They’re on the loose again-strange ‘fox-like’ bats, hovering over and attacking apple orchards in upper Swat. Infamously known as the Indian flying-fox, the unassuming bat is a visitor any farmer would be anxious to get rid of. According to the local farmers, a large family of the Indian Flying-foxes, the biggest bats, which have one-metre-wide wings and weighs over 2 kg, regularly fly over the apple orchards in Matta.
“They attack our orchards every year in the apple-picking season, sucking juice from the fruit in the night. Again, they have hit our orchards. But this time, we can’t take action against them,” said Abdur Rahim, an orchard owner at Matta. He added, “We would clear our orchards from this strange bat using gunfire, but due to the military presence in the area, we are not allowed to fire guns. We are helpless, and the bats destroy our orchards.”
About 1,000 bats can be seen in an orchard. They sleep in trees, hanging upside and become restless in the evening. They live on fruit, causing great damage to orchards as they clear all the fruit from a tree.
On measures taken against the bats, Agriculture Officer Adalat Khan told The Express Tribune, “They attack orchards, particularly apples and persimmon, the latter being their favourite fruit.” He said they appear around August and increase in November. “There is no other way to make them fly away except by beating drums or using smoke.”
Bacha Jaan, a resident of Charbagh, told The Express Tribune that they illuminate their persimmon orchards with electric lights at night, so the bats are blinded by the light and avoid the area.
Sensing the threat to farmers, Swat Qaumi Jirga has released a press release appealing to the concerned authorities to help them get rid of the flying mammals. It stated that FC and police should tackle the issue if common people are not allowed to fire guns, while adding that the valley, apart from its beauty, is famous for its orchards and off-season fruits and vegetables, which a majority of the farming population depend upon.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.