The controversial New York-based virologist who tried to silence fears COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab which he helped fund has bragged about being back in a virus “reactor core” surrounded by millions of wild bats.
Peter Daszak — whose ties with bat-virus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sparked a political firestorm amid still-unanswered theories about COVID’s origins — posted videos of his staff capturing and feeding bats as they swarmed around them in Thailand.
It was part of his NYC-based EcoHealth Alliance’s latest US government-funded research on “the risk of novel viral emergence” in the “hottest of [emerging infectious diseases] hotspots.”
“In the heart of the bat cave – deafening noise as the bats swirl around,” the British-born scientist wrote Friday alongside one video of the flying mammals swarming overhead.
“It’s the sheer beauty of nature & at the same time it seems like the ‘reactor core’ of the colony given what we know about viral emergence,” he wrote of his ongoing risky work.
Another video showed what he called a “river of bats at Ratchaburi Cave,” noting that there were an estimated 2.5 million of them there.
His footage also included extraordinary scenes of fruit bats covering the daylight skies outside the cave, with Daszak noting that “these bats have been here for 300 [years].”
The footage showed one staffer — covered nearly head to toe in protective clothing, with just part of the face open — holding a captured bat as others flew around. Other clips included a close-up of one being fed.
“Each bat gets a banana treat after sampling. Then freedom with their friends!!!” he wrote, with a clip showing a bat released to fly away.
The footage comes despite lawmakers calling for Daszak to be defunded and banned from such risky work.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, previously charged EcoHealth “should never be trusted to put its hands on taxpayer dollars or bats ever again.”
Daszak’s overseas work has been at the heart of concern that the worst global pandemic in 100 years may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan in late 2019.
His EcoHealth Alliance previously received millions in grants — directing some of it to the shadowy bat-research lab in Wuhan.
Chinese scientists at the lab have been accused of carrying out gain-of-function research, in which such viruses are manipulated to make them more transmissible, more lethal and more dangerous.
Despite his ties and efforts to dismiss the lab-leak theory from the off, Daszak was also part of the World Health Organization team that went to China on a fact-finding mission that failed to reach firm conclusions.
EcoHealth Alliance’s most recent denial about creating COVID conceded that “a lab leak cannot be absolutely ruled out.“
“The scientific evidence to date indicates that the virus is likely the result of viral evolution in nature, potentially jumping directly to humans or through an unidentified intermediary animal host,” the nonprofit said.
Despite the widespread controversy, Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance have continued to get government grants — with his latest research in Thailand funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is led by exiting White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
It is part of a “collaboration among scientist leaders in emerging disease research in the USA, Thailand, Singapore, and the three major Malaysian administrative regions … to better understand and respond to the risk of zoonotic viral emergence in Southeast Asia,” EcoHealth said.
The research “will advance our understanding of the risk of novel viral emergence in a uniquely important region” — to act as a unique early warning system for novel [emerging infectious diseases] EIDs of any etiology threatening to emerge in this hottest of EID hotspots.”