On April 25, actor Amitabh Bachchan joked that a bat entered his home by mistake saying ‘Corona peecha chodh hi nahin raha’. His remark was good for a laugh, but thinking that people in Bengaluru repeatedly asked the fruit-bearing trees to be chopped, as they are the main source of food for bats and kill all the bat colonies nearby…gives me chills.
Bats are not the disgusting carriers of COVID-19 (which is not even a proven fact). They are the world’s top pollinators and seed dispersers and they never get enough of eating insects that are known to carry deadly vector-borne diseases. Indirectly, they protect us from diseases such as malaria and keep the forests healthy.
If this is not making the bats prettier in your eyes than think that no bats means no tequila or mahua, according to the bat researcher and doctoral student at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Rohit Chakravarty. As stated before, fruit-eating bats are good pollinators and they also pay a visit to agave trees that is the ‘fun’ ingredient of tequila.
Playing the role of seed dispersers, they scatter the seeds of mahua and pollinate the flowers of durian, which globally represents a multi-million-dollar industry. They save agriculture from significant economic loss by consuming the bugs that parasitize the rice, cotton, and corn production.
Bats To Blame
How and when bats became the fall guy in the COVID-19 background? It is no lie that some bats can carry various coronavirus strains, but COVID-19 is not amongst them. Still, the bats became the ‘black sheep’ in no time (no pun intended) due to the fake news going viral on social media.
The hysteria around them started when some studies, such as one published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in April, by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed that two species of Indian bats found in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu carried BtCov or bat coronavirus.
Abi Tamim Vanak, senior fellow, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment and fellow, department of Biotechnology/ Wellcome Trust India Alliance stated that humans are mostly to blame for the current situation on the world stage:
Wildlife trade, theoretically, is a viral melting pot if you imagine animals from different parts of the world stacked in cages, one over the other, facilitating the exchange of bodily fluids among them. Intensive captive breeding of domestic or wild animals is also a strong suspect — a lot of animals are in close contact with each other. Plus, they are highly inbred, which means that they lack the genetic diversity to fight off pathogens. So, any new virus that they may encounter can evolve into a deadly virus that can jump hosts and affect humans.