The sixth mass extinction is here, and it's speeding up.
Terrestrial vertebrates on the brink (i.e., with 1,000 or fewer individuals) include species such as (A) Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis; image credit: Rhett A. Butler [photographer]), (B) Clarion island wren (Troglodytes tanneri; image credit: Claudio Contreras Koob [photographer]), (C) Española Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis; image credit: G.C.), and (D) Harlequin frog (Atelopus varius; the population size of the species is unknown but it is estimated at less than 1,000; image credit: G.C.).
- Humanity 'Sleepwalking Towards the Edge of a Cliff': 60% of Earth's ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
- The Insect Apocalypse Is Coming: Here Are 5 Lessons We Must Learn ›
By Alexander Freund
In a pilot study at the University of Helsinki, dogs trained as medical diagnostic assistants were taught to recognize the previously unknown odor signature of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. And they learned with astonishing success: After only a few weeks, the first dogs were able to accurately distinguish urine samples from COVID-19 patients from urine samples of healthy individuals.
Important Findings for Other Teams<p>The very rapid and promising findings from Finland are also important for other research teams, such as those in Great Britain and France, who are training sniffer dogs to detect COVID-19.</p><p>Fellow researchers from the <a href="http://assistenzhunde-zentrum.de/index.php/news/covid-19-hunde" target="_blank">German Assistance Dog Center (TARSQ)</a> have also benefited from the Finnish results.</p><p>"No one could tell us with certainty whether training with the aggressive virus is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/dutch-house-pets-test-positive-for-coronavirus/a-53460111" target="_blank">dangerous or not for humans and dogs</a>. We wanted to gather more information first before we started training because the German virologists advised us against it — after all, so little is known about the virus so far," explains Luca Barrett from TARSQ.</p>
Where Does the Characteristic Smell Come From?<p>It is still unclear which substances in urine produce the apparently characteristic COVID-19 odor. Since SARS-CoV-2 not only attacks the lungs, but also causes damage to blood vessels, kidneys and other organs, it is assumed that the patients' urine odor also changes. This is something which the dogs, with their highly sensitive olfactory organs, notice immediately.</p><p>Certain diseases appear to have a specific olfactory signature that trained dogs can sniff out with amazing accuracy, Barrett says.</p><p>"According to one study, dogs can detect breast cancer with a 93% probability, for example. And lung cancer with a 97% probability," she says.</p><p>But dogs can also identify skin cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer or prostate cancer very reliably, according to Barrett. "The hit rate, which was not so good in the early days of training, has risen enormously in recent years," she says.</p>
Hit Rate Decisive<p>Besides cancer, the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-sniffer-dog-makes-1-million-drug-bust/a-53433307" target="_blank">dogs</a> can also detect Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's sufferers smell different even years before they have the disease. "That's how we came up with the idea of training dogs as an early warning system for Parkinson's," Barrett says.</p><p>Dogs are also trained to detect malaria, but the hit rate is not yet satisfactory, she says. So far, the dogs recognize seven out of 10 infected persons, which is not enough.</p><p>A high hit rate is, of course, also absolutely necessary when training for the aggressive SARS-CoV-2 pathogen, according to Barret. "We hope that the hit rate for the coronavirus is significantly higher in the fully trained dogs; after all, it would be very dangerous if COVID-19 were not detected," she says</p>
Trained Tracking Dogs<p>Dogs' ability to smell is about a million times better than that of humans. Humans have about 5 million olfactory cells, compared with 125 million for dachshunds and 220 million for sheepdogs.</p><p>Dogs also inhale up to 300 times per minute in short breaths, meaning that their olfactory cells are constantly supplied with new odor particles. In addition, dogs' noses differentiate between right and left. This spatial sense of smell allows the animals to follow a trail more easily.</p><p>During the training sessions, the dogs — mostly Labrador retrievers or retrievers in general, but also cocker spaniels or sheepdog breeds — are each trained for one scent. That can be the smell of a drug or an explosive, or, as here, the olfactory signature of a specific disease.This means that one dog cannot recognize several types of cancer.</p><p>The animals are trained with containers holding samples of breath or sweat, for example. As soon as they have identified the smell they are looking for, the dogs hear a click and get a treat. They are reliably trained for the one smell on this reward principle.</p>
Great Potential, Great Skepticism<p>Drug and explosive detection dogs have been used for some time. But trained medical scent detection dogs are also now working in hospitals. For example, they sniff the bodies of patients with suspected skin cancer to try and detect the disease — only with the patients' consent, of course. So these skilled snufflers are helping doctors in diagnosing diseases and detecting them early on.</p><p>However, so far there are only very few medical detection dogs. The dog owners almost always work voluntarily and the trained sniffer dogs live in normal households. There is great skepticism, especially among traditional doctors and health insurance companies, even though the first indications given by the dog have to be followed by further medical tests anyway and a lot of time and costs could be saved by early cancer detection.</p>
