Summer Science Exhibition 2011
5-10 July | Free entry
Balancing conservation and public health
A fruit bat has been caught. Dr Kate Baker meticulously untangles the net before the bat can be examined.
Bats are keystone species for ecological function: fruit bats are important for fruit tree pollination and seed dispersal. But like many wild animals, bats have suffered dramatic reductions in their numbers as their habitats have been damaged or destroyed by humans. Also, in some regions, bats have been widely hunted for food.
As we encroach further into natural habitats, bats and humans are interacting more and more; now fruit bats often live in towns and cities, especially in Africa. This poses new challenges as these bats have been found to carry viruses that can cause serious diseases in livestock and people. This exhibit demonstrates how we try to understand how fruit bat viruses spill over into people, thus allowing methods to be devised to prevent this from happening while ensuring the continued survival of the bats.
Fruit bats are common in the tropics and have been shown to carry viruses which cause fatal, incurable diseases in humans. This has been the focus of much research in parts of Asia and Australia, but not in Africa. Our research focuses on the Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat (Eidolon helvum), one of the most common fruit bats in sub-Saharan Africa and one with close associations with people. The main questions we are pursuing are:
A tiny blood sample is taken from a captured fruit bat, to look for viruses before releasing the bat unharmed.
This short video and podcast introduces some of the work to be presented by this exhibit (2 mins)
Before the exhibition, visitors were invited to post questions about the science behind this exhibit (more information). The comments are now closed, but you can speak to the scientists in person at the exhibition.
Professor Andrew Cunningham works at the Zoological Society of London.
This exhibit is presented by Zoological Society of London and University of Cambridge.
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See all the exhibits.
Find the opening times and directions to the Royal Society.
Explore all 22 exhibits at this year's exhibition.
Come to one of the exciting events at the exhibition.
Register your school if you plan on bringing a group of pupils.
Updates about our work on bringing the exhibition to life.
Highlights from past Summer Science Exhibitions