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Home arrow Environment arrow Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

Negative Impacts on Humans

The negative impacts of bat hunting extend beyond natural ecosystems to human communities. Bats in their natural ecological roles perform valuable ecosystem services beneficial to humans (e.g. insect suppression: Cleveland et al. 2006, pollination: Bumrungsri et al. 2008b, 2009, seed dispersal maintaining local watersheds: Banack 1998; Stier and Mildenstein 2005), all of which are reduced when bats are hunted. Bat colonies have also proved valuable as eco-tourism attractions supporting local economies (e.g., in Costa Rica, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Madagascar, the Philippines, and North America; examples in Pennisi et al. 2004). However, hunted bats that are wary of human presence often do not maintain colonies in locations easily viewed by people. Hence, reductions in bat populations as a result of hunting could have expensive ramifications on local communities' water supplies, agriculture, and eco-tourism industries.

Finally, the hunting of bats may also expose human communities to potentially zoonotic pathogens (Leroy et al. 2005). In the past decade, considerable attention has been paid to bats as natural reservoirs of emerging infectious diseases (Calisher et al. 2006). Studies that link infectious disease outbreaks to bats demonstrate the spillover potential through contact with bats or exposure to faeces and urine in bat habitats (reviewed by Plowright et al. 2015). Most notable are the Ebola virus outbreaks, which have attracted international attention. Leroy et al. (2009) suggest that the 2007 emergence of Ebola virus in the Occidental Kasai province of DRC could be attributable to the consumption of freshly killed bats. The authors trace the virus spread from a first patient with bat bushmeat contact to an outbreak of the disease in 260 persons resulting in 186 deaths in 2007. The re-emergence of the disease in 2014 may also have arisen from contact with bats (Saéz et al. 2015) and has proven far more deadly.

 
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