Locusts: Ancient migratory pests

Locusts: Ancient migratory pests

हिंदी में पढ़िए

They came, they saw, they plundered. They settled on every tree and on every blade of grass; they settled on the houses and covered the bare ground. The skies went black and the Pink city turned brown. It had not happened for many a long year; alas it’s happening now and about 23 countries are under their direct impact with many more to join. And the locusts have the impression of not moving away anytime soon all the while working as if sent to destroy humanity…

Much before the humans took over the world, insects have reigned the planet. These ubiquitous creatures can be found under the ground, as low as life could get; and over the ground, as high as our mountains could reach and are very much associated to human life as both useful and harmful creatures. Among the harmful insects are the Desert Locusts defying the zenith of challenges for humans. As per the estimates of Food and Security Organisation, desert locusts affect the livelihood of one in ten people on the planet and hence are deemed to be the deadliest pests infesting the world. The challenges created by them are not new, they find mentions throughout history and have references of existence through early paintings of pre-historic period.

On an average locust hit once in every six years, the hit so intense it seems they have come all together, to end humans all at once. They cover houses, swing against the windows, collapse against moving vehicles, acting as if they are assigned the only task to plunder greenery and cause destruction.

The highly mobile locusts’ swarms cover a huge area ranging from Mauritania to India, Turkmenistan to Tanzania affecting the lives and crops of people inhabiting these countries. World Bank along with various other development-oriented agencies help the countries in coping with the damaging effects and control locusts, however, there is no significant improvement in lives of people as their attack is unconditional, they are not bound to appear every year and don’t follow a determined specific time to attack instead they appear at irregular intervals, many a time after a gap of several years. This is called periodicity of locust activity. India has witnessed several locust plagues and locust upsurges and incursions during the last two centuries including at least 15 recorded cycles since 1812. During recent past India has witnessed 2 major swarms in 1968 and 1993 and the story continues to date with them appearing at regular intervals.

The year 2020, so far, has proved to be miraculously challenging with various natural calamities including one of a kind THE NOVEL CORONA VIRUS, cyclones, earthquakes and floods. While the whole world is fighting the novel coronavirus epidemic by putting humans under lockdown to limit the spread of the virus, nature has created an equally challenging, but not so new, threat in the form of locusts plague in some African and Asian nations, proving humans can be dethroned from earth anytime, without any warning if the interference with nature is not controlled.

These locusts are once again in front of us in their macabre form and wreaking havoc on crops. People this time speculating various causes for their emergence, some say changing land use pattern might be responsible, some other blaming increased greenery in the deserts, yet another group advocating the rising temperature of the Earth. Before getting to know about their arrival, let’s get acquainted with Locust briefly.

Locusts are mainly grasshoppers found in dry grasslands and desert areas. They are the world’s oldest and highly noticeable migratory pests due to their extreme destruction potential. Mistakenly, people also consider long-horned grasshopper to be locusts as they also breed in favourable summer conditions to increase numbers and destroy crops in a limited area.

Locust is the swarming stage of some species of short-horned grasshopper from the family Acrididae. There is no taxonomic difference between locust and grasshopper species, they look similar to grasshoppers but in practice are completely different from them. Grasshoppers are found on agricultural land while locusts are found in desert and arid conditions. No morphological changes are seen in Grasshopper, whereas many changes are seen during the 90 days life cycle of Locusts.

These grasshoppers are usually solitary but under certain circumstances, when their numbers increase, they witness some behavioural changes and undergo phenotypic shift and change phase to turn gregarious and start migrating. This phase change is the only basis of their definition. This change is called “density-dependent phenotypic plasticity” in scientific terms.

Boris Uvarov first described two stages of phage polymorphisms, the solitaria (independently living hoppers) and the Gregoria (hopper living as bands of immature hopper). These are also known as statary and migratory forms although, in true form, their swarms are nomadic rather than being migratory.

Solitary locusts are forced to live together during the dry season due to the limited greenery in the area. Increased tactile stimulation of the posterior leg leads to an increase in serotonin levels that causes the grasshopper to change colour, eat more, and breed easily. Locusts breed in desert areas and often coincide with forests, agricultural areas, and pastoral livelihoods. In all locusts have three breeding seasons: winter breeding (November to December), spring breeding (January to June) and summer breeding (July to October). There is only one season of grasshopper breeding in India, i.e., the summer breeding while our neighbour, Pakistan has both spring and summer breeding seasons.

The life cycle of locusts consists of three distinct stages, egg, hopper and adult. Locusts lay eggs at a depth of 10 cm in moist sandy soil. Gregarious females usually lay eggs in 2-3 pods with 60–80 eggs in a pod. The solitary female mostly lays an average of 150–200 eggs in 3–4 pods. The rate of growth of eggs depends on soil moisture and temperature. There is no growth below 15°C. Incubation period during the optimum temperature of 32–35°C is between 10–35 days.

