Statement in response to recent research on bats and disease published in Virus Evolution.
Statement in Response to recent research on bats and disease published in Virus Evolution
We recognize that human health, animal health, and the health of ecosystems are inextricably linked, and that understanding the complexity of how they interact is an ongoing endeavor. Studies like the recent work on coronaviruses published in Virus Evolution today illuminates some important findings about the relationship between bats, humans and disease. What is even more important is continuing to build on our understanding of that relationship and how we can shape it to protect both bats and humans alike.
We do know that bats, among other animals, can carry viruses that can make humans sick and recognize that a big part of those diseases spilling over has to do with human populations encroaching on wildlife territory and hunting bats for bushmeat. We also know that bats serve an essential role in the ecosystem and that any “culling” or killing of bats risks increasing transmission rates.
Most bats will never come into contact with humans and pose no risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases. Instead, the 1,330 species of bats that make up the second largest group of mammals on the planet are playing vital ecological roles that contribute to healthy natural ecosystems and human economies. They eat destructive insects, pollinate valuable plants, and disperse seeds critical to regenerating essential forest. Even the droppings of these “keystone species” (called guano) is a rich natural fertilizer.
There is important work already being done by a variety of research-based organizations like ourselves and Bat Conservation Trust to gain and share knowledge that will help us identify solutions for decreasing zoonotic disease. Bat Conservation International and its partners actively fund and promote scientific research and conservation action at the interface between humans and bats. We believe that effective bat conservation, through habitat protection, community engagement, and health research can help reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases.
Through our collaborative effort, we are committed to reducing the risk of zoonotic disease, continuing to protect the world’s bats and their habitats, and creating a world in which bats and humans can successfully coexist.
– Co-signed by Bat Conservation International and Bat Conservation Trust
EcoHealth Alliance & BCI Press Release – Research Uncovers Huge Diversity of Coronaviruses Worldwide