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14.02.2005 Regional News

Droppings drive Accra batty

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Residents of Ghana's capital Accra have been struggling to cope with the arrival of a colony of fruit bats in the city centre - in particlular the mess caused by their droppings, known as guano. The creatures' human neighbours have been forced to adapt to stop problems such as fouled cars, falling tree branches and shrieking ruining their lives.

William Ameka, a listener to BBC World Service's Outlook programme, explained he first began to realise the problem when the mess forced him to wash his sister's car every night.

"It seems we are fighting a losing battle," Mr Ameka said.

Fouling risk

Legend has it that these noisy and messy bats arrived as an escort to a sick tribal chief.

Although the chief later died, the bats remained.

The guano problem is made worse becuase the district they are occupying is next to the 37 military station city centre hospital - the sudden sound of ambulance sirens causing the bats to panic, producing more mess.

Hosptial authorities themselves have tried to deal with the problem by scrapping their painted walls, and covering them with an easily-washable substance.

But residents also complain that the risk of fouling means they cannot dry their clothes on washing lines, or dare to sit under trees.

Indeed, last year the old branches of trees were taken away as too many bats were sitting on them, causing them to fall.

"They're not harmful, but they hang outside your house," one resident told Outlook.

"They keep on disturbing you. You can't even sleep... if you get the chance, just move out of this place," the resident added.

Gerald Boache, a worker for Ghana's Wildlife Society has said that more needs to be found out about the bats to deal with them properly.

"Rather than just knowing them because they defacate on us and our cars, we need to understand them," he told Outlook.

He explained that when the bats first arrived, the army based at the hospital had tried to deal with them by shooting - but this had simply made the problem worse.

"Populations demand that after big disasters - war, a tsunami, whatever - the mammals start to reproduce," he said.

"So after every shooting incident, they multiply - it gives them more room to increase their populaiton, and even more reason to think that this is their home."

Other ways that Accra's residents have tried to control the bats have included climbing up trees to stab them, trapping them, and shooting with catapaults.

"We don't like thjat - it is actually very arrogant," Mr Boache said.

"There's no law [that says] we can just go and catch them."

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