Why do bats and people come into conflict?
Due to their roosting habits, bats often come into conflict with people by occupying the roofs of houses, schools, offices and community centers.
Many bats in Malawi occupy buildings as forest destruction continues. Malawi has lost a vast amount of natural forested habitats and buildings provide them with an alternative suitable roost site, although not always to the liking of the residents.
Fear, prejudice, and, sometimes, genuine problems arising from the presence of bats in a building such as guano build up, smell and noise can result in their destruction or exclusion. In many cases pest control agencies are called in and the roost is fumigated and the bats destroyed. There is no legal protection of bat species in Malawi. The use of timber treatment chemicals in roof spaces of buildings is also thought to have had a severe impact on some populations.
How can people live with bats?
Education, awareness and ethical solutions is what ABC believes should be the way forward for reducing the human-wildlife conflicts with bats.
Bats living in the roofs and walls of buildings are generally not an issue for health or for the structure of the building or people in it. Their urine does not contain ammonia so it does not damage wood, they do not bring bedding material or food in to the roost, and they do not chew cables. Bats will roost in a space (sometimes with a very small opening to the outside) which already exists - they will not create nests like rats or mice.
ABC receives many enquiries to ask for assistance with bats.
We are establishing a national telephone helpline service for people to get advice and assistance to reduce conflict and promote coexistence between bats and people. We will provide a house visit service to engage in active conservation and human-wildlife conflict resolution.
We also provide an ethical removal and exclusion service to those who are experiencing problems with roosting bats in their building, where the problems are such that living with the bats is not feasible. We can remove bat roosts ethically and provide an alternative roost for certain species, which is preferable to the alternative of fumigation carried out by a pest control company.
There is a strong relationship between level of education and attitudes towards wildlife. Understanding what bats are, what ecosystem and human services they provide (by eating biting or crop-pest insects, and pollinating trees) makes a huge difference in people's attitudes towards them and therefore the actions they take to being in their presence.