Lawyer by day, bat man at night

Lawyer by day, bat man at night

Rajesh Puttaswamaiah has dedicated his time to the cause of bat conservation in India. His latest project revolves around a rare species found in Kolar

The Kolar leaf-nosed bat, lensed by Rajesh Puttaswamaiah.

Rajesh Puttaswamaiah, a lawyer by profession, spends all his non-work hours dedicated to the cause of bats. The Bat Conservation India Trust, set up by him has recently received the The Habitats Trust Grant in the ‘Lesser-known Species Grant’ category for their work in conserving the endangered Kolar leaf-nosed bat. Metrolife talks to him about why bats are in need of our attention.?

What led to the formation?of the Bat Conservation India Trust? What does the trust do?

I always wanted to give back to nature and running a conservation organisation was a long-term plan. My experience of watching thousands of bats being smoked out to death by a community in Nagaland as part of their annual ritual triggered the need for such a trust.?

Bat Conservation India Trust’s (BCIT) mission is to protect bats and their habitats across India. We carry out extensive research on distribution and ecology.?

In the last seven years we have been able to map many cave roosts and bring some areas under the visibility and supervision of the Forest Department. Through our outreach programs we have been able to influence students to take up research on bats, photographers to document the bats and filmmakers to create documentaries.

Nipah and now Covid-19, have given bats a bad name. Has that affected conservation efforts??

Nipah and Covid-19 have increased the negative perspective towards bats which were already maligned and marred with various myths.?

Both the outbreaks resulted in bats being culled and trees being chopped at various places across India. The pandemic has also impacted research work as some of our collaborating organisations are concerned about risk in handling the bats.?

We had to deal with it by increasing our efforts to educate the public by circulating educational videos and illustrations over social media and traditional media. Some aspects of research had to be shelved for the time being.

What drew you to the Kolar leaf-nosed bat??

The Kolar leaf-nosed bats being a critically endangered species was always a point of focus from early 2013.

We soon came to know that a team from Osmania University had started studying them and had received a grant. Knowing that they were being studied at Kolar we searched other places in Karnataka. Our surveys across the Deccan plateau in the last six years did not yield results. Additionally? findings from Osmania University indicated that these bats had gone extinct in one of the known roosts.?

Having realised that these bats were restricted to only one cave it was imperative for us to step in. The efforts from Osmania University had helped the Karnataka Forest Department declare the cave and the hill area as conservation reserve.

While this was a great first step, for a long-term conservation measure, we need to assess if the bats are dependent on the agricultural land and ensure there is no change in land use which could impact their food source.

What is the plan to conserve them??

We will carry out a detailed survey of the landscape to assess their foraging area, prey diversity and other ecological aspects to understand the species better.

The grant from The Habitats Trust will play a major role in helping us procure required research materials and support operational expenses.?

We are also working with the Karnataka Forest Department. We are also working with the community to instil a sense of pride in them for hosting the critically endangered species so that they become the true guardians of the Kolar Leaf Nosed bats.


How to help?

Volunteer with BCIT?

Provide support in educating the community by contributing books and stationery to the village schools.

Notify BCIT or the Forest department if they come across any potential bat roosts.

Contribute by providing research materials to BCIT.

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