The government has set aside Sh20 million to research on bats to counter their health related implications on people due to their migratory capabilities.
Speaking in Mombasa Saturday, the Director General National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Mzalendo Kibunjia said as part of the big four agenda, health is an important component if the nation is to move forward by mitigating diseases that might arise from any causes.
He said bats from Kenya fly as far as Zanzibar and back, thus the government has seen the need to research on the mammals to avoid bringing in myriad of diseases from around the world.
Despite the diseases threat, Kibunjia observed that some bats play a crucial role by eating pests and insects that causes or transmits some diseases.
He added that NMK in partnership with KWS, KEMRI and JKUAT plan to develop science based guidelines for mitigating human-bat conflicts.
“This project is important because it leads to science-led natural heritage management, sustainable tourism management and enhanced public health security for our people which are drivers of economy and social pillars of vision 2030,” said Kibunjia.
The director of bio researchers and planning Patrick Omondi said their mandate was to conserve and manage wildlife, adding that the upcoming research will establish the status of bats in the country, starting with their huge population at the Uhuru gardens in Mombasa.
“We are looking forward to the results of the research. We don’t want people to kill bats just like we don’t want them to kill elephants,” said Omondi.
Another scientist with NMK, Bernard Agwanda said there were fears in the recent past on a bat that was found in Taita, suspected to have carried the Ebola virus hence the need to do in depth research on them in the country.
He clarified that the detected Ebola virus was not the same that killed people in West Africa and other parts of Africa, but also a killer one.
He said the bats research is part of routine surveillance of the environment to see if there was anything that is putting Kenyans at risk for it to be addressed in good time.
Kenya is home to a rich biodiversity which includes 120 species of bats. They are one of the most misunderstood mammals yet they provide important ecosystem service including dispersing seeds and pollinating flowers of many beneficial plants.
Due to loss in natural habitats, many bats are increasingly invading human spaces such as Mombasa’s Uhuru gardens among many other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, parliament enacted the science, technology and innovation Act 2013 to be implemented by the ministry of education through the National Research Fund (NRF), which was awarded the Sh20 million grant to facilitate the study.
By Joseph Kamolo