There are about 28500 species of grasshoppers worldwide, of which only 500 exist in the form of agricultural pests, and only 20 have the potential to become locusts. India is mainly affected by four species of locusts, the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), the African migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), the Bombay locust (Patanga succincta), and tree locust (Anacridium spp).

After the incubation is complete the eggs hatch and nymphs come out which are called “hoppers”. The gregarious stage consists of 5 instars and the Solitarius population consists of 5–6 instars. Each instar has different growth and special colour changes. The growth rate of the hopper depends on the temperature. Where it takes 22 days at an average temperature of 37°C, the same can be delayed up to 70 days at an average temperature of 22°C.

Hoppers become adults after the fifth instar stage. This change is called ‘fledging’ and the young adult is called ‘fledgeling’ or ‘immature adult’. The duration of sexual maturity varies. In the appropriate condition, the adult can mature in 3 weeks and can take up to 8 months in frost and/or drought conditions. During this stage, adults fly to search for favourable reproductive status and can travel thousands of kilometres. During this time, if favourable conditions are found at any time, they can become gregarious

Younger grasshoppers are solitary at the time of hatching and are green and brown to fit with their surroundings. When the food is in abundance, dessert locusts increase the number by breeding and achieve a “gregarious state”. Younger immature adults are pink in colour while older adults turn dark red or brown in cold conditions.

As the locusts grow larger and denser, they act in a group with behavioural changes to form a flying flock known as a swarm. The change of grasshopper form is induced by several contacts per minute over a period of four hours. A large swarm spread over an area of thousands of square kilometres can contain billions of grasshoppers, with a population of about 80 million per square kilometre. At this point, the grasshoppers are fully mature and adult. Adults become bright yellow at maturity. Males mature earlier than females. Changes in locust behaviour and physical symptoms are reversible, which can eventually change their original form or pass on to their offspring.

Locusts hatch from an egg to adulthood after a breeding cycle of about three months and can increase in number up to 20 times. It can increase 400 times after six months and up to 8,000 after nine months. They come in swarms of thousands of millions to eat all the leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, and bark of trees, plants or crops. They sit on trees in such a number that under their weight the tree can even break. A grasshopper makes a meal equal to its weight i.e. at least two grams. The locust of the flying band also shows the cannibalistic action of biting each other during food shortages. Migrations in desert locusts are influenced by their cannibalism. Research by Sepideh Bazzazi suggests that grasshopper swarms are formed because they like to stay one step ahead of their cannibalistic neighbours to protect themselves.

Their emergence as swarms cannot be attributed to a single factor entirely. They follow a sequence. Yes, changing land use pattern and other factors play an important role, but at a particular point following the sequence. For example, the greenery is essential but only after the eggs have hatched into nymphs, to keep them alive.

Dr S. Pradhan in 1967 put forth the Biotic theory of periodicity of locust cycles, who was at that time head of the division of Entomology at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. Locusts breed in semi-desert areas where sandy soil is suitable for thrusting the eggs up to a depth of 15 cm. While locusts lead a marginal existence in these areas, their vertebrate predators, namely, lizards, snakes, birds, shrews, hedgehogs, moles etc. find it difficult to sustain themselves in the extreme conditions of deserts and semi-deserts and hence gradually move out to the more tolerant areas on the periphery.

But in desert areas, once in a decade or so, there is sufficient rainfall that triggers the growth of sedge grass and other weeds and locust gets a chance to realise its full biotic potential and its population shoots up in the absence of predators that are present outside the breeding areas and cannot move in fast enough to contain its population. Unchecked by the natural enemies, locust moves from the solitary phase to migratory phase and develops into large congregations and eventually to swarms that migrate out of the breeding areas causing immense destruction. Locust swarms having gone out of the desert areas, scattered population of adults and nymphs is left behind which then persists as solitary phase, throughout Mauritania and India, till the arrival of another phase of tolerant environmental conditions.

Grasshoppers are major components of grassland ecosystems around the world and play an important role in trophic mobility and nutrient cycling. But when green grasslands develop due to good rains, locusts take advantage of the greenery and multiply rapidly to increase in number within a month or two and take the shape of a terrible swarm.

If not controlled on time, small groups of wingless hoppers or bands can form a small group or swarm of winged adult grasshoppers called an OUTBREAK and is typically spread around 5,000 square kilometres in a part of a country. If an outbreak or multiple outbreaks concurrently are not controlled and there is widespread or unusually heavy rainfall in the surrounding areas, a series of breeding seasons may occur that would later lead to the formation of hopper bands and adult swarms. This is called UPSURGE and generally affects the entire region.

if an Upsurge is not controlled, and the environmental condition remains favourable for reproduction, locust populations continue to increase in number and size developing into a PLAGUE. Most infestations occur in the form of bands and swarms at the time of the Plague. A major Plague occurs when two or more regions are affected simultaneously.

