Meet ‘Batty’ Grandmother Braving Furry Friends Despite Nipah Fears

This lovely grandmother hasn’t let the Nipah virus paranoia push her to cruelty towards her little batty housemates.

2 min read

Shantaben Prajapati has a unique claim to fame: This 74-year-old resident of Rajpur village in Mehsana, Gujarat, lives with over 1,000 bats in her home. This may seem baffling at a time when fruit bats are being blamed for the outbreak of the deadly Nipah in Kerala, but there’s no reason to fear.

Tests at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal claimed fruits bats are not the carrier of virus. However, her compassion for these winged creatures is so strong that she has moved out of her own home, and now cooks her meals and sleeps in the veranda – all because she wants to avoid killing them at any cost. And they sure aren’t moving out by themselves!

‘Batty’ Granny

Shantaben Prajapati’s home has played host to bats for over five years, since 2013. The bats have literally taken over her two-storey mud home, where they rest during the day and leave at sunset in search of food, only to return the following morning.

Shantaben even goes about cleaning bat droppings everyday, complaining that its smell permeates her home. But she doesn’t want to be unkind to them.

According to her, it’s a sin to drive out the winged mammals that sought shelter at her home on their own accord.
There are concrete buildings around here, but my house is made of mud. So, all the bats came here. Tell me what to do now?
Shantaben Prajapati

Locals Are Worried

The local villagers who are aware of the 12 deaths in Kerala are quite worried about the bat situation in their village. Shankersinh Nathusinh is a resident of Rajpur and runs a newspaper agency for the surrounding villages .

There are deserted houses in the village where thousands of bats have taken shelter. I am scared, but what to do. I tell people that these bats can make you ill, and if the virus spreads in the village then it can cause problems.
Shankersinh Nathusinh

The Quint spoke with Gira Shah, the managing trustee of Jivdaya Charitable Trust, an animal rescue and welfare organisation about the bat infestation in Shantaben’s home.

We are taking additional precautions while handling bats that are in our captivity; for example, using gloves while handling and feeding them, so that we do not directly touch its saliva. She (Shantaben) should use gloves and a mask while interacting with the bats, and wash her hands with disinfectants. We too are hearing such a case for the first time. There is no vaccination drive that can solve this problem. Even if a vaccine was available, how can one inoculate 1,000 bats?
Gira Shah, Managing Trustee, Jivdaya Charitable Trust

For Shantaben though, life continues with the bats, whether a viral epidemic threatens her or not.

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