Guidelines for communicating about bats to prevent persecution in the time of COVID-19

Douglas MacFarlane, Ricardo Rocha

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


While the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on human health and national economies, conservationists are struggling to prevent misguided persecution of bats, which are misleadingly being blamed for spreading the disease. Although at a global level, such persecution is relatively uncommon, even a few misguided actions have the potential to cause irrevocable damage to already vulnerable species. Here, we draw on the latest findings from psychology, to explain why some conservation messaging may be reinforcing misleading negative associations. We provide guidelines to help ensure that conservation messaging is working to neutralize dangerous and unwarranted negative-associations between bats and disease-risk. We provide recommendations around three key areas of psychological science: (i) debunking misinformation; (ii) counteracting negative associations; and (iii) changing harmful social norms. We argue that only by carefully framing accurate, honest, and duly contextualized information, will we be able to best serve society and present an unbiased perspective of bats. We hope this guidance will help conservation practitioners and researchers to develop effective message framing strategies that minimize zoonotic health risks and support biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108650
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


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