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Khao Chong Pran’s Bat Economics

Poachers were killing huge numbers of Khao Chong Pran's bats and selling them to restaurants until guards were hired to protect the bats. In Thailand bats were killed for the restaurant trade before a law made it illegal.

The Buddhist temple at Khao Chong Pran is said to have been built largely from guano fertilizer sales. When Merlin first visited the site in 1981, monks were alarmed by a precipitous drop in guano production and asked his advice on the problem. He discovered that poachers were killing large numbers of bats by setting nets over the cave entrance late at night when the monks weren’t looking. The bats were sold to restaurants as a food delicacy. After Merlin convinced the monks to hire a guard in 1981, bat guano sales increased from $12,500 U.S. annually to $89,000 within 10 years, and by 2002, annual sales had reached $132,000 U.S.  Recently, the guano producing bats had been in gradual decline despite 24-hour protection by a team of four guards, so Merlin was quite pleased to discover several evenings ago that the most likely cause of renewed decline was simple to remedy–remove gradually encroaching vegetation.

The value of Khao Chong Pran’s bats goes far beyond guano sales, though this is the most noticeable contribution that people see. Our video shows workers bringing bags of guano from the cave, dumping it on a floor where it is graded for quality and loaded into labeled bags for sale, mostly hauled off by the pickup load by wholesalers, but also sold to some local residents. Harvests occur once a week under strict supervision by monks and town officials.

Recently, a team of U.S. and Thai scientists collaborated on a study of these bats at Khao Chong Pran Cave, investigating their value in controlling white-backed plant hopper pests that attack rice. Although these bats feed on a variety of pests, including moths, the scientists concluded that the bats’ impact in reducing just this one pest was even more valuable than their guano production. Based on this research the bats from Khao Chong Pran Cave provide pest control in addition to the guano sales.

Happy guano customer!

The spectacular bat emergences also attract many tourists, additionally supporting the local economy, as can be seen by their popularity in local business advertising.

Khao Chong Pran bat emergence of the Wrinkle-lipped bats

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Michael Lazari Karapetian

Michael Lazari Karapetian has over twenty years of investment management experience. He has a degree in business management, is a certified NBA agent, and gained early experience as a money manager for the Bank of America where he established model portfolios for high-net-worth clients. In 2003 he founded Lazari Capital Management, Inc. and Lazari Asset Management, Inc.  He is President and CIO of both and manages over a half a billion in assets. In his personal time he champions philanthropic causes. He serves on the board of Moravian College and has a strong affinity for wildlife, both funding and volunteering on behalf of endangered species.