Locusts outbreaks are common and frequent, with only a few of these outbreaks taking the form of upsurge, and some of the upsurges turn into plagues. The last Plague was observed in 1987–89 and the last major upsurge in 2003–05. Upsurges and plagues do not emerge on a single night, they may take several months to a year or two to develop.

Globally, Locusts are monitored by the Local Watch Department in guidance of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nation, according to which the current locust attack story began in the year 2018 with cyclonic storms and heavy rains on the Arabian Peninsula. The storm of May caused so much water that for the next six months the desert saw the emergence of green landscapes capable of sustaining two generations of locusts. Subsequently, due to the October storms, locusts got another few months to breed and thrive where their three generations grew up. They became dangerous from here and targeted Africa starting in 2019. Locusts increased their populations in remotely undeveloped areas such as Oman and Yemen due to cyclones.

According to FAO’s locust’s expert Keith Cressman, the organization monitors the attacks of locust through human resources and satellites but has failed in this case. Monitoring network collapsed. According to Cressman, no one knew what was happening in the remote area of ​​the Earth then. There is nothing in this area, no roads, no infrastructure, no Facebook, nothing. Some are large mounds of sand, which are no less than skyscrapers.

When locust swarms develop a tendency to live in groups and become gregarious, they rely primarily on carbohydrate-rich foods. The land from which successive crops have been taken and which have been over-grazed lack Nitrogen. Due to this lack of essential nutrient from the soil carbohydrate-rich grasses develop. Experts have found this in studies on South American locusts.

At the end of 2018, when people saw locusts in Oman, the news reached Cressman’s organization and alerted the situation. But it was too late by then. From here locust swarms had reached Yemen and Iran and were continuously coming out of Oman. War-torn Yemen had the crisis of not having the force to fight the locust attack. Yemen received heavy rainfall during these conditions and the locust swarm found a favourable environment to breed and flourish. The locust disaster reached Somalia from here during the last spring and summer seasons (2019) and then wreaked havoc in Ethiopia and Kenya. Last March saw heavy rain in East Africa, which again proved to be a boon for locusts. Over the last forty years, control of desert locusts with preventive strategy has proved effective, but due to negligence and organizational problems, locust swarms have once again become a serious problem.

Locusts are very difficult to control at the time of the attack as they are spread over a large area. Early intervention in locusts is the only successful way to prevent a swarm. Many organizations around the world monitor threats from locusts. They provide forecasts of areas likely to suffer locusts in the near future.

FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) monitors daily weather, ecological conditions and locust conditions from Rome, Italy. The DLIS obtains the results of field survey and control operations conducted by national teams in the affected countries and assesses the current situation by combining this information with satellite data, such as MODIS, rainfall estimates and seasonal temperatures and rainfall forecasts, etc. Information on breeding and migration during the week is estimated.

Locust Warning Organisation (LWO), Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage is responsible for monitoring, survey and control of Desert Locust in Scheduled Desert Areas mainly in the States of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The incursion of exotic locust swarms into India is prevented through the organization of suitable control operation. LWO keeps itself abreast with the prevailing locust situation at National and International level through monthly Desert Locust Bulletins of FAO issued by the Desert Locust Information Service. Survey data are collected by the field functionaries from the fields which are transmitted to LWO circle offices, field HQ Jodhpur and Central HQ Faridabad where these are compiled and analysed to forewarn the probability of locust outbreak and upsurges. The locust situation is appraised to the State Governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat with the advice to gear up their field functionaries to keep a constant vigil on locust situation in their areas and intimate the same to nearest LWO offices for taking necessary action at their end. A lot of innovations have been made in the field of locust survey and surveillance for quick transmission of locust survey data, their analysis, decision making, mapping of survey areas through computerization, adoption of new software like eLocust2/ eLocust3 and RAMSES.

Historically, people were incapable of protecting crops from locusts, however, today we have the advantage of deeper knowledge and technology to fight locusts than ancestors, but still the spread over a huge area (16–30 million km), limited Resources, underdeveloped infrastructure and permeability of those areas, etc. make locusts difficult to control or contain.

Currently, the primary method of controlling desert locust swarm is small concentrated doses of organophosphate chemicals (the major ingredient in herbicides and pesticides). Which are done by spraying ultra-low volume (ULV) with vehicle-mounted or aerial sprayers. Locusts acquire the chemical either directly or indirectly by walking on the plant or eating their residues. These controls are carried out entirely by government agencies. DPPQ&S has approved 4 pesticides for use in scheduled desert areas of India. 11 pesticides have been approved for control of desert locust on crops and trees.

