Rainforest Blessings and Curses in Rural Madagascar

Travel by lakana on Madagascar's Makira-Masoala peninsula. November 2014. Photo by Cara Brook.
Travel by lakana on Madagascar’s Makira-Masoala peninsula. November 2014. (Photo by Cara Brook)

Summer has come early to the far side of the world, and the days are long, hot and dripping. I write from Madagascar’s Makira-Masoala peninsula, the island’s densest and most biodiverse rainforest where my team and I are hard at work pathogen-sampling resident fruit bats from the research site of National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Chris Golden. For most of the past decade, Golden has investigated nutritional subsidies which local communities derive from consumption of wild forest animals—the so-called bushmeat trade. At least two species of fruit bat—Pteropus rufus and Rousettus madagascariensis—make up one component of the bushmeat trade in this Betsimitsaraka region, and we’re here to find out if these bats carry any pathogens that pose risk for zoonotic (human-to-animal) emergence.

Some 70 percent of emerging pathogens are zoonotic, or derived from animal reservoirs, in nature (Woolhouse and Gowtage-Sequiera 2005). Ebola virus represents one obvious example of a bat-derived zoonosis, but there are many others: rabies and related lyssaviruses, Hendra and Nipah henipaviruses, and SARS and MERS coronaviruses, to name those of the highest profile. Several human outbreaks of these pathogens have been linked directly to consumption of —> Read More Here


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