Save the Rabid, Infectious Bats!
Being a common mouse-eared bat has to be a tough gig. It isn't surprising bats have maintained a terrible reputation. Some species harbour Ebola, Henda, and Nipah viruses. Now, add to those a mysterious form of rabies and Myotis myotis, the Greater mouse-eared bat, is a venerable disease-fest. What's worse? The same species is flagged by the IUCN as a threatened species!
What...do...you...do? According to the BBC, the species was declared extinct in Britain 16 years ago, until a few loners were stumbled upon. Little is actually known about these critters, as they are so very elusive. However, this past week a team of Spanish and French scientists published a 12 year survey of the the mouse-eared bat on Mallorca Island.
What did they find?
A virus (EBLV-1) commonly carried by the Myotis myotis species, native throughout Europe, "can cause a fatal illness, indistinguishable from classic rabies, in non-flying mammal species, including humans," the study says. It gets worse. In contrast with their victims, "the survival model shows no variation in mortality after EBLV-1 infection of M. myotis."
Translation: diseased bats can get away with murder.
Why aren't the researchers running away from these diseased flying critters? Well, the researchers found they are only infectious for about 5 days.
For Bourhy, this narrow window of rabies-sharing opportunity, combined with other factors, is reassuring enough to tip the scales in favor of protection rather than persecution.
"The dynamic of bat infection ... supports the decision taken in Europe to protect these animals and not to destroy the colonies in which rabies is present," he said in an interview. "The only reasonable measure today is to forbid - as is done in the Balearic Islands - access to caves harboring bats that might be contagious."
Rabid or not, diseased or harmless, Myotis myotis may live to see another day. Many bat species are endangered in Great Britain, "Of the 16 species left in Britain, six are endangered or rare and six others are regarded as vulnerable." [source]. Much of this is due to farming, habitat loss and the use of, pesticides. In the Uniuted States, six out of 45 resident species are also endangered, while 20 others are considered to be threatened or endangered. [source] It would be a shame to lose these species out of the misguided fear of disease or vampirism. Who else will eat thousands of mosquitoes every night!