Organic pesticides made from fungi, bacteria, and neem extracts are also used to prevent locusts. The effectiveness of many biological pesticides is comparable to traditional chemical pesticides but in general, it takes a longer time to kill pests. To prevent these, farmers in the affected areas have started growing crops that can be harvested before the local swarm season. Additionally, inhibition of serotonin has succeeded in controlling the number of locusts in laboratories, but the field test of this technique is yet to be done.

Desert locust predator includes wasps and flies, parasitoid wasps, predator beetle larvae, birds and reptiles as natural enemies. Recently, Dr Dharmendra Khandal has seen Jacobin cuckoo, peahen hunting them in Sawai Madhopur. But these predators have the impression that they can be effective in keeping solitary populations under control. Due to a large number of locusts in the swarm and hopper bands, their influence against them is limited.

Although it is almost impossible to stop a grasshopper attack, their severity can be reduced by controlling the swarms, destroying a large number of eggs. Stringent efforts are being made in the affected countries to control the current ‘plague’. But how they will end up is difficult to say. At present, only the monsoon will control their swarm to some extent.


राजस्थान मे चमगादड़ विविधता व उनपर आये आधुनिक खतरे

राजस्थान मे चमगादड़ विविधता व उनपर आये आधुनिक खतरे

चमगादड़ द्वारा COVID-19 को फैलाने के डर से, राजस्थान के दो स्थानों पर अज्ञानता के कारण लोगों द्वारा भारतीय चमगादड़ों को मारते हुए देखा गया है। हाल ही में चूरू जिले के सादुलपुर में 45 चमगादड़ को इस वजह से मार दिया गया, झुंझुनू जिले के लोहरगर्ल क्षेत्र में 150 से अधिक चमगादड़ों को मारा गया।

रोजाना स्थानीय टीवी मे प्रसारित समाचारों के द्वारा चमगादड़ों को कोरोना का मुख्य कारण बताये जाने के कारण भारत में लोगो में यह अवधारणा बन रही है की यह एक अत्यंत घातक प्राणी है, और इसी के चलते  चमगादड़ो को अपने आसपास से समाप्त किया जा रहा है I यह पूर्णतया आधारहीन, गैर-वैज्ञानिक एवं भ्रामक है बल्कि यह हमारे पर्यावरण के लिए अत्यंत खतरनाक स्थिति है I

वर्तमान में चमगादड़ो का प्रजनन समय चल रहा है, मादा से प्रजनन के पश्चात नर समूह के रूप मे अलग हो जाते है जिससे चमगादड़ो का वितरण और अधिक दिखाई देने लगता है। यह विशाल समहू लोगो द्वारा COVID-19 के चमगादड़ से जुड़े समाचारो के मध्य भयावह स्थिति पैदा करते हैI इस समय कोरोना के डर से इन नर समूह से स्थानीय लोग डर गए, जिस से 45 नर चमगादड़ (Greater Mouse-tailed Bat) मारे गए। इसी के समान झुंझुनू जिले के लोहार्गल क्षेत्र में भी 150 से अधिक चमगादड़ों (Greater Mouse-tailed Bat) को मारा दिया गया।

अज्ञानता के कारण चमगादड़ों को मार दिया गया (फोटो: डॉ दाऊ लाल बोहरा)

भारत में पाए जाने वाले चमगादड़ फल और कीट खाने वाले हैं जो कृषि और पर्यावरण संतुलन के लिए अच्छे हैं। लोगों को अपने अंधविश्वास को छोड़ देना चाहिए और चमगादड़ को मारना बंद कर देना चाहिए क्योंकि वे भारत में मानव जाति के लिए SARS CoV-2 के वेक्टर नहीं हैं। यदि उनके चल रहे प्रजनन के मौसम में गड़बड़ी होती है, तो राजस्थान के उत्तर-पश्चिम में फलों के चमगादड़ विलुप्त होने का सामना करेंगे, क्योंकि ज्यादातर नर चमगादड़ों को लोगों द्वारा कथित रूप से मारा गया है। चीन में SARS-CoV-2 को जोड़ते हुए राइनोफिडे परिवार के हॉर्सशू चमगादड़ द्वारा ले जाया गया था। यहां तक कि दक्षिण एशियाई चमगादड़ों की दो प्रजातियों में कोरोना वाइरस की खोज पर ICMR की हालिया रिपोर्ट में कोई ज्ञात स्वास्थ्य खतरा नहीं है। अध्ययन में पाए गए वायरस SARS-CoV-2 से अलग हैं और COVID-19 का कारण नहीं बन सकते हैं। लोगों ने चमगादड़ों पर ICMR की अन्य रिपोर्ट का गलत मतलब निकाला है।

