- Title: Thai bat guano collectors unfazed by coronavirus
- Date: 15th March 2020
- Summary: RATCHABURI, THAILAND (MARCH 14, 2020) (REUTERS) BATS FLYING OUT OF CAVE AT WAT KHAO CHONG PHRAN VARIOUS OF BATS FLYING PAST STUPA WAT CHONG KHAO PHRAN VARIOUS OF VILLAGERS PUTTING ON FACE MASK VILLAGERS GETTING READY, PUTTING ON GLOVE VILLAGER WALKING INTO CAVE BAT STATUE VARIOUS VILLAGERS WALKING INTO CAVE VARIOUS HANDS SCRAPING BAT GUANO ONTO PLATES VILLAGER PUTTING BAT GUANO INTO BAG WORKER CARRYING BAG OF BAT GUANO STUPA AT WAT KHAO CHONG PHRAN SUNRISE VARIOUS OF BATS RETURNING TO CAVE VARIOUS OF WORKERS BRINGING OUT SACKS OF BAT GUANO, DROPPING THEM ON GROUND VARIOUS WORKER WALKING OUT FROM CAVE CARRYING BAG OF BAT DUNG (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) KHAO CHONG PHRAN COMMUNITY LEADER, SINGHA SITTIKUL, SAYING: "All of them are healthy. Villagers have been doing this since they were young, about seven or eight years old until now where some are already 50-60. They never got sick from anything. They're all healthy." BAT GUANO ON GROUND VILLAGER POURING BAT GUANO OUT OF BAG (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) KHAO CHONG PHRAN COMMUNITY LEADER, SINGHA SITTIKUL, SAYING: "Bat guano is beneficial for fertilising fruit crops. It boosts the sweetness, increases production and enriches the color (of fruits). VARIOUS WORKERS PACKING BAT GUANO INTO FERTILIZER BAGS VARIOUS WORKERS UNLOADING BUCKETS OF BAT GUANO INTO BAGS WORKER DRAGGING BAG WORKER DROPPING BAG OF BAT GUANO ON GROUND 65-YEAR OLD BAT GUANO COLLECTOR JAEW YAEMJAM , WALKING JAEW'S HAND JAEW SITTING AND LOOKING ON JAEW'S FEET (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) 65-YEAR OLD VILLAGER AND BAT GUANO COLLECTOR JAEW YAEMJAM, SAYING: "I go in and sweep the bat guano into a pile. I sift through, throw away rocks and then sweep them into the bags." JAEW LOOKING ON (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) 65-YEAR OLD VILLAGER AND BAT DUNG COLLECTOR JAEW YAEMJAM, SAYING: "No, I'm not worried because the virus didn't originate from here." REPORTER: "YOU'VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR MANY YEARS AND NOTHING HAS GONE WRONG?" "Yes, nothing." VARIOUS BUYERS LOADING BAT DUNG ONTO TRUCK RATCHABURI'S LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH MINISTRY OFFICIAL, PIKUL TEMKET (LEFT, PINK MASK), STANDING NEXT TO SINGHA WORKERS SITTING AND TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) RATCHABURI LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH MINISTRY OFFICIAL, PIKUL TEMKET, SAYING: "In this cave, they've been sweeping to clean the bat droppings every week which in turns reduces the build-up of germs. Bat guano could be carrying various diseases, however, we've been clearing it out every week, so our cave is considered to be quite clean." BAT GUANO ON GROUND EXTERIOR OF PAVILION INSIDE WAT KHAO CHONG PHRAN
- Embargoed: 29th March 2020 13:14
- Keywords: China bat guano collectors coronavirus temple
- Location: RATCHABURI, THAILAND
- City: RATCHABURI, THAILAND
- Country: Thailand
- Topics: Health/Medicine,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA001C5AULVR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: As night falls, millions of bats stream out of this cave in Thailand and fly into the surrounding area to eat insects, signalling that it's time for villagers in Ratchaburi to get to work.
Donning home-made face masks, hats, gloves and boots, they go into the malodorous cave on the grounds of Buddhist temple Wat Khao Chong Phran and fill sacks with bat guano.
It's a Saturday weekend ritual that provides the temple with a lucrative income and supplies farmers all over the country with high-quality fertiliser which users believe boost crop production and the taste of fruits.
Some collectors have been doing this for decades and they say they've never had any health issues. Research suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, infecting tens of thousands, originated in the winged mammals in China, is not a concern.
"No, I'm not worried because the virus didn't originate from here," says 65-year-old collector Jaew Yaemjam.
This Saturday (March 15) around 10 villagers collected 89 wooden buckets full of excrement, scraping it off the floor and sifting through to eliminate rocks. It's low season now for bat guano -- in the cooler season they can collect nearly twice as much.
The collectors themselves don't earn much -- less than a dollar per bucket. The contents of two buckets go into a bag which is sold for 12 dollars to farmers and the profit funds the temple and its activities.
The bat guano collection began generations ago with the then-abbot who wanted to clean the cave and asked villagers to do the task. They dumped the guano near some trees and nearby farmers noticed the trees growing exceptionally well.
"In this cave, they've been sweeping to clean the bat droppings every week which in turns reduces the build-up of germs. Bat guano could be carrying various diseases, however, we've been clearing it out every week, so our cave is considered to be quite clean," says Ratchaburi's public health ministry official, Pikul Temket.
Bat guano contains large amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium which make it highly effective as a fertilizer. It was also used in the past for making gunpowder and explosives.
(Production: Vorasit Satienlerk, Juarawee Kittisilpa, Masako Iijima)
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