Possible Coronavirus Applications<p>If the findings from Finland are confirmed, the sniffer dogs with their extremely sensitive sense of smell could prove to be a great help in the fight against the new coronavirus.</p><p>Luca Barrett from TARSQ can easily picture coronavirus sniffer dogs being used in situations where there is a high risk of infection. For example, people attending football matches and other major events could be checked before they are admitted.</p><p>The dogs could also be employed at airports to scan people entering a country. "When the dogs go down the queue, they can detect if someone is healthy and can enter the country. But if a person smells of COVID-19, the handler could send that person to a coronavirus testing center instead," Barrett says. That is because a second test is still needed to confirm the dog's initial sniff detection.</p><p><span></span>Barrett says dogs could also be used to search for the virus on surfaces. For example, before passengers board an aircraft, a four-legged friend could first check whether the machine is free from SARS-CoV-2. Similar measures are planned for doctors' surgeries, aged care homes or nursing homes that have had to be evacuated because of COVID-19 cases. Before these are used again, a sniffer dog could check whether the environment is "clean."</p>
- Labradors Trained to Detect Illegally Trafficked Wildlife Products ... ›
- First Human Trial of COVID-19 Drug Set to Begin - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tierra del Fuego is at the southernmost tip of South America and is sometimes known as the "end of the world." This windswept part of Argentina is home to seven penguin colonies which breed, nest and feed in the area.
A film by Aitor Saez<iframe scrolling="no" width="640" height="477" frameborder="0" align="middle" name="Penguin colonies suffer from plastic trash | DW.COM" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" src="https://www.dw.com/embed/640/av-53424380"></iframe>
- Climate Change to Devastate Adélie Penguin Population in ... ›
- Antarctic Penguin Poop Emits Laughing Gas - EcoWatch ›
- Penguin Swims 5,000 Miles Each Year to Visit the Man Who ... ›
By Marie Quinney
Biodiversity is critically important – to your health, to your safety and, probably, to your business or livelihood.
1. Biodiversity Ensures Health and Food Security.<p>Biodiversity underpins global nutrition and food security. Millions of species work together to provide us with a <a href="https://www.cbd.int/health/doc/Summary-SOK-Final.pdf" target="_blank">large array of fruits, vegetables and animal products essential to a healthy, balanced diet</a> – but they are increasingly under threat.</p><p>Every country has indigenous produce – such as wild greens and grains – which have adapted to local conditions, making them more resilient to pests and extreme weather. In the past, this produce provided much-needed micronutrients for local populations. Unfortunately, however, the <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1620e.pdf" target="_blank">simplification of diets, processed foods and poor access to food have led to poor-quality diets</a>. As a result, <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/research-portfolio/diet-diversity/biodiversity-for-food-and-nutrition/" target="_blank">one-third of the world suffers from micronutrient deficiencies</a>.</p><p>Three crops – wheat, corn and rice – <a href="https://enviroliteracy.org/food/crops/" target="_blank">provide almost 60% of total plant-based calories consumed by humans</a>. This leads to reduced resiliency in our supply chains and on our plates. For example, <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1620e.pdf" target="_blank">the number of rice varieties cultivated in Asia has dropped from tens of thousands to just a few dozen; in Thailand, 50% of land used for growing rice only produces two varieties</a>.</p><p>People once understood that the conservation of species was crucial for healthy societies and ecosystems. We must ensure this knowledge remains part of our modern agricultural and food systems to prevent diet-related diseases and reduce the environmental impact of feeding ourselves.</p>
2. Biodiversity Helps Fight Disease.<p>Higher rates of biodiversity have been linked to an increase in human health.</p><p>First, plants are essential for medicines. For example, <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">25% of drugs used in modern medicine are derived from rainforest plants</a> while <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">70% of cancer drugs are natural or synthetic products inspired by nature</a>. This means that every time a species goes extinct, we miss out on a potential new medicine.</p><p>Second, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2010.644" target="_blank">biodiversity due to protected natural areas has been linked to lower instances of disease</a> such as Lyme disease and malaria. While the exact origin of the virus causing COVID-19 is still unknown, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5711306/" target="_blank">60% of infectious diseases originate from animals</a> and <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/631980-Machalaba-Anthropogenic%20Drivers%20of%20Emerging%20Infectious%20Diseases.pdf" target="_blank">70% of emerging infectious diseases originate from wildlife</a>. As human activities encroach upon the natural world, through deforestation and urbanization, we reduce the size and number of ecosystems. As a result, animals live in closer quarters with one another and with humans, creating ideal conditions for the spread of zoonotic diseases.</p><p>Simply put: <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2010.644" target="_blank">more species means less disease</a>.</p>
