BENGALURU: Even though the exact source of the origin of coronavirus -- a disease transmitted from mammals and birds -- is still under debate, no animal group has faced so much bad press as bats. Wittingly or unwittingly, people are blaming these least understood mammals for the pandemic.
The scare over bats and coronavirus is so prevalent that people have started axing trees where colonies of bats tend to roost.
This has forced the state forest department to issue a warning on Friday that “trees, where bats roost, should not be felled and bat colonies should not be disturbed”.
The department’s announcement came after it started getting reports of people felling trees from across the state, particularly in Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Mandya and Chikkaballapur.
Moreover, a recent report from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has pointed out that bat coronavirus (BtCoV) in two species of south Asian bats “poses no health hazards”.
The viruses found in the study were different from Sars-CoV-2 and cannot cause COVID-19.
Concerned over the vilification of bats and the resultant threat to their survival, scientists and conservationists from South Asia have appealed to governments and health officials to ensure that bats are protected as they play a vital role in the eco-system.
According to the scientists, there is no evidence of humans contracting coronavirus or any such viruses through the excreta of bats.
“And information on the current zoonotic disease outbreaks suggest that global wildlife trade and largescale industrial livestock farming play an important role in such events. The governments of South Asian countries should strengthen the legal framework to protect bats in view of their eco-system services and their slow breeding capacity,” they said.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Sanjai Mohan told The New Indian Express that many people were demanding that trees where bats roost be cut.
Based on the research findings, a decision has been taken that no bat colonies should be disturbed and no trees should be uprooted, he added.