Bane or Blessing? Reviewing Cultural Values of Bats Across the Asia-Pacific Region

Mary-Ruth Low, Zhi Hoong Wong, Zhiyuan Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Chiroptophobia, or the fear of bats, which encompasses negative perceptions of bats as
disease vectors, pests, or harmful creatures associated with evil spirits, represents an important barrier
to bat conservation globally. Derived largely from the influence of Western cultural perceptions,
it ignores the diverse cultural perceptions of bats from other regions, which have been largely
overlooked. To better understand local beliefs and cultural perceptions regarding bats across the
Asia-Pacific region, and how they may help design culturally grounded conservation strategies, we
conducted a review of publications in the English-language literature documenting cultural value of
bats in Asia-Pacific traditions. We discovered 119 bat cultural values in 60 different cultures from 24
countries across the region and found a wide spectrum of reports, which we categorized according to
five wildlife value categories and further categorized these values according to positive, neutral, and
negative. We found that 62% of the cultures had only positive values, 8% had only neutral values,
while 10% had only negative values. This suggests that the Asia-Pacific region and its cultures contain
far more positive associations with bats than most Western societies and, as such, offer promising
examples and opportunities to promote human-bat coexistence. However, we also discuss how
local belief systems may not always align with daily practices or conservation objectives. We suggest
employing targeted, culturally grounded and locally contextualized outreach strategies in order to
carry out more effective bat conservation and education in Asia-Pacific countries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)18-34
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology
Volume41
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • bats, beliefs, conservation, symbolism, mythology

Cite this