Unfairly Maligned Bats Need Your Help! TheScientist, 12/3/2014

Case Closed–No  further action needed. 

Subsequent stories about bats have been mostly positive. Thank you Bat Fans for your participation. May 24, 2016 

A growing avalanche of needlessly scary media stories threatens to undo decades of bat conservation progress. The most recent example, Lurking in the Shadows,  by Bob Grant appeared in the December 1, 2014 issue of TheScientist. Without our clear and prompt protests, such misinformation will continue to circulate till, with sufficient repetition, it becomes “fact” in the public mind. And people who fear bats typically turn from conserving to killing. Here is Merlin’s response.

“Your article, Lurking in the Shadows, by Bob Grant, is full of speculation about bats as potential sources of dread diseases while ignoring the outstanding safety record of bats living near people. I am just one of hundreds of biologists who have worked in very close association with bats, and despite spending countless thousands of hours with them on every continent where they exist, none of us has contracted one of these so-called emerging diseases, nor is there any evidence that even the largest aggregations of bats living in cities have caused public health problems.

Your article includes a photo of 1.5 million free-tailed bats emerging from the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin, Texas, but fails to mention that, despite early warnings from health officials, not a single one of the millions of visitors who have enjoyed close-up observations of these bats over the past 35 years has contracted a disease from them.

Unfortunately, as recently noted in Rick Steves’ Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, news media are increasingly relying on scare tactics to boost ratings that turn profits. The same appears to be true for at least a few virologists who have learned that scaring people about bats is far more lucrative (in gaining grants) than helping people overcome unfounded fears of little known, but invaluable creatures of the night. As Steves noted, “We end up being afraid of things we shouldn’t be—and ignoring things that actually do threaten our society.”

Incidentally, there appears to be overwhelming evidence that the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), attributed to be of bat origin in your story, is actually far more closely linked to camels. Since less than one percent of viruses have yet been taxonomically described, it is easy to find new ones wherever we look. Focusing disproportionate attention on bats isn’t likely to make us any safer, though it is perhaps tempting to divert our attention to rare diseases instead of dealing with the real public health killers we’d prefer to ignore.”  Merlin Tuttle

You do not need to be an expert to respond. Editors are hired and fired based on readership sales. You need only to express your strong displeasure regarding this kind of reporting to make a difference.  You additionally can help by calling our attention to such articles as they appear. We will do our best to respond promptly and alert others to do the same.

 For the latest scientific information on MERS go to http://mbio.asm.org/content/5/2/e00884-14.full and http://mbio.asm.org/content/5/3/e01146-14.full. Also note the “Articles citing this article” section at the end of each of these publications. For information useful in evaluating future stories go to the Get Involved section on this website.

Many thousands of people enjoy bats closeup without harm, from America to Australia, Asia and Africa
Many thousands of people enjoy bats closeup without harm, from America to Australia, Asia and Africa





12 thoughts on “Unfairly Maligned Bats Need Your Help! TheScientist, 12/3/2014

  1. Bob Grant…..scientists. ….those words obviously don’t belong in same sentence together! Where does he get his “information”?? Old Dracula movies?? Bats are wonderful, invaluable animals! Get rid of bats & we will be over run by insects…ick! & plants will not be pollinated! Perhaps Mr Grant should stick to writing something he is more qualified in…such as scary comic books, surely someone will enjoy his writings/ramblings in that genre.

  2. Bats are so beneficial to our world. Some of them eat thousands upon thousands of insects that would ruin expensive crops, some of them eat insects that can cause disease, some of them can repollinate rainforests that are essential for our planet’s health. Bats are essential for our ecosystem. If you’re going to write news about bats, please make it accurate and not based on fear.

  3. This is unacceptable and malicious slander under the guise of science. Apparently this person has a fear of bats and wishes to propagate that fear.

  4. Bats can’t really turn into Dracula right? LOL Sorry that is about the same as saying they spread virus. Hey ya know what else? Some animals carry Bubonic Plague….. when was the last case of that spread by an animal ?

  5. Mr Grant based his article on what data and research evidence exactly? clearly; hysteria in the media is not only maligning the wolves but also the bats. Let’s set the record straight. Animals, bats, wolves all serve an essential purpose; your irresponsible words serve none!

  6. I concurr with the perspective voiced by Merlin Tuttle in his response to Bob Grant’s article “Lurking in the Shadows”. Bats are important to all of us in many ways.

  7. I concurr with the perspective voiced by Merlin Tuttle in his response to Bob Grant’s article “Lurking in the Shadows”. Bats are important to all of us in many ways.

  8. I started studying bats when I was in 3rd grade. I love them & they need help, especially from misinformed people like Mr. Grant. I spend a lot of my time educating other kids about bats. I’ve studied bats for five years and never caught any sickness, was bit on the neck, or had eggs laid in my hair. 🙂 Keep your hands & feet away from their sharp parts. This should be the rule for any animal. I would bite someone if they stuck their hand in my mouth so if you meet a bat, just say hi but don’t touch it. Save Bats & Let Them Flap!
    “Bat Girl” (7th grader)

  9. Kill all bats and you will be eaten alive by insects, but that will not matter because there will be an ever bigger food shortage than now!

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