Merlin Tuttle left a prestigious museum job in Wisconsin in the mid-1980s to start and direct Bat Conservation International in Austin, Texas. The decision seemed so crazy at the time that Texas Monthly magazine gave Tuttle its “Bum Steer Award.”
But Tuttle’s dedication to saving bats has proven prophetic. Even as the crucial roles the flying mammals play in pollination and insect control have become better understood, more and more bat species are facing possible extinction from disease, pesticides, habitat loss, and other pressures.
If you’re not already won over to bats, Tuttle’s new book, The Secret Lives of Bats, will make you a believer. His brisk, entertaining writing combines natural history and adventure tales as he takes readers along to the caves, lakes, rainforests, and cities he has visited over the course of a half-century love affair with the winged mammals.
Despite many successes, there is no time to be complacent about the survival of bats, he writes. “Bat populations from Asia and Africa to the Pacific Islands and Madagascar are still at risk from overhunting for bush meat. Many of Australia’s flying foxes are severely threatened by a combination of human intolerance and climate change.”
“Careless operation of wind energy facilities poses an extreme threat throughout the industrialized world, with nearly one million bats already killed annually in North America alone,” he adds. “In addition, millions of American bats that hibernate in caves have been killed by a recently introduced fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.”
The book includes many full-color reproductions of Tuttle’s pioneering bat photography, which he has used to help win the public over to conserving the animals worldwide.
Take a look at five of the species featured in The Secret Lives of Bats through Tuttle’s own words and pictures.