Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, January 22, 2015



One of last year's top stories was the dreaded EBOLA EPIDEMIC. Eight thousand people died worldwide. An astounding two of the deaths were in America...so naturally a media-fueled panic engulfed the nation. Media outlets whipped up a frenzy of foreboding stories and dire predictions. With the help of social media, insane rumors somehow seemed credible. Here's an example: Ebola is a Bio-Weapon unleashed by ISIS that will kill millions of Americans daily. While this is creative, it is not even close to being true.

The Ebola scare lead to many unfortunate stereotypes about the African continent in the American psyche. As the source of the deadly disease without a cure, many newscasters and politicians called for immediate suspension of all incoming flights from Africa. Andrea Tantaros of Fox News quipped: "We cannot trust people from Africa to be truthful about their activities, so they are not allowed to come here." Late night comedians took it a step further: "If Santa stops by West Africa before coming to New York.. I'm boarding my chimney up!" Ouch!

Let's fast-forward to the present. Now that the quarantines have ended, the scientists are sorting out how this horrid epidemic began. Was is a sordid cesspool of human waste in Lagos? Nope. How about rotting wildebeest carcasses in Mali? Wrong again. Thankfully, epidemiologist Fabian Leendertz has the answer. He has located the exact spot where the epidemic began. It's a Red Ironwood tree in the village of Meliandou in the nation of Guinea. Now that's precise!

Here's what happened. This tree is infested with Angolan free-tailed bats (Mops Condyluras). Naturally, the children of the nearby village love to hurl rocks at it. One kid came into contact with a bat (or as the locals call them: Mice That Fly) and contracted the Ebola virus. How does Fabian know this? He tested all possible animal carriers of the Ebola virus. This included thirteen other bat species as well as duikers (small antelope), chimps and monkeys. He then cross referenced the spread of the virus on a map and found this tree. What a cool scientist!

We here at the DUNER BLOG want Americans to get a more rational view of Africa. With more land in the tropics than any other continent, unique animal species have evolved there. Some are loved outside of Africa. For example, zebras and giraffes. These animals are imported to zoos, made into cartoon characters and inspire millions of stuffed toys. However, the Angolan Free-tailed bat...a unique species found also only in Africa...falls into the other category: A feared creature from a strange land. C'mon! You can't love the butterfly and disrespect the caterpillar. Africa is a treasure. Let's respect all her wondrous creatures!


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