The news about the loss of 94 human lives due to the heatwave in Orissa has raised
eyebrows about government's much touted preparedness against the predicted disaster.
But, what has come as more startling an incident is the deaths of hundreds of bats in Baripda town.
Imagine the sad spectacle when over a thousand bats roosting in a huge banyan tree drop down to the ground one after the other after being virtually singed in the 46-47 plus temperature prevailing in the area. And it all happened in full public glare but not a hair wilted. What was worse was the callous attitude of the city's fire-brigade wing which refused to oblige the local forest department in rescuing the innocent mammals.
When the forest officials realized that the rising mercury might pose a danger to the bats in the tree, they immediately contacted the fire-brigade with a request to spray water on the tree crown and pour some water underneath. Even the forest department's offer to pay for the operation could not elicit a humane response from the fire-brigade department and as a result, hundreds of bats struck by the heat fell down dead on the ground.
The mammals probably could not tolerate the heat. “We were reduced to mere onlookers
to this very sad sight,” rued a senior forest official adding that, “ we were ready to reimburse the cost of the water spraying but the fire brigade people refused to oblige.” Ironically, the roosting tree was flanked by two huge ponds which could have made the job of spraying more easy.
“ Was it not an overriding obligation of the fire-brigade department, who otherwise have little to do for the whole day, to come to the rescue of the bats?” observed a wildlife lover who has decided to take up the matter in the court. “Such people who abdicate their finer sense to the altar of a redundant rule-book need to be taught a lesson,” he said.
The huge banyan tree here serving as the safe sanctuary for these endangered mammals enjoys the concern of one and all in this small 'town of culture' . There were many attempts in the past by the poachers to kill the bats for the belief that their meat has a lot of medicinal value. But all such attempts were foiled by the conscious locals who today look perplexed by such a heartrending epilogue.