Human activity is eroding biodiversity. World Economic Forum Nature Risk Rising
3. Biodiversity Benefits Business.<p>According to the World Economic Forum's recent <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">Nature Risk Rising Report</a>, more than half of the world's GDP ($44 trillion) is highly or moderately dependent on nature. Many businesses are, therefore, at risk due to increasing nature loss. <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/biodiversity/protected_areas/arguments_for_protection/goods_services/medicine/" target="_blank">Global sales of pharmaceuticals based on materials of natural origin are worth an estimated $75 billion a year</a>, while natural wonders such as <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/" target="_blank">coral reefs are essential to food and tourism.</a></p><p>There is great potential for the economy to grow and become more resilient by ensuring biodiversity. <a href="http://wedocs.unep.org/xmlui/handle/20.500.11822/31813" target="_blank">Every dollar spent on nature restoration leads to at least $9 of economic benefits.</a> In addition, <a href="https://www.foodandlandusecoalition.org/global-report/" target="_blank">changing agricultural and food production methods could unlock $4.5 trillion per year in new business opportunities by 2030</a>, while also preventing trillions of dollars' worth of social and environmental harms.</p>
4. Biodiversity Provides Livelihoods.<p>Humans derive approximately <a href="https://livingplanetindex.org/home/index" target="_blank">$125 trillion of value from natural ecosystems each year</a>. Globally, <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/wwdr/2016-water-and-jobs/" target="_blank">three out of four jobs</a> are dependent on water while the agricultural sector employs over <a href="https://www.conservation.org/priorities/livelihoods" target="_blank">60% of the world's working poor</a>. In the Global South, forests are the source of livelihoods for <a href="https://www.conservation.org/priorities/livelihoods" target="_blank">over 1.6 billion people</a>. In India, forest ecosystems contribute <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19915547" target="_blank">only 7% to India's GDP yet 57% of rural Indian communities' livelihoods</a>.</p><p><span></span>Ecosystems, therefore, must be protected and restored – not only for the good of nature but also for the communities that depend on them.</p><p>Although some fear environmental regulation and the safeguarding of nature could threaten businesses, the "restoration economy" – the restoration of natural landscapes – provides more jobs in the United States than most of the extractives sector, with the potential to create even more. According to some estimates, the restoration economy is worth <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128339" target="_blank">$25 billion per year and directly employs more than the coal, mining, logging and steel industries altogether</a>. Nature-positive businesses can provide <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/10-things-you-need-know-about-restoration-economy" target="_blank">cost-effective, robot-proof, business-friendly jobs</a> that stimulate the rural economy without harming the environment.</p>
5. Biodiversity Protects Us.<p>Biodiversity makes the earth habitable. Biodiverse ecosystems provide <a href="https://www.nature-basedsolutions.com/" target="_blank">nature-based solutions</a> that buffer us from <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_protect.html" target="_blank">natural disasters such as floods and storms</a>, <a href="https://digital.iucn.org/water/nature-based-solutions-for-water/" target="_blank">filter our water</a> and <a href="https://www.naturebasedsolutionsinitiative.org/publications/the-superior-effect-of-nature-based-solutions-in-land-management-for-enhancing-ecosystem-services/" target="_blank">regenerate our soils</a>.</p><p>The <a href="https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/miracle-mangroves-coastal-protection-numbers" target="_blank">clearance of over 35% of the world's mangroves for human activities</a> has increasingly put people and their homes at risk from floods and sea-level rise. If today's mangroves were lost, 18 million more people would be flooded every year (an increase of 39%) and annual damages to property would increase by 16% ($82 billion).</p><p>Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is vital to fighting climate change. Nature-based solutions could provide <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/114/44/11645" target="_blank">37% of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed by 2030</a> to maintain global warming within 2°C (35.6 F).</p><p>Natural ecosystems provide the foundations for economic growth, human health and prosperity. Our fate as a species is deeply connected to the fate of our natural environment.</p><p>As ecosystems are increasingly threatened by human activity, acknowledging the benefits of biodiversity is the first step in ensuring that we look after it. We know biodiversity matters. Now, as a society, we should protect it – and in doing so, protect our own long-term interests.</p>
- World Leaders, Media Ignore Biodiversity Report Detailing Mass ... ›
- 15 Indigenous Crops to Boost Your Immune System and Celebrate ... ›
- Why Biodiversity Loss Hurts Humans as Much as Climate Change ... ›
Scientists have "rediscovered" a rare blue bee that they feared was extinct.
