Bats vs Coronavirus!
The new coronavirus COVID-19 that has been labelled by the World Health Organisation as a global pandemic, is thought to have originated in the Huanan seafood market (China) through close interaction or interference between people and animals (bats and pangolins). The origin and mechanism of transferal of COVID-19 is currently unknown. The infection has since been spread from person to person.
Bats are known to host a number of viruses closely related to COVID-19, but generally these viruses are not transferable to humans. On the rare occasion that viruses are transferred from bats to humans, it occurs when people come into very close contact with the animal – i.e. during their handling, killing, preparation and eating. Viewing the annual migration of up to 10 million straw- coloured fruits bats at Kasanka National Park will not put guests at risk of capturing COVID-19 from bats.
The Kasanka Management Team
Kasanka Bat Research
Previous tagging studies have demonstrated that the bats fly on average 20 to 40km per night to feed on the local fruits. One other study has confirmed that they migrate thousands of kilometres to different colonies in equatorial Africa once they have had their fill in Kasanka. This is remarkable as no other fruit bat migrates over similar distances. It also has important implications for their conservation, however, there is still a lot to learn about the migration routes these bats take and where they roost in equatorial Africa. Even if all known colonies within several thousand kilometres migrate to Kasanka this does not add up to the numbers we observe here. Thus, tracking many more bats during migration is urgently necessary. However, this is still difficult as the appropriate miniaturized GPS technology is still being developed. But, in spite of very limited time for catching and tagging bats due to unforeseen delays with permits, the team managed to catch and tag 4 bats on their last night in the park. The tags used will record each bat’s position once a day over several weeks or even months, and send this data via SMS when the bats fly through cell signal! We will be watching these bats closely on Movebank (www.movebank.org) and we will let you know what they are up to.