The University of Georgia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Australian Animal Health Laboratory have conducted a study about diseases carried by bats. It suggests that state and territory governments should invest in safety precautions for volunteer wildlife rehabilitators who take care of injured bats in the wild.
Fruit bats are very important pollinators as they disperse seeds, but they also carry diseases that can be fatal to livestock and people. When a bat gets injured, either by heat or by running into barbed wire, volunteers catch them and rehabilitiate them to eventually release them back into the wild.
Because the volunteers spend lots of time with these bats, they must take special precautions to protect themselves from rabies and the Hendra virus, which affects horses as well.
Cecilia A. Sanchez is a doctoral student in the UGA Odem School of Ecology who conducted this study with rehabilitators in Australia and is working towards the government getting more involved with helping protect these volunteers from these dangerous diseases as they protect the pollinators of their environment.
More information can be found at: Helping the Helpers: Improving Safety for Volunteer Wildlife Rehabilitators
Sanchez’s study can be read here: “Disease Risk Perception and Safety Practices: A Survey of Australian Flying Fox Rehabilitators”.