White Nose Syndrome Threatens Bats; Rare Species in Australia at Risk

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

More and more bats in the US are afflicted with the white nose syndrome or WNS, killing millions of them. Just this month the syndrome was confirmed in six Minnesota Counties and it has also been detected in Texas. It's a fast-spreading fungus that continues to devastate the bat population.

The white nose syndrome is made of white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans that grows on bats' muzzles on hibernation. The fungus thrives in cold weather and makes damp winter caves ideal. The spread was detected either from bat-to-bat or cave-to-bat but not through air borne transmission, IFL Science reported.

How it got to the US is a mystery that no one yet has solved. It's first been documented in 2006 at a New York cave and has been killing 5.7 million bats since. It spread throughout eastern North America and Canada.

Another report indicates the syndrome is causing worry from the bat experts and environmentalists in Australia. That's because the southern bent-wing bat, its most endangered bat species, could be afflicted and could perish, ABC News reported. Australia is currently free from WNS but given the speed of how it is transmitted, it has become a serious issue of biosecurity.

Nicholas White, an organizer of an event called International Congress of Speleology which is going to be held in Australia this year, says they are inviting over 500 professionals all over the world to raise awareness about WNS. They will be exploring Australia's most popular bat caves where the rarest bats in the world exist.

But White states that the guests must abide by the strict protocols and quarantine measures. That's because if guests will be carrying the fungus in their apparels, it could easily affect the cave dwelling bats. White further stressed that WNS is a disease that could wipe out large bat populations and that's what they do not want to happen.

White said bats are worth billions of dollars; they are intrinsically extremely valuable. It's safe to say that the Australian government really is taking the risk very seriously.

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