Can bats save the world?
Leaving bats alone could be crucial in reducing the risk of global pandemics, according to an analysis by experts from Cornell University and the Wildlife Conservation Society. These small mammals host numerous viruses, including those responsible for rabies, Ebola, Marburg, MERS coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and Nipah virus, which can be transmitted to other species, including humans. To prevent another zoonotic disease pandemic, it's essential to change humanity's relationship with nature and stop disturbing bats and other wild species.
The analysis recommends ceasing the use, trade, and consumption of bats, stopping their hunting, and leaving their natural habitat undisturbed. This will help avoid all activities likely to cause their dispersal and reduce the risk of spreading zoonoses. Cornell professor of wildlife health and health policy Dr Steven A. Osofsky stresses that stopping hunting, eating, and trading bats, keeping livestock away from bat-concentrated areas, and stopping deforestation can significantly lower the chances of another pandemic.
Wildlife conservation experts at Cornell University and the Wildlife Conservation Society are recommending that bats be left alone and their habitats undisturbed. They argue in The Lancet Planetary Health that pandemic prevention requires a global agreement not to interfere with, chase away, or kill these flying mammals. The COVID-19 pandemic, like the SARS coronavirus outbreak of 2003, can be traced back to a bat virus. Dr. Susan Lieberman, the WCS’s vice president for international policy, suggests that someone handled or ate an infected bat or was exposed to a bat's bodily fluids in a cave or another way or was exposed to another animal that had been infected by a bat. Even a virus released via a lab accident would still have originally come from a bat.
While bats are considered reservoirs for many viruses, many other wild species also play a role in spreading zoonotic diseases. Therefore, it's vital to stop disturbing and altering the natural habitats of all wild species to prevent future pandemics. By changing humanity's relationship with nature, we can reduce the risk of spreading zoonotic diseases and prevent the next pandemic.