While in Zambia, one of the things we wanted to do was see the great straw coloured fruit bats migration (Eidolon helvum) at Kasanka National Park. We climbed up the ladders that led to the platforms in the trees at sunrise to watch them return to their roost. There were millions surrounding us! Between the mist rising, sunrise, and bats, this has been one of my most favourite memories.
Bats have often been persecuted and wrongfully blamed for viral epidemics, more recently the Ebola outbreak. This is one of the species that has been directly blamed for the deadly virus, but all tests in lab were negative, including after scientists directly injected them with the virus.
All outbreaks of Ebola have been restricted to one geographic region connected by rivers. Bats are capable of flying hundreds of kilometers and love flying along water. If bats transmitted all the deadly viruses they are blamed for, frankly we would all be dead since they can cover so much distance.
I have handled thousands of bats in my 6 years of doing this, and have had more than one occasion of getting bat crap in my mouth or eyes.. And
This being said, I am vaccinated against rabies, a fatal virus which bats can transmit, and I have years of experience in both rehab and wildlife settings.
The rabies virus can be carried by dogs, cats and monkeys, and the majority of human transmission comes from street animals. If you are inexperienced or are on vacation, do not attempt to approach or handle any animals, no matter how cute they look. If the animal looks injured, contact the local wildlife rehabilitation centre.