रिवर्स ट्रांसमिशन: IUCN व BCI के अनुसार, संक्रमित मानव से घरेलू जानवरों और यहां तक कि चमगादड़ तक रिवर्स ट्रांसमिशन हो सकता है। महाराष्ट्र और गुजरात की तरह COVID-19 की गंभीर सामुदायिक प्रसार स्थितियों में, रिवर्स ट्रांसमिशन की संभावना हो सकती है अमरीका, नीदरलैंड और स्वीडन मे सीवेज जाँच मे कोरोना वायरस पाए गए है न्यूवेजीन, नीदरलैंड के KWR Research Institute के अनुसार सीवेज से संक्रमण फलने की मनुष्य मे कम है परन्तु मवेशियो व चमगादड़ों मे यह संक्रमित जा सकता है। यदि यह घातक वायरस सीवेज, तालाबों, जल निकाय और किसी अन्य अपशिष्ट पदार्थ में मिल जाता है। यह देश के हॉटस्पॉट शहरों में तालाबंदी के बाद ज्यादा विनाशकारी हो सकता है।

COVID-19 महामारी के दौरान चमगादड़ को बचाने के लिए, पहले कर्नाटक सरकार और अब राजस्थान सरकार के अतिरिक्त प्रधान मुख्य वन संरक्षक एवं मुख्य वन्यजीव प्रतिपालक अरिन्दम तोमर ने दिशा-निर्देश जारी किए हैं और चेतावनी दी है कि चमगादड़ किसी भी तरह से चोट या मारे नहीं जाने चाहिए क्योंकि चमगादड़ भारतीय वन्यजीव अधिनियम की अनुसूची-वी 1972के तहत आते हैं। आज तक, उन्हें मारने के लिए सजा का कोई प्रावधान नहीं था, लेकिन अब चमगादड़ नुकसान पहुंचाने वाले चमगादड़ राजस्थान में अपराधियों के खिलाफ कानूनी कार्रवाई करेंगे।

दुनिया भर में चमगादड़ों की 1411 से अधिक प्रजातियां पारिस्थितिक भूमिका निभा रही हैं जो प्राकृतिक पारिस्थितिकी प्रणालियों और मानव अर्थव्यवस्थाओं के स्वास्थ्य के लिए महत्वपूर्ण हैं। चमगादड़ हमारे मूल वन्यजीवों का एक महत्वपूर्ण हिस्सा हैं, जो भारत में लगभग एक तिहाई स्तनपायी प्रजातियों को नियमित रखते हैं और इस तरह के वेटलैंड्स, वुडलैंड्स, साथ ही शहरी क्षेत्रों में निवास की एक विस्तृत श्रृंखला पर कब्जा करते हैं। वे हमें पर्यावरण की स्थिति के बारे में बहुत कुछ बता सकते हैं, क्योंकि वे सामान्य निशाचर कीटों के शीर्ष शिकारी हैं। चमगादड़ वास्तव में कीट नियंत्रक होते हैं जो हर रात हजारों कीड़े खाते हैं। भारत के चमगादड़ आपको नहीं काटेंगे या आपका खून नहीं चूसेंगे – लेकिन वे मच्छरों के खून को साफ़ करने में मदद करेंगे। चमगादड़ तिलचट्टे, मेढ़क, मक्खियों और मुख्य रूप से मच्छरों को खाते हैं. एक चमगादड़, एक घंटे में 1,200 से 1,400 मछरों को खाता है। इन मच्छरों की वजह से मलेरिया, टायफायड, डेंगू, चिकनगुनिया जैसी बीमारियां फैलती हैं। चमगादड परागण तथा छोटे कीट-पतंगों का शिकार करते हैं, जिन कीट-पतंगों की वजह से मनुष्य और फसलों को तरह-तरफ़ का रोग होता है। चमगादड उनको खाकर फसलों के लिए जैविक कीटनाशक का काम करते हैं। वर्तमान में कोरोना वायरस महामारी की वजह से चमगादड़ बताई जा रही हैं। ऐसा माना जा रहा है कि यह वायरस चमगादड़ से ही मनुष्य के शरीर में आया है। जिससे चमगादड़ की एक नकारात्मक छवि बनी है। ऐसी सम्भावना व्यक्त की जा रही है कि इस महामारी के बाद की चमगादड़ को लेकर नकरात्मकता बढ़ सकती है, जिससे इस जीव के अस्तित्व पर ख़तरा भी उत्पन्न हो सकता है। पर वर्तमान वैज्ञानिक युग में यह सोचना जरूरी होगा जो मनुष्य के उदभव से मानव उपयोगी रहा हो वो केसे इस महामारी फेला सकता है। वैसे 60 प्रकार के वायरस चमगादड़ में पाए जाते हैं परन्तु ये किसी मनुष्य में नहीं फैलते। यदि वर्तमान में प्रकाशित कोरोना संबंधी अनुसंधान पत्रो को देखे तो  कहीं पर कोरोना के लिए चमगादड़ ज़िमेदार नहीं है। COVID-19 चमगादड़ से नहीं फैलता।

