Thank you for your excellent comment, Gavin! You highlight several important points, with which we agree. Concerning why viruses in general, and coronaviruses in particular, are so prevalent in bats, you’re quite right, although on top of what you said there are other factors that can be considered too, which is why we argued that it could be a sum of “high genetic diversity (there are both many species and many individual bats), [and that bats are] long-lived, and they roost in large groups.”
Thank you! Your points are very good ones.
Like you pointed out, many diseases that can be very virulent in humans (Ebola, Nipah, Coronavirus) are not so virulent in bats, so there would be many instances where a vaccination program will be very valuable for humans but have very little (and maybe even negative, due to side effects) effect on the wild animal population.
Yes, this is true to some extent, although it’s likely that even if viruses that are virulent in other animals are less so in bats, they are nevertheless, if to a minor extent, harmful for them. Maybe to them the viruses would be like a cold would be to us. So in these cases it is likely to be beneficial. It will just be much less so than in the case of other diseases we considered here, like rabies or white nose disease.
In addition to these cases, these programs would benefit nonhuman animals other than bats who may be infected by them, and would also be beneficial in the other ways pointed out in the last section of the piece.
I don’t know how much disease really impacts wild animal suffering
Available evidence suggests is pretty widespread unfortunately. See this piece.
Before vaccines we need surveillance
Yes! This is a reason why we think that promoting more research at the intersection of animal welfare science and the science of ecology is necessary. We’ve been funding work about this that examines different causes of death in wild animals in different countries, see here and here.
Monitoring is also needed after the vaccination programs are implemented.
Take into account that vaccine development involves a LOT of test subjects
You’re right, and this is a very significant concern. It is true that right now, because of the urgency to come up with a vaccine for COVID-19, testing is being directly carried out in human subjects (see for instance here, here and here for some news pieces about this). There are also some research methods not involving animals (here and here are pieces with examples). But regardless of this, we agree this is a very serious issue. We would advocate for vaccination programs in cases where a vaccine is available already.
I’m really curious about the gel that was developed for bat white-nose syndrome!
Yeah! In addition to the references in the notes, these are other relatively recent papers about this method:
Hoyt, J.R., Langwig, K.E., White, J.P., Kaarakka, H.M., Redell, J.A., Parise, K.L., Frick, W.F., Foster, J.T. and Kilpatrick, A.M. (2019) “Field trial of a probiotic bacteria to protect bats from white-nose syndrome”, Scientific Reports, 9, a. 9158.
Cheng, T.L., Mayberry, H., McGuire, L.P., Hoyt, J.R., Langwig, K.E., Nguyen, H., Parise, K.L., Foster, J.T., Willis, C.K., Kilpatrick, A.M. and Frick, W.F. (2017) “Efficacy of a probiotic bacterium to treat bats affected by the disease white‐nose syndrome”, Journal of Applied Ecology, 54, pp. 701-708.
Hi ælijah, thanks!
Those questions are interesting, but the reason why we didn’t ask them is that we carried out this study in order to learn what kind of research it would be better to promote in academia to help to establish work on wild animal suffering/welfare biology as successfully as possible. Due to this, we chose the scenarios that we expected to be more promising (based on our study of the literature, but especially on the results of this other study).
Yes, the survey was anonymous. At any rate, at this point we know of scholars who could carry out work on fields related to helping wild animals (right now we’re funding welfare biology research in Canada, New Zealand, and Spain). The main constraint to getting work done is funding.
If you know of specific, comparable examples and are able to share their names/citations…
These are some examples, though it’s anecdotal evidence. It’s also hard to say to what extent they are relevantly comparable:
Hi Jamie, thank you!
We did consider asking academics about that, but we finally decided against it as that could have distorted the results of the survey, and our primary goal here was to get the information we were looking for.
We have a similar opinion about the response rate. We were expecting it to be quite low, though not that much (we had initially planned to send 2,000-2,500 emails, and ended up sending almost 4,000). Other surveys among scientists do get much higher response rates, although they can vary a lot.