askST: What should I do if a bat flies into my house?

More bat-related complaints have been lodged this year partly due to fears about them spreading the coronavirus. PHOTO: MARCUS CHUA

SINGAPORE - This year has seen more bat-related complaints made to the authorities here, partly due to fears about them spreading the coronavirus.

On Thursday (Sept 10), Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said some residents in Upper Boon Keng Road had complained about bats flying into their homes, saying they did not know how to get them out.

The Straits Times spoke with Dr Benjamin Lee, director of wildlife management research at the National Parks Board (NParks), to find out more.

I heard that Covid-19 was caused by bats. Can bats here spread diseases to me?

NParks has biosurveillance programmes to detect animal diseases. It has been studying Singapore's bat populations since 2011 and conducting regular testing. So far, the agency has not detected any zoonotic diseases - those that can be passed from animals to humans - in bats in Singapore.

Do bats attack people?

Bats are generally shy and do not attack or show aggression unless a person tries to handle them. The flying of bats into residences is usually accidental and not a common occurrence.

How can I stop bats from coming into my house?

In the wild, bats prefer dark areas. To minimise the occurrence of bats roosting in residential properties, lighting can be installed at areas where bats may roost. Residents can also install a mesh or netting to discourage bats from coming to an area in their house.

What should I do if a bat is already in my house?

If residents find bats on fruit trees in their property, they should leave the bats alone as they will fly away after they are done feeding.

However, if a bat is trapped, residents should open windows to allow the bat to find its way out. If the animal remains trapped, residents should avoid feeding or getting close to the bat and instead call the NParks Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.

If people do come into contact with the bats, they should practise good hygiene by thoroughly washing their hands with soap.

How many different types of bats are there in Singapore?

There are about 25 species of bats in Singapore. The lesser dog-faced fruit bat, insectivorous whiskered bat and the Javan pipstrelle are the three most commonly encountered bats in residential estates.

Why don't we just get rid of bats? What use are they?

Fruit bats are pollinators and seed dispersers and play an important role in regenerating forests and ensuring their survival. The agricultural trade is also supported by bats that help pollinate plants such as durian and petai.

Insectivorous bats feed on mosquitoes, beetles and moths, thus helping to keep the insect populations in check. By feeding on insects, they also help to support agriculture as they reduce the damage the insects cause to crops, as well as reduce the need for pesticides.

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