The scarcely studied bats of Nepal face a host of dangers, from human disturbance and carelessness to lost habitat and declining food supplies. But BCI-sponsored research also suggests – surprisingly – that Nepalese, at least in the Pokhara Valley, rather like these flying mammals that endure such disdain in other countries. That positive attitude should make their desperately needed conservation a bit easier.
With the support of a BCI Global Grassroots Conservation Fund grant, Sujas Prasad Phuyal and his field crew established the first, somewhat tentative, baseline study of the diversity of bats in Pokhara Valley and the threats facing them. Phuyal, a student at Tribhuvan University’s Institute of Forestry in Pokhara, Nepal, identified 12 significant roosting sites, all but three of them previously undocumented.
In addition to many informal discussions aimed at locating bat colonies and determining local observations of their past and current numbers, we also conducted a formal questionnaire survey.
The number of respondents (fewer than 100) is small, but they were selected to cover a wide range of locations, occupations, ages, gender and educational levels. We are confident of the general results, which were confirmed in informal discussions.
Most people (59 percent overall) held positive attitudes toward bats. Another 19 percent were indifferent to them, and only 22 percent indicated negative perceptions.
Many people felt that bats are interesting because they are secretive. Some felt sorry for them because they roost upside down. One woman noted that she had enjoyed especially good fortune during a year in which a bat visited inside her home.
Nepal is nestled between India, which traditionally classified bats as vermin and only recently granted protection to some species, and China, where bats are celebrated in art and folklore as harbingers of good fortune. The Pokhara Valley in north-central Nepal seems to be in between, but leaning toward the Chinese view.
You can help support research like this around the world by contributing to Bat Conservation International’s Global Grassroots Conservation Fund. Please contact our BCI Development Director at email@example.com or (512) 327-9721.