You may have seen the news about the discovery of a new genus of bat, the so-called “panda bat” in South Sudan. Unfortunately, instead of documenting this bat that is obviously rare and releasing him or her back into the wild, the Smithsonian has killed the bat. Additionally, there have been concerns raised about how the bat was handled by the biologists.
(From Bat World Sanctuary on Facebook) ”Concerning the (in our opinion) cover-up of how the new genus of bat was handled and killed, here is a statement from DeeAnn Reeder, the biologist involved. (Note that the Smithsonian is the same institution that captured and allowed 40 critically endangered Virginia big-eared bats to slowly die over a period of months because they would not use standard husbandry protocols for bats or listen to advice that could have saved the bats):
‘The specimen was humanly captured, handled and euthanized, and is being preserved and archived at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The collection of specimens this rare is critical to understanding an area’s biodiversity and to pursuing conservation efforts around the world. Museum specimens, including Niumbaha superba are available to all of the world’s scientists for study, thereby increasing their value.All of the work conducted in South Sudan and the import of specimens from South Sudan to the USA was done under strict permitting, including: a MoU between DeeAnn Reeder (as an agent for Bucknell University and the Smithsonian Institution) and the South Sudanese Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism (MWCT; FFI also holds and MoU with the ministry) approving collecting, an export permit from the MWCT), and permission to import (and all appropriate documents filed) from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, the methods employed in the field, including trapping and humane euthanasia followed the guidelines of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Society of Mammalogists and were explicitly approved for this project by the Internal Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at Bucknell University. The existence of IACUCs and the procedures they follow is federally mandated for all US institutions and for all US animal researchers (even when their work is performed outside of the US).’
For the full description of how the specimen was handled, we suggest that concerned persons read the paper published in ZooKeys, which can be found here.
Additionally, a recent comment we came across states: ‘The way the bat is being handled does not hurt the bat. Holding back the wings prevents the bat from hurting itself while being held. This is a standard (and temporary) way to hold a bat for things like photos and/or to study certain characteristics of bats.’ Researchers scruff bats to get photographs and to avoid being bitten. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the safety of the bat. Any bat care professional can tell you that when bats are held in a manner that is *comfortable* to them, they rarely attempt to bite and photos are easily obtained.
From Reeder’s paper (linked above): ‘… It seems that much more collecting needs to be done before we can claim a complete knowledge of the mammalian fauna of tropical Africa.” More than 70 years later, this statement still holds, and the biota of many areas of sub-Saharan Africa remains poorly understood, even in vertebrate groups usually considered well studied, such as mammals (Reeder et al. 2007). As an understanding of basic biodiversity is the backbone upon which other studies and conservation programs can be built, we encourage further basic field and museum work in the region; many more surprises no doubt await.’
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We at NARN encourage the conservation efforts being made by Bat World Sanctuary, Bat Conservation International as well as other groups to save and protect them. Please support their work, share this post, and speak out against cruelty and killing of all wildlife. Obtaining knowledge about the world we are inhabiting should include the knowledge about affording the respect all animals deserve.