Support your local bats and devils

No, this isn’t a misplaced Halloween post. News about two not-well-loved critters—bats and Australia’s Tasmanian devil—has prompted researchers and advocates to help these unpopular members of Earth’s biota.

First, the bats. A study of the economic impact of bats has shown that losses of these only true flying mammals could cost agriculture in North America somewhere between $3.7 and $53 billion a year, with a best-guess around $22.9 billion a year. The loss is due to a spreading fungal disease. The price tag is due to bat’s dietary intake of troublesome insects that harm crops. According to a report in the International Business Times:

"Without bats, crop yields are affected. Pesticide applications go up. Even if our estimates were quartered, they clearly show how bats have enormous potential to influence the economics of agriculture and forestry."

According to the researchers, a single colony of 150 big brown bats in Indiana eat nearly 1.3 million insects a year -- insects that could potentially be damaging to crops.

The LA Times reports that, on another continent, support has been building for a similarly unloved mammal. Australia’s Tasmanian devil has been suffering of late from a disease spreading from devil to devil as they bite each other, which they are prone to do. The disease is a very rare form of a communicable cancer—a ghastly one that deforms the mouth and snout with pustules that debilitate and starve the animal. While the cancer shows no signs of spreading to humans, researchers are learning much about genetic diversity and how such diseases spread and adapt.

Unlike the bats, the devils appear to have no direct economic value, other than the Australian self-identification with independence and strength. Still, it’s heartening to know that, for whatever reasons, the people of Australia have noticed the devil’s disease, and are supporting efforts to help beat this cancer.

If nothing else, these two stories remind us that little in God’s created order is disposable. The existence of a diverse web by biology—known as biodiversity—is not here by chance. Every species and creature has value, even if, like the Tasmanian devils, there may be no economic study to support their existence.

And so we wish the scientists and researchers well in their efforts to save these creatures. They should be in our prayers. Moreover, it would be nice if we in North America rally around our bats like our Aussie friends are doing for their devils.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.