- Beat the COVID-19 Blues With These Wildlife and Nature Livecams ... ›
- Bees and Beekeepers Feel the Sting of Trump Administration's Anti ... ›
- Coronavirus Lockdowns Keep Bees at Home and Put Crops at Risk - EcoWatch ›
A California neighborhood was treated to an unusual lockdown protest Tuesday evening when around 200 goats broke through a fence and ran shoulder to shoulder through the streets.
- Hundreds of Goats Escape into Washington State Town | PEOPLE ... ›
- Llandudno: Wild goats take over Welsh town amid coronavirus ... ›
- When Humans Are Sheltered in Place, Wild Animals Will Play - The ... ›
- 200 goats run wild in California neighborhood, creating scene ... ›
- 'Pure chaos' as goats run wild in San Jose neighborhood ›
By Jane Goodall
The world is facing unprecedented challenges. At the time of writing, the coronavirus COVID-19 has infected over 3.57 million people globally and as of the 4th of May 250,134 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Zoonotic Disease Transmission in Markets<p>When wild animals are sold in such markets, often illegally, they are typically kept in small cages, crowded together, and often slaughtered on the spot. Humans, both vendors and customers, may thus be contaminated with the fecal material, urine, blood and other bodily fluids of a large variety of species – such as civets, pangolins, bats, raccoon dogs and snakes. This provides a perfect environment for viruses to spill over from their animal hosts into humans. Another zoonotic disease, SARS, originated in another wildlife market in Guangdong.</p><p>Most <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/whats-in-a-name-wet-markets-may-hide-true-culprits-for-covid-19/" target="_blank">wet markets</a> in Asia are not dissimilar to farmers' markets in Europe and the US. There are thousands of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD5arUFkZm0" target="_blank">wet markets in Asia</a> and around the world where fresh produce – vegetables and fruit, and sometimes also meat from domestic animals – are sold at reasonable prices. And thousands of people shop there rather than in supermarkets.</p><p>It is not only in China that wildlife markets have provided the ideal conditions for viruses and other pathogens to cross the species barrier and transfer from animal hosts to us. There are markets of this sort in many Asian countries. In the bushmeat markets of Africa – where live and dead animals are sold for food – the hunting, slaughtering and selling of chimpanzees for food led to two spill overs from ape to human that resulted in the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Ebola is another zoonotic disease which crosses from animal reservoirs into apes and humans in different parts of Africa.</p>
Wildlife Trafficking and the Spread of Disease<p>Another major concern is the trafficking of wild animals and their body parts around the world. Unfortunately, this has become a highly lucrative multi-billion-dollar business, often run by criminal cartels. Not only is it very cruel and definitely contributing to the terrifying extinction of species, but it may also lead to conditions suitable for the emergence of zoonotic diseases. Wild animals or their parts exported, often illegally, from one country to another take their viruses with them.</p><p>The shocking pet trade in young wild monkeys and apes, birds, reptiles and other wild animals is another area of concern. A bite or scratch from a wild animal taken into the home could lead to something much more serious than a mild infection.</p><p>Once COVID-19 was recognized as a new <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/list/zoonotic-diseases/" target="_blank">zoonotic disease</a>, the Chinese authorities imposed a ban on the selling and eating of wild animals, the Wuhan wildlife market was closed down, and the farming of wild animals for food was forbidden.</p><p>There are thousands of small operations throughout Asia and other parts of the world where wild animals are bred for food as a way of making a living in rural areas. Unless alternative sources of income for these people, as well as for others exploiting wildlife to make a living, can be found and they can get help from their governments during their transition to other ways of making money, it is likely that these operations will be driven underground and become even more difficult to regulate.</p><p>Nevertheless, whatever the problems, it is clearly of great importance that the ban on trading, eating and breeding of wild animals for food should be permanent and enforced – for the sake of human health and the prevention of other pandemics in the future. Fortunately, a majority of Chinese and other Asian citizens who responded to surveys agree that wildlife should not be consumed, used in medicine or for their fur.</p>