चमगादड़ों में पाए जाने वाले वायरस मनुष्यों में नहीं फैलते परन्तु आज इन्ही को सबसे बड़ा खतरा समझा जा रहा है (फोटो: डॉ धर्मेंद्र खांडल)

भारत में वे चमगादड़ जो कीटभक्षी हैं – वे केवल कीड़े खाते हैं। कीड़े-मकोड़े खाने वाले चमगादड़ों को फसलों से दूर रखने के साथ-साथ चमगादड़ के काटने के स्थानों के लिए बहुत अच्छा है। कपास की खेती में मुक्त पूंछ वाले चमगादड़ को एक महत्वपूर्ण “कीट प्रबंधन सेवा” के रूप में मान्यता दी गई है। क्योंकि चमगादड़ कुछ क्षेत्रों में बहुत सारे कीड़े खाते हैं, वे कीटनाशक स्प्रे की आवश्यकता को भी कम कर सकते हैं। पक्षियों की तरह, कुछ चमगादड़ पेड़ों और अन्य पौधों के बीजों को फैलाने में महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका निभाते हैं। कुछ उष्णकटिबंधीय फल चमगादड़ अपने अंदर बीज ले जाते हैं क्योंकि वे फल को पचा लेते हैं, फिर मूल पेड़ से दूर बीज को निकालते हैं। ये बीज अपने स्वयं के तैयार उर्वरक में जमीन पर गिरते हैं, जो उन्हें अंकुरित होने और बढ़ने में मदद करते हैं। क्योंकि चमगादड़ परागण और बीज को फैलाने में मदद करते हैं, वे वन निकासी के बाद पुनर्वृष्टि में मदद करने में भी महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका निभा सकते हैं। 1411 से अधिक चमगादड़ प्रजातियों में से कई कीटों की विशाल मात्रा का उपभोग करते हैं, जिनमें से कुछ सबसे हानिकारक कृषि कीट हैं। बैट ड्रॉपिंग (जिसे गानो कहा जाता है) एक समृद्ध प्राकृतिक उर्वरक के रूप में मूल्यवान हैं। गुआनो दुनिया भर में एक प्रमुख प्राकृतिक संसाधन है, और, जब चमगादड़ को ध्यान में रखते हुए जिम्मेदारी से उपयोग किया जाता है, तो यह भूस्वामियों और स्थानीय समुदायों के लिए महत्वपूर्ण आर्थिक लाभ प्रदान कर सकता है। चमगादड़ों को अक्सर “कीस्टोन प्रजाति” माना जाता है जो रेगिस्तानी पारिस्थितिक तंत्र के लिए आवश्यक हैं। चमगादड़ के परागण और बीज-प्रसार सेवाओं के बिना, स्थानीय पारिस्थितिकी तंत्र धीरे-धीरे ढह सकते हैं क्योंकि खाद्य श्रृंखला के आधार के पास पौधे वन्यजीव प्रजातियों के लिए भोजन और आवरण प्रदान करने में विफल होते हैं। चमगादड़ जंगल में बीजों को फैलाने में चमगादड़ इतने प्रभावी होते हैं कि उन्हें “उष्णकटिबंधीय के किसान” कहा जाता है। जंगलों को पुनर्जीवित करना एक जटिल प्राकृतिक प्रक्रिया है, जिसमें पक्षियों, प्राइमेट्स और अन्य जानवरों के साथ-साथ चमगादड़ों द्वारा बीज-प्रकीर्णन की आवश्यकता होती है। लेकिन पक्षी बड़े, खुले स्थानों को पार करने से सावधान रहते हैं, जहां उड़ने वाले शिकारी हमला कर सकते हैं, इसलिए वे आम तौर पर सीधे अपने पर्चों के नीचे बीज गिराते हैं। दूसरी ओर, रात-रात के खाने वाले फलों के चमगादड़, अक्सर हर रात बड़ी दूरी तय करते हैं, और वे काफी हद तक पार करने के लिए तैयार होते हैं और आमतौर पर उड़ान में शौच करते हैं, साफ किए गए क्षेत्रों में पक्षियों की तुलना में कहीं अधिक बीज बिखेरते हैं। रात्रिचर स्वभाव होने के कारण ये रात में फलने और फूलने वाले लगभग सवा पांच सौ प्रजातियों के पेड़ों के परागकण और बीज़ को अलग-अलग प्राकृतिक वास में फैलाते हैं, जिससे जंगल को प्राकृतिक रूप से स्थापित होने में मदद मिलती है। इसलिए इनको ‘प्राकृतिक जंगल को स्थापित’ करने वाले के साथ-साथ, ‘जंगल का रक्षक’ भी कहा जाता है। चमगादड परागण के साथ ही विभिन्न प्रकार के कीट-पतंगों का शिकार करते हैं, जिन कीट-पतंगों की वजह से मनुष्य और फसलों को तरह-तरफ़ का रोग होता है। चमगादड उनको खाकर फसलों के लिए जैविक कीटनाशक का काम करते हैं। एक अध्ययन से यह भी पता चला है कि एक मादा चमगादड़, गर्भावस्था के दौरान अपने शरीर के तीन गुना ज़्यादा वजन तक कीटों का भक्षण कर सकती है। इससे अंदाजा लगाया जा सकता है कि एक चमगादड़, अपने जीवन काल (लगभग 30 वर्ष) में कितने कीट खाता होगा? इन सबके अलावा चमगादड़ की सुनने की क्षमता बहुत ज़्यादा होती है, जिसकी वजह से ये प्राकृतिक आपदा जैसे तूफान, भूकंप आदि के आने पर अपने व्यवहार में परिवर्तन करते हैं, जिससे मनुष्य को भी इन ख़तरों की कई बार समय से पहले जानकारी हो जाती है।

