January 2014

Bats are cool but are they dangerous?

Recently we have had a few batty questions. Are bats dangerous?

Answer

pteropus alecto

Australian megabats play a very important role in long distance pollination and seed distribution. The microbats are also important predators of insects. Some microbats can, in a single night, consume their own weight in pest insects thereby helping to protect crops.

Bats are beautiful, social animals. They are also long-lived (up to 25yrs). Their velvety soft wings help them fly to different feeding grounds and campsites (roosting areas). They are the only mammals that are capable of sustained flight. At the moment one good place to view a flying-fox (fruit bat) colony is in New Farm Park.

Addressing the issue of human health, we quote Queensland Health who state “There is no known risk of contracting ABL (Australian bat lyssavirus) from bats flying overhead, contact with bat urine or faeces or from fruit they may have eaten. Living, playing or walking near bat roosting areas does not pose a risk of exposure to the virus.” ABL is rare amongst bat populations (there is more risk of contracting ABL from a domestic cat). Hendra virus or Equine Morbillivirus (EMV) is also present in some wild bat populations but there are no known cases of transmission from bat to human.

However, direct contact with bats should always be avoided. In the case of a scratch or bite seek medical assistance immediately.

All bats were once protected in Australia, but recent changes to legislation mean that flying foxes can be culled. Many populations are already in decline.

What ways can you think of to help our little batty friends?

Visit the Discovery Centre to see some of our bat specimens on show or borrow one of our bat specimen loans kits.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.