FEATURE… Inside OAU: A colony of bats, incessant gunshots spread fear - Ripples Nigeria
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FEATURE… Inside OAU: A colony of bats, incessant gunshots spread fear

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In recent times, locally armed men in a patrol van have been roaming the Obafemi Awolowo University community hunting for bats roosting on trees. The invasion is accompanied by sounds of gunshots causing fear within the University community. Olabode Oluwafemi reports

Several times, Kayode a 200 Level Dramatic Art student has bumped into some locally armed men always in hunt for bats that immerse the Obafemi Awolowo University sky in their battalions. His unforgettable intimidating encounter with the hunters had him scamper for safety at the sound of their gunshot while attempting to bring down numbers of bats from the trees.

The encounter nearly resulted into a dispute between himself and the hunters stemming from what he felt was their careless shots at the bats. Won other random days, the distant sound of gunshots usually envelops him in fear and shock.

“My experience with them has been very horrible. Most times when I’m going to classes I do see them. My encounter with them that really got me terrified was the day I saw them in attempt to shoot the bats while I initially thought nothing would happen and I never knew they were using a dane gun.

“Immediately the man aimed and shot at the tree the bullet scattered and spread around, I had to run back immediately, terrified” Kayode revealed to this reporter.

The activities of the bat hunters not only dwell in sketchy locations but plays proximity to the academic community in the University as such is the tale of Ifeoluwa, a 300-level English and Education Student as revealed to this reporter during one of her lectures.

“There was a time I was reading at my Faculty and then I heard the sound (gunshot). I screamed “Jesus” then I had to look around to make sure no one was running. Cause I actually thought it was an explosion or an attack.

“Another time I was in class. Three unit course for that matter. They were killing bats again and the sound totally made me lose concentration. I was listening to the lecturer, but I was unable to comprehend anything. I had to pretend like I was active, but it was a lie. My heart rate increased also, I thought I was going to suffer a heart attack” Popoola Ifeoluwa narrated.

Adedapo Taiwo believes the activities being carried out by the bat hunters is a disregard for environmental conservation and therefore should be unequivocally condemned as the shooting equally exposes the students to undue panic and stress.

“The shooting should be unequivocally condemned, evoking a sense of urgency and modesty. In fact, I am left pondering the effectiveness of the security department’s measures, or lack thereof, in addressing these hunters’ disregard for environmental conservation. The academic environment ought to serve as a sanctuary of intellect, one that guarantees safety and shields students from undue stress and hypertension.

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“The recurring shootings have witnessed scenes where students nearly collapse due to the scate caused by these unwanted incidents. It is imperative for these hunters to explore alternatives to their brutal hunting methods, as their actions continue to exacerbate the distress experienced by students”, he added.

OAU: A World of Bats

Obafemi Awolowo University occupies a total landed area of 5,609 hectares with undeveloped area constituting more than half of its total with 3,383 hectares (60%), altogether harboring a large colony of fruit bats in the University community.

Research conducted by Eyo E. Okon, A Professor of Zoology in University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) establishes that the flying mammals with the scientific name ‘Eidolon helvum’ which are the second largest West African fruit bats, also form one of the three demographic components of Obafemi Awolowo University community. The other two being the students and University’s staff. Fruit bats are found throughout the tropical and subtropical parts of Africa, Asia and Australia amounting to 130 species.

Okon’s research delivered in an inaugural lecture on May 15, 1984, titled ‘The World of Bats’ revealed the ‘megachiropterans’ feed on four major types of food; fruits of wild and cultivated plants, floral parts, nectar and pollen while their feeding pattern particularly constitutes an important agent of pollination and dispersal. It further discovered that the bats observe the day on vertically elongated trees within the campus and at dusk migrate en mass to neighboring villages to spend the night, feeding on fruit trees and likewise return to the campus at daybreak.

According to the United States National Park System, flying mammals play a vital role in the ecosystem and have aided ground technological discoveries. The variety located in the University environment are seed dispersal and pollinators of plants and forests. Its unique characteristics like membrane wings and echolocation have inspired the technological space with advances in engineering, such as; drones that possess thin and flexible bat-like wings and more efficient sonar systems for navigation.

The killing of bats would pose a great threat to the ecosystem —Expert

An Environmentalist, Babatunde Qodri, a Project Coordinator for International Climate Change Development Initiative (ICCDI Africa) in Kwara State said the exposure of the species to endangerment would pose a great threat to the environment necause they play a significant role in environmental protection and pest control.

“The killing of bats would significantly pose a great threat to the environment and ecosystem. According to World Wide Assessment, 16 percent of vertebrate pollinator species such as bats are already threatened with extinction. And this applies to other invertebrate species that face similar fate. But what we cannot take away is that, bats have enormous benefits that other species don’t have, from being medicinal to protecting the ecosystem.

“While many don’t know this, it’s unfortunate that extinction of these organisms will have huge toll on the ecosystem. There are negative perception of bats associated with COVID-19 pandemic though. But lo and behold, they are essential to the protection of our planet— they are key to environmental protection and pest control. I believe these are many of the benefits of bats we are not talking about.”

The expert attributed their activities to naiveness of the importance of conservation while its consumption for human is poisonous, also urging the University management to take necessary caution towards such acts.

“I perceive it as a lack of knowledge among those hunting as they really don’t know the importance of conservation. Many of them use bats for medicinal purposes or eat it which is even poisonous to their health. Despite this, the school management should be cognizant of this by protecting these species against killing and hunting because it would cause damage to the earth.

“Their decision to kill bats will also threaten agricultural output within the school environment because it’s scientifically proven that bats protect farming areas against pests and pathogens. Thus, we should protect these species to avoid hunting them into extinction.” Babatunde told this reporter.

Nothing of such henceforth in the residential and academic area of the University community —OAU CSO

When this reporter reached out to the University’s Chief Security Officer, Mr. Adegboyega, he claimed the hunting for the bats is usually being carried out upon request by researchers from neighboring institutions while on some other days, the shooting is in attempts at dispersing the bats in their numbers in major areas of the University, hammering on their excretion as pollution.

The Chief Security Officer acknowledging that the shooting and hunting activity within proximity of residential and academic areas, assured caution would be exercised towards averting further occurrence of shooting in the concerned areas.

“Nothing of such henceforth in the residential and academic area of the University community”, he said.

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