Every Saturday morning, a dozen or so villagers from a province about 60 miles west of Bangkok creep into a bat-festooned cave to scrape up the precious fecal deposits of its flourishing inhabitants.
In three hours, they can amass as many as 500 buckets of bat dung. The guano is packaged and sold at an adjacent temple as fertilizer, reaping more than 75,000 baht ($2,400). Just 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the nutrient-rich material can fetch as much as the daily minimum wage.
Elsewhere in Asia and Micronesia, meat from bats is sometimes sold in markets or cooked at home after being caught in the wild. Although consumption is rare and limited to certain communities, it’s considered a local delicacy in the Pacific island-nation of Palau, and areas of Indonesia, where meat from other mammals is scarce.
With growing awareness of bat-borne viruses — from Nipah to coronaviruses linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome and the new pneumonia-causing Covid-19 disease that’s killed more than 2,000 people in China — human contact with the ancient flying mammal and their excreta is drawing closer scrutiny.
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