Singapore — National Parks Board (NParks) has conducted biosurveillance programmes for the purpose of detecting animal diseases and say that so far, the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, a city in central China that has caused an outbreak in different parts of the world has not been found amongst the bats in Singapore.
A straitstimes.com (ST) report quotes group director for animal and veterinary services at NParks, Dr Chang Siow Foong as saying on Tuesday (Feb 25), ”NParks has been studying our bat populations since 2011. So far, we have not detected Covid-19 in bats and other animals in Singapore.”
But NParks has said it has been getting more reports concerning bats in the last two months than in the past, with 139 reports about bats coming in between January 1 and February 19 this year. This figure is nearly three times the number recorded from January and February 2019.
And while initial reports suggested that the new coronavirus possibly came from bats, the experts from NParks have said there is no need to panic when they are seen, and to just make sure to keep s distance from the bats.
He said that bats are shy, and only show aggression when individuals try to handle them. Since bats prefer dark places, people who wish to avoid bats roosting on their property should install lights, he added.
Dr Chang also said that NParks will continue to monitor the local wildlife population closely. He added that one possible reason for additional feedback is that it has become easier to report incidents, citing the OneService app as an example.
ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) a local wildlife rescue organisation, also said that it has received a greater number of bat-related reports, with some people asking for bats to be taken away from the places where they roost.
The deputy chief executive of ACRES, Anbarasi Boopal, said that there were 10 calls in January requesting for bats to be removed, or at the very least, complaining about them.
In the first part of this month, ACRES received 15 calls, with one caller saying they had thrown a live bat that they saw on the floor of the corridor of an HDB, because they thought they might get infected by the coronavirus.
Before this, ACRES only got five calls per month at most concerning bats.
Ms Anbarasi said that the only time ACRES should be called in is if the bat is in distress.
“Removing bats from a suitable habitat will also create voids for new bats to move in, essentially not changing anything. It is best to let them be.
Wild animals like bats have always been around. As long as we don’t consume or provoke them, there is no reason to panic.”
The ST reports also quotes Professor Wang Linfa as saying that the chance that the virus will jump from animals to humans in situations such as having their roosts in one’s home or passing by these animals are rare.
Dr Wang, the director of the emerging infectious disease programme at Duke-NUS Medical School who has studied diseases carried by bats, says that the important thing is not to cause the animal to panic.
“The key is not to stress animals. The viral level goes up when animals are stressed, which in turn will increase the chance of virus jump,” he told ST. —/TISG
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