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How The St. Louis Zoo Is Helping Humans — By Helping Animals

Dr. Deem examines a lemur while working in Madagascar.
St. Louis Zoo
Dr. Sharon Deem examines a lemur while working in Madagascar.

The director of the St. Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine, Dr. Sharon Deem, wants people to understand just how much human health is dependent on the health of other animals and the environment.

While many people think of bats as pests, they are productive pollinators and eat a lot of mosquitoes. One bat eats roughly 6,000 mosquitoes in 24 hours.
Credit University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
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University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
While many people think of bats as pests, they are productive pollinators and eat a lot of mosquitoes. One bat eats roughly 6,000 mosquitoes in 24 hours.

She often shares the fact that since 2006, about 7 million bats in the U.S. have died from a disease called white-nose syndrome. The often-fatal disease derives from a fungus that arrived in the U.S. from Europe in 2006. While many people think of bats as pests, they are productive pollinators and eat a lot of mosquitoes. One bat eats roughly 6,000 mosquitoes in 24 hours. 

Deem is concerned that without predation from bats, mosquitoes are allowed to populate in huge numbers — the same mosquitoes that spread deadly viruses to humans.

Focusing on the interconnection among people, animals, plants and their shared environment is the main focus of the CDC’s One Health movement, in which the St. Louis Zoo is a leader. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske spoke with Deem about emerging public health issues, everyday solutions to global threats and the St. Louis Zoo’s role within the One Health movement. 

Hear their conversation:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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