Medicinal Products Loopholes and Bear Bile<p>The use of some wild animal products for traditional medicine is thus far still legal in China (though rhino horn and tiger bones are banned). And this creates a loophole that will be quickly seized on by those wanting to continue to trade in wild animals such as the highly endangered pangolin, rhinos, tigers and the Asiatic black bear, known commonly as the Moon Bear because of the crescent-shaped white marking on its chest.</p><p>Other Asian bears – brown bears and Sun bears – are also exploited for their bile. And so long as farming bears for their bile is legal, and products containing their bile is promoted, this will stimulate the demand for the bile.</p><p>It is important to consider the welfare of the animals who are unwittingly responsible for zoonotic diseases. Today we know that all the animals mentioned are sentient beings, capable of knowing fear, despair and pain. Moreover, many of them demonstrate extraordinary intelligence. Allowing the use of wildlife trading for medicinal purposes can lead to unbelievably inhumane treatment of some of these sentient beings.</p><p>This is most certainly the case, for example, with bears farmed for their bile in Asia. They may be kept for up to thirty years in extremely small cages – sometimes they cannot even stand up or turn around. The tiny cages prohibit all natural behavior for these intelligent and sentient animals, who endure a life of fear and suffering.</p>
Disease Originating from Factory Farming<p>It is not only from wild animals that zoonotic diseases have originated. The inhumane conditions of the great factory farms, where large numbers of domestic animals are crowded together, has also provided conditions conducive to viruses spilling over into humans. The diseases commonly known as 'bird flu' and 'swine flu' resulted from handling poultry and pigs. And domestic animals are also sentient beings who experience fear and pain. MERS originated from contact with domestic dromedary camels in the Middle East, perhaps from consuming products from infected camels such as undercooked meat or milk.</p>
Conclusion<p>Scientists warn that if we continue to ignore the causes of these zoonotic diseases, we may be infected with viruses that cause pandemics even more disruptive than COVID-19.</p><p>Many people believe that we have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world. We need to halt <a href="https://rainforests.mongabay.com/08-deforestation.html" target="_blank">deforestation</a> and the destruction of natural habitats around the globe. We need to make use of existing nature-friendly, organic alternatives, and develop new ones, to feed ourselves and to maintain our health. We need to eliminate poverty so that people can find alternative ways to make a living other than by hunting and selling wild animals and destroying the environment. We need to assure that local people, whose lives directly depend on and are impacted by the health of the environment, own and drive good conservation decisions in their own communities as they work to improve their lives. Finally, we need to connect our brains with our hearts and appropriately use our indigenous knowledge, science and innovative technologies to make wiser decisions about people, animals and our shared environment.</p><p>While there is a justified focus on bringing COVID-19 under control, we must not forget the crisis with potentially long-term catastrophic effects on the planet and future generations – the climate crisis. The movement calling for industry and governments to impose restrictions on the emission of greenhouse gases, to protect forests, and clean up the oceans, has been growing.</p><p>This pandemic has forced industry to temporarily shut down in many parts of the world. As a result, many people have for the first time experienced the pleasure of breathing clean air and seeing the stars in the night sky.</p><p>My hope is that an understanding of how the world <em>should be</em>, along with the realization that it is our disrespect of the natural world that has led to the current pandemic, will encourage businesses and governments to put more resources into developing clean, renewable energy, alleviate poverty and help people find alternative ways of making a living that do not involve the exploitation of nature and animals.</p><p>Let us realize we are part of, and depend upon, the natural world for food, water and clean air. Let us recognize that the health of people, animals and the environment are connected. Let us show respect for each other, for the other sentient animals, and for Mother Nature. For the sake of the wellbeing of our children and theirs, and for the health of this beautiful planet Earth, our only home.</p>
- 5 Women Environmental Leaders You Should Know - EcoWatch ›
- These Jane Goodall Quotes Will Inspire You to Save the World ... ›
Invasive "murder hornets" have been spotted in the U.S. for the first time, prompting concerns for the nation's honeybees and the trajectory of a year that has already brought locust invasions and a global pandemic.
