Magazine article New Internationalist

We Need Bats

Magazine article New Internationalist

We Need Bats

Article excerpt

It's time to revise bats' reputation as creepy, evil demons of the night - before it's too late.

At the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market in Thailand, where women ply their fresh flowers, sweets and meats from canoes, many tourists pile back into their buses clutching a 'bat box' keepsake - a framed box containing dead bats and insects.

'We're doing the locals a favour by helping them get rid of the bats,' says one Australian. 'Just think of all the diseases they spread - rabies, malaria, cholera, TB...'

A cursory check on eBay reveals a steady trade in bat boxes from Asia. It's just one of many threats - ranging from habitat loss, pollution and pesticides - that are sending bat species into decline worldwide. Clearly, bats are misunderstood; clearly, bats are in trouble.

Slow reproducers, most bats give birth to one single offspring every year. This leaves them exceptionally vulnerable to extinction. Rob Mies, Executive Director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, estimates that about half of our 1,200 bat species may be lost over the next 100 years.

Bats' sinister cultural baggage means it is often forgotten that some 500 agricultural plants, including bananas, avocados and mangos, rely on them for pollination and seed distribution. …

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