Ebola Crisis Shows Need for Queensland to Deal with Bats Issue

While the focus of the Ebola crisis has been understandably on west Africa, there are risks closer to home that we must remain vigilant about.

The Ebola crisis in west Africa began when an unfortunate young boy came into contact with a fruit bat carrying the Ebola virus.

As a CSIRO researcher has stated: “Bats are the natural host species for Ebola and a variety of viruses, many of which can be fatal when transmitted to humans. More than 100 viruses have been identified in bats and this number is rising each year.”

Although there is no evidence that Australian fruit bats carry the Ebola virus, bats do carry several diseases fatal to humans and we must remain vigilant.

Bats in Australia are already known to carry Lyssavirus and Hendra virus. At least four people have died of Hendra virus, including a veterinarian here in Rockhampton, and an eight-year-old boy from Lyssavirus in Cairns.

We can't persist with the philosophy that the lives and habitats of diseased-ridden pests are more important than humans. Where communities want to cull or move these pests, they should be allowed, indeed encouraged, to do so.

The risks of having disease-carrying bats close to human populations are just too great. The Ebola crisis shows that those risks aren't just felt by towns like Charters Towers: they are global.

Instead, we make it ridiculously difficult for communities to take the necessary action. Charters Towers can't get a permit from CASA to move bats. Governments of all levels should remove this red tape so we can protect lives.

If Labor were serious about protecting Australians from bat-borne diseases, they would drop their Greens-inspired silence on the culling of bats instead of grandstanding about a crisis half a world away. 

Showing 10 reactions

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  • Barb Brindley
    commented 2014-10-27 12:31:18 +1000
    Scientists have a golden opportunity to discover all they need to know about Ebola through bats, (if they truly do carry this virus), because if bats can live with Lyssa, Hendra and Ebola surely Scientists could find out how and why bats rarely die from these viruses; only 3 people have died from the Lyssavirus in 30+ years. Check out Dr Les Hall’s conversation with ABC’s Richard Fidler (on Youtube) who does not even believe bats passed Hendra to horses. He worked on this for over 30 years and could not confirm bats were responsible, explaining that there had to be another host or vector involved. He even suggested it was more likely feral cats (as they also carry the Hendra virus). The more habitat destruction the more bats will find roosting trees closer to residential suburbs, where they are not wanted because people have yet to learn to co-exist with our vital night pollinators; education is imperative, we need trees for oxygen. Bats are far more important than humans. Bats have been around for 50+ million years, humans just 200,000 years, and whereas bats are vital for the environment, ecosystem and biodiversity, humans are not.
  • Steve Amesbury
    commented 2014-10-27 06:07:31 +1000
    (Correction to the post below – Cane toads were introduced in 1935 not 1835) – SA
  • Steve Amesbury
    commented 2014-10-27 06:04:52 +1000
    Senator, further to my earlier comment, I was directed to the article “Bat’s immunity may hold key to preventing future Ebola outbreaks” in which CSIRO researcher Michelle Baker did indeed utter the words you quoted. But I read all the way to the end of that article. It concluded with the following paragraphs…

    “It’s tempting to look to culling as the answer to deal with bats as the natural hosts of Ebola. This suggestion was made during the spillover of Hendra virus from bats to horses in Australia. But it is not the answer; bats are an extremely successful group of mammals, making up 20% of all mammalian diversity. They are critical to ecosystems, with roles in insect control and pollination.

    Rather than persecuting bats, we need to unravel the secrets of the success of this group of mammals. Understanding how bats control viral replication would not only assist in developing future therapeutics but may also help predict transmission events from bats into human and animal populations."

    Do you not feel that it is dishonest to support your argument with a quote from scientific paper, but ignore the conclusions because they run counter to your own?

