In case you haven’t heard, 2011-2012 is The Year of the Bat, a promotional campaign by the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS), to raise awareness about and improve conservation of bats worldwide.
The HALI team is also in the middle of our own Year of the Bat in Tanzania. Just last year, the HALI team had very little experience with bats. But early in 2011, we had the pleasure of learning some capture and sampling techniques from Alison Peel, a talented young researcher from Cambridge Infectious Diseases Consortium, who was sampling fruit bats (E. helvum) along the Swahili Coast. After working with Alison, our team, supported in part by the PREDICT Surveillance groups extensive experience and guidance through Jon Epstein and EcoHealth Alliance and by our own PREDICT Tanzania staff scientist Liz VanWormer, continued training and practicing their capture and sampling skills, until confident that they could identify bat roosting sites, set-up mist-nets in locations for efficient capture, and safely handle and sample bats without danger to the animals or themselves.
This November, the team began surveilling bats in the Idodi Division of Iringa District Tanzania – check out our slideshow (photos by Liz Vanwormer). The field team has captured both fruit bats and insectivorous bats, and stored collected samples in liquid nitrogen for analysis at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, where PREDICT has based diagnostic and pathogen testing operations for the East Africa region. Through this surveillance, we hope to identify viral pathogens circulating in bats, to learn if there are any viral agents that pose a public health risk. We also hope to teach people in the areas where we are sampling about bats, and about the many benefits bats have on economic and ecosystem health.
Also as part of the Year of the Bat, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released an informative publication on the role of bats in emerging zoonotic diseases. You can download this publication, which also features contributions from the PREDICT team, Investigating the Role of Bats in Emerging Zoonoses on the FAO publication website, or by clicking this link.