Laura Mitchell holds Mexican free-tailed bat. Photo by Micaela Pineda.

Promoting the health of bats and people in shared environments

Bats and people coexist across a gradient of natural to human-dominated landscapes. Bats contribute economically and socially valuable ecosystem services to society, including insect pest consumption, pollination, seed-dispersal, tourism-related revenue, and opportunities to enjoy nature. When we destroy forests and other natural habitats to convert land for human uses, such as urbanization, agriculture, and livestock ranching, bats lose their natural habitats for roosting and foraging. Protecting where bats sleep and eat is the best way to keep bats healthy and ensure that bats and people don’t have negative interactions. When left unmanaged, some types of interactions between bats and people have the potential to negatively affect the health of bats and people, economic productivity, or attitudes towards bats. We work to identify solutions that promote positive interactions between bats and people to ensure the health of bats, people, and the environments they share.

Objectives

IDENTIFY AND UNDERSTAND THE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN BATS, PEOPLE, AND THEIR ECOSYSTEMS
DETERMINE WHAT ACTIONS CAN HELP PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE COEXISTENCE FOR BATS AND PEOPLE
EXPAND THE CAPACITY FOR ONE HEALTH RESEARCH AROUND THE GLOBE
STRENGTHEN NETWORKS WITH PARTNERS THAT WORK TOWARDS ONE HEALTH SOLUTIONS

Program details

A One Health research approach examines the shared outcomes that stem from interactions between people, animals, and the environment. We have developed our Bats and One Health program in response to ongoing changes in habitat use and availability that increase contact between bats and people. The complex connections between bats and people form through our economic, ecological, political, and cultural interactions. While this connectivity means that threats can impact both bats and people, we can also share benefits. Understanding the benefits and the potential problems that result from interactions between bats and people will ensure healthy co-existence.

Our Bats and One Health program conducts research to identify the threats to bat health and human well-being. We play a leading role in supporting international programs about bats and One Health issues around the world. We collaborate with on-the-ground conservation teams to inform policies with evidence, support outreach and education, and develop sustainable solutions that benefit both bats and the communities of people that live near them.

 
One Health field work.

Helping bats and people establish healthy relationships in shared environments

Our critical steps to accomplish this goal include:

  • Understanding the interactions that link bats, people, and ecosystems
  • Conducting research on One Health threats to bats in diverse environments
  • Developing and communicating solutions to avoid conflict and promote health
 
Mexican free-tailed bat. Photo by Micaela Pineda.

Since the fates of bats, people, and their ecosystems are linked, actions to support one part of this system also benefit the entire system.

  • Protecting bats is crucial for maintaining healthy ecosystems and valuable ecosystem services
  • Protecting bats’ ecosystems provides critical natural resources for bats and also for people who rely on functioning ecosystems
  • Providing sustainable solutions for people who must manage difficult interactions with bats helps raise awareness and support for bats and their ecosystems
 
Kelly Swift holds a California leaf-nosed bat. Photo by Heatherlee Leary.

Encouraging global understanding of healthy interactions between bats and people by:

 
Pallid bat. Photo by Catherine Fox.

What are some priority research areas for the Bats and One Health program?

  • Understanding the impacts of habitat loss and nutritional stress on the health of bats
  • Managing and reducing activities that lead to roost disturbance and negative outcomes for bats and people
  • Reducing unsustainable hunting of bats for meat, medicine, or other wildlife trade
  • Reducing persecution and culling of bat populations due to misconceptions and negative attitudes towards bats
 
Cave myotis on cave wall. Photo by Krystie Miner.

Impacts of misunderstandings about interactions between bats and people

      • When people fear increased contact with bats, they may kill bat colonies and trigger unwanted consequences for ecosystems and human well-being
      • When people don’t know about sustainable solutions to manage and reduce contact between bats and fruit crops or livestock, they may suffer economic loss, which can increase negative attitudes towards bats
      • When people don’t understand disease transfer between animals and people, they may not take appropriate precautions to ensure the health and safety of bats or people

       

 
One Health field work.

How can I help promote healthy interactions between bats and people?

Key Collaborators

  • Academic researchers
  • Federal agency biologists
  • NABat collaborators
  • Wildlife veterinarians
  • Public health practicioners
  • Environmental economists