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Will Tuladhar-Douglas (University of Hamburg)
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Tuesday 26 October, 15:00-16:30

Short Abstract:

Bats are a diverse order of mammals and a challenge for conservation biology. Their encounters with human communities are framed in terms of threat (disease) or utility (pollination, indicator species). This panel invites bat anthropologists and the IUCN bat group into conversation.

Long Abstract

There are more than 1400 species of bats. They are important actors within almost every ecosystem, as pollinators, insectivores, and seed dispersers. Only a few species of bats are actually visible to humans—- fruit bats, some species that have colonized human structures such as houses, bridges and mines, and those bats who once thrived on insect populations around settled agriculture. Echolocating bats occupy a wholly different sensory space, audible only to humans whose hearing is keen or augmented.

Yet the entangled naturecultures of humans and bats are profound: for example, humans host species of bedbugs (Cimex) alongside bats because we shared dwellings with them. In the past 20 years, bats have been postulated as the original host for a number of zoonoses: Ebola, Nipah, SARS, and now SARS-2. The European horror stories of vampires have been replaced with the horror stories of spillover. Bat populations have declined everywhere, driven by land use change, pesticides, and human predation.

In this panel we seek to gather a wide range of anthropological encounters with bats and bat conservation, from studies of bats as medicine to studies of bat biologists. We welcome a wide range of methodologies, from multispecies ethnography through medical anthropology and studies of myth to transdisciplinary collaborations. The panel is co-organised with the IUCN Bat Specialist group as part of an initiative to foster new social science approaches and transdisciplinary collaborations around bat research.

Accepted papers:

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