Sun, Feb 09, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Virus Outbreak: Water caltrop seller says bat rumor is a misunderstanding

By Chen Yan-ting and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A vendor stands next to a sign for freshly boiled walter caltrops in Pingtung County on Thursday.

Photo: Chen Yen-ting, Taipei Times

A water caltrop vendor in Pingtung County has been receiving unwanted attention after a foreign tourist commented that the vendor appeared to be selling bats as food.

People are jumpy due to reports of the 2019 novel coronavirus, with rumors attributing its spread to Chinese eating bats and other wild animals, said the vendor, who asked to remain anonymous.

The rumors about his stall appeared to have started after the tourist mistook an image of a water caltrop on signage as being an image of a bat, he said.

The fruit of the water caltrop curves downward on two sides, resembling the silhouette of a flying bat.

“I get shot even while lying down,” the vendor said, adding that it was not the first time that such confusion had occurred.

There are numerous sellers along 10km of Kanding Township’s (崁頂) Nanjhou Road, all of whom have signs featuring water caltrops, the vendor said.

Many foreign visitors are unfamiliar with the water caltrop — an aquatic plant native to temperate parts of Eurasia and Africa that has been cultivated in China and the Indian subcontinent.

In Taiwan, the plant is mostly grown in Tainan’s Guantian District (官田), but farmers set up shop in areas with many travelers, the vendor said, adding that the road was a great place for a stall because of its proximity to a highway that brings visitors from Taitung County and Pingtung’s Kenting National Park (墾丁國家公園).

“Now we can laugh about it, but every time there is news about bats, this type of confusion emerges,” the vendor said, adding that he hoped visitors would give the water caltrop a try.

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