The hunting of bats for food and medicine is one of the greatest threats to bat conservation. While hunting for consumption is the focus of increased attention, the specific medicinal uses of bats are poorly documented, limiting mitigation efforts. Here, we determine the distribution of bat hunting for food and medicinal use and characterize medicinal use practices. We systematically surveyed English-language scientific literature and social media platforms utilizing keywords and hashtags in 27 languages. We found 198 papers and 1063 social media posts from 83 countries and territories. Although use for food was more common, with 1284 unique reports from 71 countries, bats were used to treat 42 ailments of 11 human body systems across 37 countries (453 reports). Asthma was the most common ailment, distantly followed by kidney conditions. Ten organs or body parts of bats were used medicinally, with bat meat (flesh) and fluids (blood, bile, and oil) the most common. Understanding the effects and drivers of specific bat hunting practices will help guide conservation and public health efforts in the communities where bats are hunted. By pinpointing the ailments bats are being used for, outreach and alternative treatments can be introduced to replace the use of bats.
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