Date of Graduation
Doctor of Philosophy in Biology (PhD)
Kristian M. Forbes
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
bats, disease ecology, human-wildlife interactions, zoonoses
Bats are an ecologically important taxon that can host zoonotic pathogens. Globally, many bat species are synanthropic and live closely with humans, often roosting in man-made structures. The spatial overlap between humans and bats creates opportunities for human-bat contact, which can lead to human exposure to bat-borne pathogens and conflicts that cause bat mortality. Despite this risk, little is known about the drivers and characteristics of these human-bat interactions in buildings and work is needed to understand this aspect of the wildlife-urban interface. In Chapter I, I present a literature review that identifies the geographic and taxonomic trends in reported interactions between wildlife, humans, and domestic animals in areas of land-use change. From 529 included articles, I found that reports of human-wildlife interactions are greatest in areas of Africa, Asia, and South America undergoing agriculturalization. Additionally, I saw high reporting of indirect human interactions with birds and mammals in Europe. Interactions with mammals were reported most often, however important gaps in knowledge were identified, including human-bat interactions in areas of land-use change. In Chapter II, I conducted a study to identify building features that attract and repel bats in a rural region of southeastern Kenya. I surveyed 257 buildings, both used and unused by bats, to identify roost selection parameters. Bats selected taller cement-walled buildings with higher water vapor pressure and lower presence of permanent human occupants. However, roost selection criteria differed across the most common bat species: molossids, selected structures consistent with these same overall attributes whereas Cardioderma cor selected buildings with lower presence of permanent human occupants. My results show that roost selection of synanthropic bat species is based on specific buildings attributes, which, when altered, may reduce bat use of these structures and subsequent opportunities for human-bat interactions. In Chapter III, I present a human behavior study to characterize and quantify human-bat interactions in buildings. To this end, I surveyed 102 people living and working in buildings used by bats in rural Kenya. Bats usually occupied buildings for at least 5-10 years, during which human and domestic animal contact with bats was common. People frequently mentioned the presence of dead bats, often because of lethal removal efforts. These interactions support pathways that could expose humans to bat-borne pathogens. Measures to prevent human-bat interactions, such as adjusting building attributes, can reduce these contacts, subsequently reducing opportunities for human exposure to pathogens and bat mortality. In Chapter IV, I present the results of a pathogen screening study to identify paramyxoviruses in synanthropic bats using human buildings in rural Kenya. Of the 297 samples screened, 4.04% were positive for a jeilongvirus, with 4.43% prevalence in Mops condylurus and 3.95% prevalence in Mops pumilus. Positive samples were collected at multiple sites and time points, suggesting that this virus may be endemic to this system. This jeilongvirus is present at the wildlife-urban interface, where humans may be exposed to it; however, the zoonotic potential of this virus is unknown, although it is related to viruses that cause severe human disease.
Jackson, R. T. (2023). Human-bat Interactions in a Disease Emergence Hotspot: Implications for Human Health and Bat Conservation. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/5174