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HomeScienceProtection of Bats' Habitat to Avert Pandemics

Protection of Bats’ Habitat to Avert Pandemics

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As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly recedes, experts from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and colleagues from the Wildlife Conservation Society shared a new analysis in The Lancet Planetary Health. The Lancet Planetary Health The journal focused on how to prevent such spikes in death, disease and suffering – as well as their economic costs – in the future. The authors argue that one underlying solution may lie in a global taboo against harming or disturbing bats and their habitats.

“Focusing resources solely on efforts to tackle epidemics once they are truly unleashed, as most so-called prevention plans put forth by the World Health Organization and other global organizations seem to do, naively ignores the fact that humanity’s severed relationship with wild nature is the way things are. I got to this point in the first place,” said Steve Osofsky, DVM ’89, Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health and Health Policy and lead author of the paper.

Instead, the co-authors look far upstream, at the interface between humans and wildlife where dangerous viruses can be transmitted when people eat the body parts of wild animals, capture wild species and mix them together in markets for sale, and expand activities to what is left of Earth’s wilderness. .

The COVID-19 pandemic can be traced back to a bat virus, just like the SARS outbreak in 2003. In fact, bats are known reservoirs for a wide variety of viruses that can infect other species – including humans – such as rabies, Marburg filoviruses, Hendra and Nipah paramyxoviruses, coronaviruses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and most likely the Ebola family of viruses.

While many rural societies around the world depend on wild meat, bats are one taxonomic group that does not appear to be essential to most consumers’ dietary needs or food security, and can therefore be eliminated from the human diet at minimal cost or inconvenience to most consumers. of the world’s population.

Given that most, but not all, of the identified bat-related activities are of concern – such as bat hunting, consumption and trade; harvesting, use and trade of bat guano; Cave tourism and incursions into prime bat habitats with livestock, homes, mines, and cropping on a smallholder and industrial scale—occur in low- and middle-income countries, and the authors recognize the need to try to mitigate any social, economic, or cultural burdens that voluntary changes in behavior bring about, and call on countries with the most Richness to provide logical forms of compensation.

“Such compensation would undoubtedly be a small price to pay to reduce the risk of future epidemics,” said Osofsky, who believes that preventing epidemics at source is the most equitable way to benefit all of humanity.

The key, the authors say, is not to fear, chase, or cull bats—which can be counterproductive, because dispersing the animals only increases the odds of spreading zoonotic diseases. Conversely, allowing bats to survive and thrive by allowing them to remain undisturbed in their habitats could lead to other gains around the world. The ecosystem services that bats provide — from controlling mosquitoes and other harmful insects to pollinating crops — are worth several billion dollars annually.

“Getting Homo sapiens to work cooperatively on a global scale underpins most of the existential challenges we face, from climate change to environmental pollution to biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse to averting nuclear war – and this at a time when serious collaboration even at local levels often seems a long way off.” Osofsky noted.

“However, if we can actually stop hunting, eating, and trading bats, stay out of their caves, and keep livestock away from areas where bats are concentrated, and if we can stop deforestation, damage — or even start restoring — their natural habitats, we can. Indisputably reducing the chances of another epidemic.”

The paper was published in The Lancet Planetary Health. The Lancet Planetary Health magazine.

more information:
Steven A Osofsky et al, An Immediate Method for Reducing Epidemic Risk: (No) Grabbing Overhanging Fruit (Bats), The Lancet Planetary Health. The Lancet Planetary Health (2023). DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196 (23) 00077-3

Provided by Cornell University


the quote: Preventing Pandemics by Leaving Bats Undisturbed (2023, June 6) Retrieved June 6, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-06-pandemics-undisturbed.html

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