Hunt for crowned bats in Thailand to discover if they carry COVID-19 virus
Officials from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, and from the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, have been in Khao Soi Dao wildlife sanctuary, in the eastern province of Chanthaburi, to hunt for crowned bats for research into whether they carry the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2).
Mr. Pattharaphol Manee-on, chief of the department’s wildlife health management section, said that they went to a cave in Tambon Tapsai, home to millions of bats, to capture up to 100 crowned bats on Thursday night, in order to take samples of their blood, saliva and excrement for lab tests.
He disclosed that there are about 23 species of crowned bats in Thailand, and this is the first time that the bats have been captured for tests.
During this expedition, the officials also met with community leaders, teachers and students in Tambon Nong Ta Dong to educate them on how they can safely co-exist with the bats and about the risks of being infected if they eat bat meat.
Ms. Supaporn Watchaprueksadee, a researcher at the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Chulalongkorn hospital, who was the first to identify COVID-19 in Thailand, said that it is necessary to study the bats, because the strain of coronavirus in China was reported to be the same as that found in crowned bats.
Although research on viruses in various species of bats in Thailand has been underway for almost two decades, she said that crowned bats have not yet been studied.