Human Interactions with Bat Populations in Bombali, Sierra Leone

Ecohealth. 2020 Sep;17(3):292-301. doi: 10.1007/s10393-020-01502-y. Epub 2020 Nov 11.


Human contact with bats has been epidemiologically linked to several of the most recent Ebola outbreaks, including the 2014 West Africa epidemic and the 2007 Luebo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, outbreak. While fruit bats remain the likely primary reservoir for Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus), recent wildlife surveillance efforts have identified a new species of ebolavirus (Bombali ebolavirus) in microchiropteran insect-eating bats in West and East Africa. Given the role of bats as potential Ebola reservoirs and sources of spillover into human populations, it is critically important to understand the circumstances and behaviors that bring human populations into close contact with bats. This study explores two sites in Bombali, Sierra Leone, where human populations have had close contact with microchiropteran bats via household infestations and fruit bats by hunting practices. Through interviews and focus groups, we identify the knowledge, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors that may potentially protect or expose individuals to zoonotic spillover through direct and indirect contact with bats. We also describe how this research was used to develop a risk reduction and outreach tool for living safely with bats.

Keywords: Bats; Ebola; Hunting; Infestation; Sierra Leone; Zoonosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Disease Reservoirs / virology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola
  • Human-Animal Interaction*
  • Sierra Leone
  • Zoonoses / virology