9 Apr 2020

Important update: bats do not spread COVID-19

There have been reports from across the world of bat culling in a misplaced attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. As an advocate for the protection of all nature, BirdLife is disseminating the following scientific update in order to clarify the facts and end this ecologically damaging practice.

Greater Mouse-eared Bat © C. Robiller / Naturlichter.de
Greater Mouse-eared Bat © C. Robiller / Naturlichter.de
By Jessica Law

As efforts are stepping up around the world to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, there have been numerous reports that communities and government authorities in several regions of the world have been culling bats in a misplaced effort to combat the disease. For BirdLife, this is a sadly familiar situation: at the height of the 2006 avian influenza pandemic, there were widespread calls for the culling of migratory waterbirds, and even the draining of their wetland habitats.

We think it’s important to set the record straight. So here are the latest scientific facts, as delivered to us by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA):

  • Bats do not spread COVID-19. COVID-19 is being transmitted from humans to other humans.
  • There is no evidence that bats directly infected humans with COVID-19 in the first place. Scientific investigations are pointing to a chain of events that may have involved bats but most likely only through an intermediate animal.
  • There are some 1,400 bat species living in the wild around the world. Many have adapted to urban environments, living in backyard gardens, urban parks and even roosting under bridges, without posing the slightest threat to their human neighbours.
  • Bats provide enormous benefits including pollination, seed dispersal and pest control, worth billions of dollars annually.
  • Many bat species are in trouble and need our help to survive. Dozens of bat species are protected by CMS and EUROBATS. But much more needs to be done to ensure the survival of bats around the world. While the killing of bats will not have any effects on the spread of COVID-19, it would adversely affect the conservation status of bat populations.  


Last updated on 08 April 2020