April 17 is Bat Appreciation Day, and social media users are celebrating the holiday despite reports that indicate bats were the source of the virus that causes COVID-19.
According to National Day Calendar, National Bat Appreciation Day is celebrated each year on April 17. The day “reminds us of the roles bats play in our daily lives.” These days, though, that may be a contentious subject, as numerous reports state bats started the coronavirus pandemic.
But did they?
Scientists Say It’s ‘Likely’ COVID-19 Originated in Bats
After a decade of research, the SARS outbreak was eventually traced back to horseshoe bats, as was the Rabies virus, the Marburg virus, the Hendra and Nipah viruses. Ebola in West Africa was also traced to a bat colony, NPR reports.
Professor Stephen Turner, the head of the department of microbiology at Monash University, tells The Guardian that, “what’s most likely is that the (coronavirus) virus originated in bats.”
On April 15, NPR reported that Chinese scientists sequenced the entire genome for Covid-19 and published it online. When they compared it to genomes of known viruses, they found a 96% match with samples taken from horseshoe bats.
#BatAppreciationDay Appeared in Almost 20,000 Tweets As of Friday Morning
As of Friday morning, #BatAppreciationDay was trending on Twitter, with nearly 20k tweets referencing the holiday.
While some acknowledged the important role the flying mammals play in our ecosystem, others said that given the state of the world, they would not be celebrating bats this year.
On Friday, one user wrote, “When this whole #coronavirus started from a bat in China and I’m seeing #BatAppreciationDay on trending..” Another wrote, “F*** those dirty smelly disgusting cave dwelling flying rats that cause the coronavirus, hope they all go extinct.”
Other individuals expressed different sentiments, writing, “Glad to see our bat friends getting some love today despite their recent coronavirus PR crisis”, and “Bats are not our enemies! Bats are beneficial to humans – they control swarming insects such as mosquitoes, and pollinate our flowers and crops.”
While bats make for ideal hosts for viruses, Peter Daszak, the President of Ecohealth Alliance, tells NPR that they are not to blame for the pandemic. “It’s not bats. It’s us. It’s what we do to bats that drives this pandemic risk,” Daszak said.
He continued, “One of the positive things about finding out that we’re actually behind these pandemics is that it gives us the power to do something about it. We don’t need to get rid of bats. We don’t need to do anything with bats. We’ve just got to leave them alone. Let them get on, doing the good they do, flitting around at night and we will not catch their viruses.”
Today, there are over 1,200 species of bats in the world, and an estimated 48 of those species make their home in the United States. Republic World adds that 40% of bat species in the US are currently in decline, with some listened as endangered or threatened.