Greater Mouse-tailed Bat (फोटो: डॉ धर्मेंद्र खांडल)

राजस्थान चमगादड़ की विविधता के लिए एक महत्वपूर्ण स्थान रखता है।राजस्थान का रेगिस्तानी क्षेत्र 1980 के दशक तक चमगादड़ों की दो प्रजातियों का घर था, और इंदिरा गांधी नहर के निर्माण के साथ, श्री गंगानगर, हनुमानगढ़, बीकानेर, जोधपुर, जैसलमेर, चूरू और कुछ हिस्सों चमगादड़ों की प्रजाति तेजी फेलती गयी। राजस्थान में 25 प्रकार की प्रजातियां पाई जाती है। जिसमें 3 फल चमगादड़ व 22 कीट खाने वाली प्रजाति पाई जाती है। तीन प्रकार की फल चमगादड़, जिसमें टैरोपस ग्रागेटस, रुस्टस प्रजाति, सिनोपटेरस प्रजाति पाई जाती है। यह सामन्यत बड़े पेड़ो पर लटकी हुई अवस्था में पाई जाती है। यह प्रजाति पीपल बरगद पर लटकी हुई देखी जा सकती है। जो पानी के स्त्रोत के पास रहना पसंद करती है। पुरे राजस्थान मे Lesser Mouse-tailed Bat सर्वाधिक संख्या मे पाई जाती है जो समाज के साथ मनुष्यों के घरो मे, पुरानी हवलियो, मंदिरों मे रहना पसंद करती है।  रेगिस्तानी क्षेत्र से 15 प्रजातियों, गैर-रेगिस्तानी क्षेत्र से 17 प्रजातियों और अरावली पहाड़ियों से 16 प्रजातियों पाई जाती है। 7 प्रजातिया Indian Flying Fox, Naked-rumped Tomb Bat, Greater Mouse-tailed Bat, Greater False Vampire Bat, Egyptian Free-tailed bat, Greater Asiatic Yellow House Bat and Least Pipistrelle, राजस्थान के सभी भोगोलिक क्षेत्र मे पाई जाती है सात प्रजातिया Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat, Egyptian Tomb Bat, Lesser Mouse-tailed Bat, Blyth’s Horseshoe Bat, Fulvous Leaf-nosed Bat, Lesser Asiatic Yellow House Bat and Dormer’s Pipistrelle राजस्थान के रेगिस्तानी व पर्वती दोनों क्षेत्र मे पाई जाती है दो प्रजातिया Leschenault’s Rousette व Long-winged Tomb Bat केवल असुष्क और अरावली पर्वत माला मे ही पाई जाती है I अतःआवश्यकता है इन्हे बचाने की न की इन्हे समाप्त करने की।




Novel Corona virus may not be so noble for us, but the way it has changed us is certainly noble. It has united humans by dividing them physically, never have we all freaked together, got anxious for our lives together, and felt together that we were wrong that this planet endured for ages.

