Some of the misinformed citizens are on a hunt to get rid of bats, owing to the fear of Covid-19 spread through this mammal. Reportedly, more than 150 bats were killed in Rajasthan alone despite the appeal of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This whole bat-hunt began when an ICMR report found CoVs positive in Rousertus and Pteropus: 2 Indian bat species. A local newspaper reported similar incidents happening Bangalore. Even the USA, Australia, and other countries are having hundreds of bats found at animal markets culled.
Now the question arises do bats spread Covid-19?
The answer is no. A report published in Medical News Today cited that out of 1400 bat species in the world, two have been tested positive for a close relative of SARS-2-Cov, which is the RATG 13 virus. But it is only similar to novel coronavirus (not the same) and it can neither transmit it to humans nor can cause Covid-19 to our species. The current hypothesis proposed by scientists across the globe is that Bats transmitted this close genetic relative to pangolins and then to humans as Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammals for global wildlife trade, Chinese medicines, and luxury food. Even in the past, the linker between humans and bats has been an animal that has been extensively traded or farmed. For example, in the 2013 Ebola virus outbreak, non-human primates like chimpanzee or deer have been intermediate hosts between humans and bats. Bats throughout history have been the origin of Ebola, Nipah virus, and rabies.
For instance, in the case of Nipah virus, fruits bitten and thrown by bats carry their saliva, which if consumed by humans might transmit Nipah due to salivary transmission. Fortunately, both in the case of Nipah and Covid-19, negligible chances of transmission have been found through their excretory wastes.
So what to do if you cite a bat in or near your house?
Just call a professional rehabilitator or yourself lead them to the way out of your house. No need to kill them.
Why do bats carry so many viruses and why there’s a need to protect bats?
Bats have a strong immune system and they are the only flying mammal. Their strong immune system makes their lifespan as long as 20-30 years. This strong immunity of bats has now been a key research area for the development of the Covid-19 vaccine ( by the University of Saskatchewan, Canada).
Also, another need for protecting bats is that they maintain a biological ecosystem by:
1. Pollination of flowers and fruits: Especially in mangrove regions bats play a major role in the pollination of pollen grains. This year in India itself, Cyclone Amphan went just aside mangroves as these thick trees act as a shield against such natural calamities.
2. By helping in pest control in farmlands:
Bats eat up insects and pests. As per The Print, worth 800 million dollars and 22 billion dollars pest control annual expenses are saved by bats alone in Indonesian farms and USA corn farms respectively.
3. As per Wildlife Protection Act,1972 two of the bat species are protected in India due to the threat of extinction.
Conclusion: The major cause for such global outbreaks such as Covid-19 is mostly due to human activities such as wildlife trade and habitat destruction.