CWHC organizes Bat Health mini-webinar
The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, National Office, organized and delivered a mini-webinar highlighting various topics related to bat health in Canada. The mini-webinar consisted of flash presentations where the invited speakers only had five minutes to share their topic. This way, the audience (over 100 participants joined this webinar) received up-to-date information on eleven bat health subjects in approximately an hour.
Invited speakers included wildlife health and bat experts from federal and territorial governments, academic institutions, regional community bat programs, and the CWHC. Topics included: bat health management from the federal, territorial, and academic perspectives, the importance of health surveillance, bat rabies, COVID-19 and bats, wind farm threats to bats, large scale acoustic monitoring of bats, managing bats in buildings, establishing bat-friendly communities, and public messaging on bats.
The purpose of the webinar was twofold: 1) to develop a better understanding of the Canadian bat health perspective , moving away from a primary focus on the disease white-nose syndrome to those aspects of conservation, management, and research that are informing recovery and conservation actions in a positive manner; and 2) to encourage the participation of the Canadian bat management and research community in a National Bat Health Workshop to further explore the situational context of bat health in Canada, celebrating the current program’s strengths while identifying any opportunities, weaknesses, or threats that should be addressed to better maintain the health of our bat populations. The webinar was a conversation starter and provided a quick snapshot of a broad array of topics and success stories related to bat health throughout Canada. The webinar demonstrated the diversity of approaches required to ensure optimal bat health as well as the broad range of expertise found in the practitioners of bat health. While each discipline looks through a different lens, all of their perspectives are necessary to achieve the common goal of bat health. The flash presentations highlighted the multitude of issues that negatively impact bat health, possibly creating cumulative effects, as well as the various initiatives that promote and maintain bat health. It showed that the knowledge gained through research, surveillance, and monitoring leads to a better understanding of bat health that informs evidence-based management and response actions. Lastly, it stressed the need for outreach and engagement to change the negative public opinions about bats because those species of bats that live in close proximity to people ultimately require this understanding to ensure the protection of their health.
The ongoing impact of COVID-19 precludes the possibility of an in-person national workshop on bat health in the near future, but the CWHC will continue our efforts to help our partners in the shared responsibility to manage bat population from the bat health perspective. Among other things, this means that we will be working on a reorganization of what was our WNS inter-agency committee and working groups to bring together a team that works together to facilitate a national bat health program.
A recording of the webinar is available here: https://youtu.be/P3vf47o6HTo
Submitted by Jordi Segers