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  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘fruit bats’

Taking Fruit Bats Off the Dinner Menu to Reduce Ebola Risk

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 25, 2014

Dinner, anyone? (Photo: Reuters)

Dinner, anyone? (Photo: Reuters)

My latest for Takepart:

Except at Halloween, when they appeal to our sense of the ghoulish, it’s never easy to get people to care about bats. Yes, they are mammals. Yes, in the case of fruit bats, they are cute, warm-eyed mammals at that, the sort of thing that makes seals, pandas, tigers, elephants, and other “charismatic megafauna” the poster children of conservation fund-raising campaigns.

But bats are decidedly not in this category. You might just persuade people that they aren’t the bloodsucking monsters of their nightmares by reminding them that only three of the 1,250 bat species in the world are vampire bats. (Even those three mostly lick blood from open wounds, rather than sucking blood, Dracula style.) But then the story really turns ugly, because bats, and particularly fruit bats, are also the most common source of new and terrifying diseases, including SARS, Nipah and Hendra viruses, Marburg and Lassa hemorrhagic fevers, and Ebola, which turned up this week in New York City.

Epidemics of emerging disease have a way of fostering rumors and hysterical overreaction. Much as in the Middle Ages, when cats went on trial for witchcraft, wildlife often serves as a handy scapegoat. During a 2012 outbreak in Uganda, for instance, the minister of tourism, of all people, announced a plan to cull wild animals in national parks.

“We shall eliminate animals Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Keep Bats from Causing the Pandemic Next Time

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 10, 2013

The Indian flying fox (Photo: Gavriel Jecan/Getty Images)

The Indian flying fox (Photo: Gavriel Jecan/Getty Images)

by Richard Conniff

In 2007, in a rural district in northwestern Bangladesh, a man fell ill with fever, followed by fatigue, headache, and coughing. His wife tended to him at home over the next four days, feeding him and wiping froth and saliva from around his mouth. When he began to have trouble breathing, a cousin and a friend rode to the doctor’s office with the patient sandwiched between them on a motorcycle. The next day, they transported him via microbus to the nearest hospital, where he quickly died. All five people in close contact with the patient in his final days soon came down with the disease, known as Nipah virus, and the wife and cousin also died.

It was a small tragedy at the other end of the Earth, and in the grand scheme of things hardly worth noting.

But a new article in the journal Antiviral Research argues that we ought to pay close attention, and not just for philanthropic reasons. Without intervention by the developed world, says Stephen P. Luby, M.D., of Stanford University, a case like this is how the next great plague could leap from wildlife and quickly turn up in our own homes. “Bring out the dead” could become the catch phrase of 2014, or 2040.

Bangladesh is among the poorest and most densely populated nations in the world, says Luby, who worked there for eight years before returning to the United States in 2012. But when he talks with people back home about poor clinical care there, and the absence of basic infection-control measures, “they see it as an issue only Read the rest of this entry »

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