Thousands of fruit bats could have used Batman’s help last weekend when one or more unidentified assailants unleashed a spray of shotgun and AK-47 shells inside a cave in northern Lebanon. This senseless massacre wiped out at least 5,000 of these highly endangered flying mammals who populated the largest colony in the Middle East. Animal Encounter founder Dr. Mounir Abi-Said told The Daily Star that the bats didn’t die right away and that they probably crawled to shelter.
A cave full of bullets
Also a professor at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese University, Dr. Abi-Said went to the cave in the Akkar region to conduct his weekly check up. He has been doing this since 2007. But when he arrived, he found the cave full of bullet holes, and fig trees at the entrance that sheltered the bats from the elements and light were burned down.
Asked who would want to kill bats in this way, he said that some people have a groundless fear of being attacked even though not a single bat species in Lebanon would, and none of the 20 native species carry rabies.
Fruit bats and ecology
Fruit bats are crucial to Lebanon’s ecosystem since they germinate fruit trees, and their droppings, called guano, can be used as fertilizer. Otherwise known as megabats even though they are not so large, their habitat is threatened by pesticides used for agriculture and mining and tourist activity around caves which scares the animals off.
Dr. Abi-Said explained to The Daily Star that caves require more government protection and education needs to be stepped up. “We have to talk more about animals, but still keep a balance with the scientific side to things. We don’t want people to be purely sympathetic toward animals: That won’t help,” he said.
And he is definitely doing his part by running the Animals Encounter education center in Aley, where he shares his knowledge about many of Lebanon’s native and threatened species.
Crimes against nature
Although crimes against nature are relatively common in the Middle East, we have seen progress recently. Ajman in the Gulf has completely banned the ownership of wild animals in people’s homes and the Green Sheikh has come out openly in favor of protecting animal rights.
These are baby steps but in the meantime, I hope batman finds the fools who destroyed the bats in Lebanon.
image via clconroy, Morguefile
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