Study prepared by FAO Regional Office for Africa, October 2012
With over 1,150 bat species worldwide – representing about twenty percent of the
biodiversity of all mammalian species – they carry out important ecological and agricultural
functions such pollination and dispersion of seeds. And while many tropical plant species
depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds, it is true that in the tropics bats
can also be carriers of important diseases such as rabies, mokola, duvenhage, hendra or
nipah viruses. These are the ones we know of today, but some 40 years ago, all we knew
was about rabies. Is there more we should be doing?
This manual, “Investigating the role of bats in emerging zoonoses: Balancing ecology,
conservation and public health interests” is an introduction to the complex issues associated
with a One Health approach to understanding the biology and ecological importance of
bats, and the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence from bats to people. As an introduction,
this manual will provide a basis for understanding the need to balance natural resource
management, disease surveillance, prevention and control.