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Vampire bat control: A review and proposed research programme for Latin America


In Latin America, paralytic rabies transmitted by vampire bats is a major cause of death in cattle. This problem becomes more acute as countries attempt to increase livestock production to feed rapidly expanding human populations. Vaccination has been the principal weapon against rabies, however this offers no protection to domestic animals and poultry against dally predation of vampire bats. Established methods of vampire bat control, though limited, have proved effective and should be continued while more effective methods are being developed and tested. Existing methods are discussed in some detail. Of the approximately 200 kinds of bats found in Latin America all could be potential vectors of rabies. The 12 species most frequently found infected with rabies (including the three types of vampires) should receive close ecological study for possible control. They have certain attributes in common: they have been reported rabid; are found in association with vampires; are widely distributed; are found in buildings near domestic animals and people; live in groups; have sharp teeth; fly considerable distances; frequently change their roosts; do not hibernate and are biologically or economically Important. Improved vampire bat control must be based on an ecological approach in which all available techniques are combined into an integrated control which will not affect other species of bats. Such an approach could use biological, chemical, physical, and regulatory techniques. These cannot be fully developed until basic information Is available on two points. First, there must be a thorough understanding of the ecosystem in which the bats live, including population dynamics. Second, the population levels which cause damage must be determined. This information is lacking for vampire bats. Two other questions must also be answered: first, what are the host preferences of vampire bats throughout their range from Mexico to Argentina? And second, how many vampires inhabit any given area? A precise technique for measuring these numbers is essential to evaluate any control measure. All the countries in Latin America are discussed on a regional rather than a political basis, listing special problems to be solved. The vampire bat problems throughout Latin America should be defined. FAO could, if requested, assist these countries in carrying out presently known methods of vampire bat control which could provide immediate relief in limited areas. It could also help to establish priorities of research based on the financial and manpower capabilities of these countries to conduct such research.

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