COVID-19 has led to a global increase in web searches for bats: a risk for conservation ?

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 4 of this Preprint.

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.


Download Preprint

Supplementary Files

Jacopo Cerri , Emiliano Mori, Leonardo Ancillotto, Danilo Russo, Sandro Bertolino


SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused COVID-19 pandemic, is genomically similar to a SARS-like beta-coronavirus found in Chinese rhinolophids. This evolutionary relationship impressed global media, which emphasized bats as key actors in the spillover during the pandemic outbreak. In this study we highlight qualitative and quantitative changes about bats in the media coverage, and Internet search volumes that occurred since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
We analyzed Google and Wikipedia searches for bats and coronaviruses across 20 countries in 8 languages, as well as television broadcasts in the US, some of which have a global coverage, between January 2016 and December 2020. The amount of television news about bats on US newscasts boomed in January 2020, and news associated with the term “bat” shifted to COVID-19 related topics. A nearly identical pattern was also observed on 2020 Google searches, at the global scale. The daily time series of television coverage, and Internet search volumes about bats and coronavirus in the US, showed a very high correlation in the first semester of 2020, in line with the existence of a media bubble. Time series analysis revealed that both the GoogleTrends index and visits to Wikipedia pages about bats boomed in early 2020, despite such time of the year was usually characterized by low search volumes.
The media coverage emphasized, correctly or not, the role of bats in COVID-19 pandemic and amplified public interest towards them worldwide, yet the public image of these mammals, in many cases threatened and important ecosystem service providers, was seriously compromised We therefore recommend policymakers to quickly enforce communication campaigns about bats, which would help counteract the surge in bat persecution and leverage interest towards positive human-bat interactions.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Other Life Sciences, Other Social and Behavioral Sciences, Research Methods in Life Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences


bats, Chiroptera, conservation, COVID-19, Google, SARS-CoV-2, Wikipedia, zoonoses


Published: 2020-04-29 14:15

Last Updated: 2021-07-16 12:59

Older Versions

CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International