Bat Flash! Praise to Mongabay for Timely Defense of Bats

By Merlin Tuttle
9/5/17

This summer saw the worst avalanche of grossly exaggerated disease speculation ever launched against bats. While seemingly countless publications world-wide needlessly frightened millions of readers, Mongabay journalist, John Cannon, investigated and bravely countered the tide in his article, “Bats and viruses: Beating back a bad reputation,” published August 29.

Mongabay is one of the world’s leading environmental websites. It reaches 28 million readers in nine languages annually, making its defense of bats especially helpful at a time when bats are facing so much scary misinformation. We’ve listed actions you can take to share your thanks at the end of this post.

Lesser long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) are primary pollinators of agave plants essential to annual production of tequila and mescal worth billions of dollars to the Mexican economy. But thousands at a time have been burned in their caves due to unfounded fear.

A single Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) can catch enough corn earworm moths in a single night to prevent them from laying more than 20,000 eggs. In the U.S. alone, such bats save farmers roughly 23 billion dollars annually. Millions of these bats have been exterminated out of needless fear.
Hundreds of thousands of straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) live in city parks all across Africa and, contrary to predictions, have a proven track record of being safe neighbors. During their long migrations, they are key pollinators and seed dispersers, including iroko timber trees.

This summer’s negative campaign began with publication of a seemingly benign paper in Virus Evolution, titled “Global patterns in coronavirus diversity.”  However, it soon spawned author interviews and titles like “Bats are global reservoir for deadly coronaviruses” in the news section of the journal Nature. Then, “Where will the next Pandemic come from? Likely from bats,” in The Wall Street Journal and “Bats are the number one carriers of disease” in Time. Not even the Austin American-Statesman (which supports a bat mascot and bat viewing area at the famous Congress Avenue Bridge) could resist! Its story was titled, “Bats could be source of next pandemic.  The Mongabay article includes a link to my response.

A Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat (Epomophorus wahlbergi) about to pollinate a baobab flower in Kenya. Baobab fruit sells for a billion dollars annually for vitamins. Countless thousands of epauletted bats live in African villages without record of harm to humans.

Our relationship with Mongabay editor, Rebecca Kessler, began when our loyal “bat fans” politely informed her that, Mongabay’s well-intended April 27, 2016 article, titled “Bat mortality no longer sustainable, global review finds,” contained misleading information regarding bats as sources for scary diseases. She promptly thanked us and published a correction.

We now especially thank Rebecca, not only for Mongabay’s current article in defense of bats, but also for publishing Mike Gaworecki’s August 14, 2017 article, titled “Nearly one-third of bat species in North America are on the decline.” The article reported that scientists at NatureServe, an international biodiversity NGO, have determined bats to be the most threatened warm-blooded animals in North America.

TAKE ACTION!

Choose any or all means of contact to reach out and share your THANKS for this positive press in your own words.

Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) emerging from the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas provide one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles. Despite early health official warnings of danger, none of millions of tourists has been attacked or harmed.

 

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2 thoughts on “Bat Flash! Praise to Mongabay for Timely Defense of Bats

  1. Thank you for good information to help people understand and know more about bats and reverse the horrible and wrong representation people have on these precious mammals.

  2. Thank you, Merlin Tuttle. I no longer think a magazine is correct, just because it has prestige. The same holds true for newspapers-which really aren’t news worthy. And if still paper I’d recycle

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