Our world lies torn and shattered and all because of an invisible virus that probably was let loose by a horseshoe bat. In our understanding of the Corona virus one critical factor stands out. The destruction of wildlife and wildlife habitats led to its creation. It could be from Wuhan’s horrific wet wildlife markets or fiddling with bats in a Wuhan laboratory or just destroying bat habitats that led to a crisis where millions are infected and hundreds of thousands are dead. Intermediary species like the Pangolin might have helped in mutating this virus and over the last decade we humans have left no stone unturned to decimate pangolins and smuggle them live into wildlife markets. They could very easily have been the intermediary species. China is hugely responsible for the demand and needs to be shamed across the world. My finger is pointed at it. I watched closely its enormous role in the tiger crisis that enveloped India from the 1990’s for two decades. I have watched its increasing presence in Africa and the resultant decline in African wildlife. At so many international meetings for the last 30 years it was warned to end its illegal wildlife trafficking and markets. It never paid heed. Endless wildlife WARRIORS fought to prevent China from this highly destructive role. But China as a global economic power cared little and stomped on in its craze for wild animal parts and associated medicine. As far as I am concerned this virus is a result of this. This virus is also a result of all those political and business leaders who did not care. All those who scoffed and mocked at Nature’s Warriors, hurled abuse on those who served both wildlife and nature.

Wildlife trade and wet markets are viruses mixing bowls (PC: Dr. Dharmendra Khandal). 

Pangolin might have helped in mutating Corona virus and we humans have smuggle them live into wildlife markets (PC: Dr. Dharmendra Khandal).

The disrespect that so many who have suffered who served nature is shocking. Many of us are now angry and unforgiving. Our warnings for the last 50 years have come true. We have tirelessly strived to prioritized the protection of our natural world. Few who made policy or took decisions listened. Today they should be covered in guilt. Big business failed nature. Few provided grants to protect it. The leaders of business preferred to remain ignorant of nature’s ways. Now they have been hit where it hurts. Trillions of dollars lost and economies at a standstill. If we wake up from this nightmare will they learn? Will they shed their arrogance? The less said about our politicians and their bureaucrats the better. I remember how hard I tried to get Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to create a department of forests and wildlife (which did not exist in our Ministry of Environment and Forests) so that this essential sector was properly governed. The idea was to make a separate ministry over time and allow a Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to be independent of it. He agreed with my logic, (10 years ago) and instructed that it should be done. But a bunch of secretaries vetoed him. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not held one meeting of the National Board of Wildlife in 7 years. Nobody cares. They still do not realize that the virus they deal with finds its origin in wildlife and gets released because of bad governance. They do not realize that our country is in dire straits, the economy a mess and life disrupted because of how we deal with the natural world and its myriad species. Prime Ministers, Ministers, political leaders, bureaucrats, business leaders, and society at large…. get educated fast as nature’s time bomb is ticking. This Corona virus is a warning. The next time Nature will let loose a virus that will be much worse.

This global pandemic could have come much earlier. It did not because of the tireless service of both Nature Warriors and Wildlife Warriors. These people come from all walks of life in village, town and city and spend their time passionately defending nature. Without them we would have no world to live in. They provide the most essential service to our nation but are least recognized or respected. More often than not they are relegated to oblivion. We need to remember all of them today and salute them. Who are these people? 150000 are forest officers and forest guards. Another 100000 are scientists, wildlife watchers, wildlife travel promoters, wildlife hotel creators, wildlife photographers, wildlife filmmakers, writers, conservationists, naturalists, village volunteers and NGO’S. We need to celebrate them and when we are out of this crisis the Prime Minister must do some brainstorming with them. You cannot run an economy without a healthy natural world. This virus reveals how easily economic collapse comes. Prime Ministers of the world will have to put forests, wildlife and the environment on the top of the agenda if you do not want to be plagued with more disease and death. Economic recoveries must be green in nature. No longer can we harm the natural wealth of our country or of any country. This virus has proven that a virus from Wuhan has swept the world. That is the interdependence of the world today. Heal nature must be our call sign. Our leadership across this planet must wake up to a new era where life, the economics of it, the design of it arenon-wasteful and non-exploitative, and led with a great respect for nature. To prevent global warming and climate change must be immediate priorities.  This virus has revealed how our planet is vulnerable and without healing nature we as a human race can die. Let’s learn our lessons and act hand in hand with the natural world. We need urgent global meetings of world leaders on forests and wildlife. We need global decisions to close wet markets and wildlife trade. We need to find noninvasive solutions to our future. Enough of diplomacy. It is time to call a spade a spade. Enough of G7 and G20 meets. They need to be re-strategized in the light of what has happened. Our mission today must be to create key strategies to protect natural eco -systems, our wilderness and all the life that abounds in it. If we do not achieve this mission, there is no hope of a future for our planet.