habitat and species were taken by the team and accordingly a series of conservation awareness programmes targeting local villagers, school and college students, administrators and ministers were held.

Their efforts first struck gold when the local governing body banned stone quarrying in the area. Then a Biodiversity Management Committee was formed to create awareness among villagers of Hanumanahalli to ensure zero tolerance to any disturbance at the site and around the hillock.

Powered with scientific evidence, the committee headed by Dr. C Srinivasulu, Assistant Professor, Zoology department, OU, who is also the Regional Red List Expert of Bats in South Asia and member of the Bat Specialist Group of IUCN, submitted a proposal to the Karnataka State Forest Department to declare the area as a conservation reserve.

“Declaration of Hanumanahalli Betta as a Conservation Reserve is a much awaited goal that heralds the beginning of scientific management of the population to understand their ecological needs, to mitigate immediate threats and to ensure their continued survival,” Srinivasulu said, hoping to continue the studies in collaboration with the Karnataka State Forest Department.

Second reserve

The Hanumanahalli Betta Conservation Reserve is the second notified bat conservation area in Karnataka after the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Belgaum district, which was declared so for conserving another rare bat species, the Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat in 2011.

Dr. Bhargavi was equally elated with the declaration as it marks the beginning of action by people who matter to ensure survival of this unique species of bat.

Interestingly, there is a family angle also to the efforts, with Srinivasulu and Bhargavi being husband and wife, and Aditya, their son.