KOCHI: Bats are not that widely studied mainly because they are nocturnal mammals. For researchers, it’s really hard to capture bats while studies are mostly done on charismatic species like tigers and elephants,” said PO Nameer, researcher at Centre for Wildlife Sciences, KAU.
The Indian Flying Fox, the most commonly seen bat in Kerala, fly upto a distance of 20 to 30 km from their roosting areas in search of food. “We need to study the dynamics of Nipah virus spread and identify what exactly triggered the transmission of virus from the bats. In Malaysia’s case, studies point to an extensive forest fire in 1997 leading to large-scale migration of Nipah-carrier bats,” he said.
“We need to find whether there is any external stress factor triggering mass movement of bats from their normal habitats in Kerala. Compared to previous years, there is certainly increased stress on bat population nowadays owing to massive felling of trees. We need to investigate more on the subject to draw firm inferences about their recent movement pattern that resulted in spread of the virus,” he added.
“Currently, our research focuses on shedding pattern of virus from bats during their breeding season from February to June,” Nameer said.
Compared to fruit bats, insect bats use echolocation to navigate and find food at night. They use the sense of hearing, while fruit bats use their sense of sight.
Out of the 112 bat species found in India, 11 were identified as Nipah carriers. The tests were conducted globally.
Seven out of 39 species that are found in Kerala had serological evidence of Nipah virus exposure.
Out of the seven, five are fruit bats and two were identified as insect bats.