India - Stop Classifying Fruit Bats as Vermin

  • by: Judith B.
  • target: Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan , Minister of Environment and Forests, India

In 1972, the Indian authorities mistakenly decided that fruit bats were a pest and so listed them as “vermin” when passing the Wildlife Protection Act. 40 years later, fruit bats are still there.

India has 12 species of fruit bat. Nine of them are endangered but only one is legally protected.  Aside from their own intrinsic importance, they play a crucial ecological role through distribution of plant seeds.

Fruit bats are now struggling to survive, facing serious threats of habitat destruction, hunting and persecution.  Because of their classification, they have no protection at. They were never a real pest in the first place, since they eat fruit too ripe to be sold.

Fruit bats were classified as vermin based on ill-informed misconceptions with no supporting evidence whatsoever.  Reclassification is long overdue.

Tell the Indian government to reclassify the bats and provide proper protection.

We the undersigned ask that you amend the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 to provide protection to fruit bats. Of India’s 12 species, 9 are already endangered and the remaining three are threatened by habitat destruction, hunting for meat and medicines and deliberate persecution as a perceived pest.

Fruit bats perform an essential ecological service in the distribution of plant seeds, and in some cases through the pollination of flowers, thus helping with forest regeneration. They are not and were never genuine pests. Yes, they eat fruit, usually over-ripe fruit of no commercial value. Preventing these bats damaging a crop generally just involves harvesting the fruit in time.

When the Wildlife Protection Act was passed, fruit bats were classed as vermin along with only 3 other animals: mice, rats and the common crow. Only one species of fruit bat - Salim Ali's Fruit Bat Latidens salimalii) – has legal protection now. The rest are still categorised as vermin. This classification should only apply to creatures that regularly need to be controlled, as in the case of rats. It certainly doesn’t apply to fruit bats. These species need protection and we ask that you ensure this happens.  

India has a responsibility to look after its environment and biodiversity. Leaving legislation containing a serious mistake from the 1970s as it is does nothing to help.

Please take action to provide the country’s fruit bats with much-needed legal protection.

Thank you for your attention.

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