    In Africa, as in Australia there is general agreement that a major contributing factor to the viral outbreaks is long-term habitat destruction. The solution is not knee jerk reactions – Australia is still suffering from Queensland’s disastrous introduction of Cane-Toads in 1835. The solutions need to be well thought out, and should be progressed by bringing informed experts from multiple disciplines to the table, in an alliance to find a sensible and sustainable solution.
  • Kathy Earsman
    commented 2014-10-26 21:57:14 +1000
    Matt Canavan, have you deliberately joined this uninformed group-think to curry favour with your constituents, or are kneejerk reactions part of your usual response to alarmist newpaper articles? Please consult with experts; people like Dr Les Hall who has studied Flying Foxes for forty years, Vivien Jones , author of ‘Flying Foxes
    Australian Night Foresters’, who spent over 20 years studying the grey-headed flying fox in the wild. Many more carers, scientists and researchers.
    Ignorant mouthing of common opinion does not behove you, as a politician or a man.
  • Steve Tellurian
    commented 2014-10-26 20:00:41 +1000
    Unbelievable the amount of ignorance and inflammatory rhetoric you show senator, do some research about how important bats are to the biosphere and the true origins of Ebola. Unlike humans like you, who seem predisposed to kill, bats help control pests, pollinate many species of plants, and help spread seeds of trees. Human populations have moved into the bats territory, not the other way around, and humans are no more important than ANY other creature on this planet, they have a right to exist, in fact more so than any humans, because unlike people like you and your ilk, they actually serve a useful purpose!
  • Caroline Smith
    commented 2014-10-26 19:27:32 +1000
    No I do not agree with this – we don’t ban cars or people and they kill hundreds per year
  • Bob Thomas
    commented 2014-10-26 17:56:40 +1000
    Ironically bats do more good to the biodiversity of the plant than your puny mind can comprehend. Try doing some research Matt rather than spreading uneducated hysteria.
  • Jan Allen
    commented 2014-10-26 17:31:18 +1000
    ‘We can’t persist with the philosophy that the lives and habitats of diseased-ridden pests are more important than humans.’

    Why? They are at least equally as important and arguably more important since the ‘disease ridden pests’, as you emotively and incorrectly refer to them, are actually essential native pollinators and seed dispersers without which we would have no native forests or the diversity of species they support or the immense ecosystem services the forests provide. A planet without trees or forests would be incredibly inhospitable if not uninhabitable. I would hope that our government policies will be informed by science and reason rather than ill informed opinion.

    Barb Brindley and Steve Amesbury very succinctly point out the absurdity of your argument.
  • Barb Brindley
    commented 2014-10-26 15:29:19 +1000
    More fear mongering, more reasons to blame the flying fox (why not blame the mosquito?). Only 3 people in a 30+ period have died from the Lyssavirus. However there are vaccines available, even a post-vaccine, so if the people had been educated and known the boy Lincoln had been bitten or scratched by a bat he could have lived. His parents did not blame the bat, they blamed the lack of education (both in schools and in communities); they even started the Lincoln-Lyssavirus-Education-Program. Stop worrying about flying foxes and start worrying about children who die regularly from things there are no vaccines for; over the last 15 years 10 children have died from domestic dog attacks (usually the family pet); 6 children have died on theme park rides; approx 100 children have died from horse-riding accidents; approx 200 from drownings; and thousands in car accidents. There are no vaccines for any of these but there is a vaccine for the Lyssavirus. And, one of the biggest killers is filicide; in Australia approximately 27 children die every year at the hands of their own parent(s); there most definitely is not a vaccine for that either. Stop fearing bats and get educated about the real killers …. humans!
  • Steve Amesbury
    commented 2014-10-26 14:35:37 +1000
    Senator, can you please provide details of which CSIRO researcher said “Bats are the natural host species for Ebola”? As far as I am aware this has not yet been absolutely determined.

    You fail to put your argument into perspective. Bats do carry viruses that are potentially fatal to humans. So do cattle, dogs, cats, pigs, fowl, birds and of course other humans. Diseases such as Q-Fever, toxoplasmosis, malaria, bird-flu. Psittacosis and hundreds (if not thousands) of other potentially fatal diseases are carried by a many, many species. EVERY ONE OF THESE has killed more humans that Australian Bat Lyssavirus and Hendra Virus put together. So following your logic, we should, as a matter of urgency kill every dog, cat, bird, cow and pig in Australia as they are hundreds of times more deadly than bats.

    CASA refuse permission as I understand it because the pilot in the last Charter’s Towers debacle flew in a manner dangerous to the public and did not comply with CASA rules or guidelines.

    Unfortunately politicians seen to quick to comment on issues on which they have little or no knowledge. I suggest that if you are not willing to put to death every species that is MORE DANGEROUS than bats, you should rethink your opinions about flying foxes.

    My real worry is this – were you completely ignorant of the threats posed by just about every animal, or did you know and chose to deliberately misrepresent the truth?

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