- Bumblebees Face Extinction From the Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- What Are Asian Giant Hornets, and Are They Really Dangerous? - EcoWatch ›
- Climate Crisis Brings India's Worst Locust Invasion in Decades - EcoWatch ›
By Tara Lohan
As we work to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists are also studying its origins. How did the SARS-Co-V-2 virus, which causes the disease, jump from wildlife to humans? Many believe it originated in horseshoe bats (from the genus Rhinolophus), which are known hosts of other coronaviruses.
Bat Conservation International's chief scientist Winifred Frick. Winifred Frick
Given what we know so far about the origins of the virus, should people be scared of wild bats?<p>In zoonotic disease, what happens is that you have viruses that are circulating naturally in wildlife populations. And then an event happens in which that virus spills over into the human population. If that pathogen starts to spread human-to-human, then we have a zoonotic disease outbreak.</p><p>It's important to remember that COVID-19 is at this point a human disease and it's being transmitted human-to-human. So nobody living here in North America needs to be worried about getting COVID-19 from a bat.</p><p>I think that we really want to allay concerns that people need to fear bats. There's definitely been some fear that has arisen because people hear that bats are somewhat associated [with the pandemic] and then that leads to misunderstanding.</p><p>Our general guidance is that people shouldn't be handling bats or wild animals of any kind.</p>
There was a recommendation from the federal government that scientists may need to limit their fieldwork with bats in North America now to prevent a possible transmission of the virus from humans back to species of bats here. Is that a concern?<p>There is some concern about "reverse zoonosis" or spill back, which is the idea that humans could transmit SARS-Co-V-2 back to wildlife populations.</p><p>Researchers are working really hard to understand the vulnerability of other mammals to this novel strain of coronavirus. There was news about a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/nyregion/bronx-zoo-tiger-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">tiger at the Bronx Zoo</a> testing positive and some evidence that different mammals may be susceptible. We really want to make sure that we're protecting bats, which are mammals like us, from any risk from an asymptomatic human.</p><p>Just as we don't want people to spread this virus human-to-human, we don't want people to spread this virus human-to-wildlife. This isn't necessarily a specific concern about bats but really any mammal. We don't know yet if mammals could start to transmit animal-to-animal within their own populations. But right now we really want to limit exposure and limit any risk since we are still in an active research phase.</p>
Have you seen much bat backlash?<p>There's some evidence that there's been some efforts to kill bats in different parts of the world. And we're very concerned about that. Bats are an important part of our ecosystem. They're incredibly biodiverse. They account for about 20 percent of all mammals globally. A lot of people don't realize that there's more than 1,400 different species of bat around the world.</p><p>And they have an enormous variety of ecological roles — what we call "ecosystem services." Here in North America, bats are primarily insect-eating and it's been documented that they provide in the billions [of dollars of benefit] for the agricultural industry in terms of their role in reducing crop predation.</p>
What kind of threats do bats face from us?<p>Globally bats face a variety of different threats, including anthropogenic land-use change, and habitat destruction and degradation. Because many species of bats form large colonies underground, those can be targets for disturbance and indiscriminate killing.</p><p>That's the one that we're really worried about right now. If people start to fear bats, we could see an uptick in directed killings. We're very concerned about that and very focused on trying to provide accurate information and also roost protection.</p><p>And of course <a href="https://therevelator.org/fungus-killing-americas-bats/" target="_blank">white-nose syndrome</a> is a major threat to our hibernating bats here in North America. It's a fungal pathogen that was likely introduced here through human trade or travel. The fungus is widespread in Europe and into temperate Asia. When it was introduced here, it spread very rapidly and has killed millions of bats.</p><p>And, unfortunately, you can't tell bats to social distance.</p>
What can we be doing right now to help bats?<p>The number-one thing that people can do is to say positive things about bats and make sure we aren't scapegoating wildlife. There's a lot of evidence that zoonotic diseases are a reflection of our misuse of the planet. When people are <a href="https://therevelator.org/biodiversity-health-pandemics/" target="_blank">destroying habitats and unsustainably harvesting species</a>, those are the conditions that lead to these kinds of spillover events. And now more than ever, I think there is that recognition that human health and planetary health are intertwined and that <a href="https://therevelator.org/coronavirus-wildlife-trade/" target="_blank">wildlife conservation is a part of global health solutions</a>.</p><p>Because bats do carry coronaviruses in the wild, and they have been talked about in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's really important that people speak up for bats. This is not the bats' fault. This is our fault.</p>
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- Eek! Bat Populations Are Shrinking. Here Are A Few Ways to Help ... ›