“The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammals,” by Merlin Tuttle

A lifetime of adventures with bats around the world reveals why these special and imperiled creatures should be protected rather than feared.

From moonshiners and bandits to charging elephants and man-eating tigers, Merlin Tuttle has stopped at nothing to find and protect bats on every continent they inhabit. Enamored of bats ever since discovering a colony in a cave as a boy, Tuttle saw how effective photography could be in persuading people not to fear bats, and he has spent much of his career traveling the world to document them.

Sharing highlights from a lifetime of adventure and discovery, Tuttle takes us to the frontiers of bat research and conservation and forever changes the way we see these poorly understood yet fascinating creatures.

“It is simply amazing how quickly attitudes improve when people finally understand bats as they really are—sophisticated, beautiful, even cute, quite aside from their crucial roles as primary predators of insects, pollinators of flowers, and dispersers of seeds.” 

Merlin Tuttle

Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. This Free-Tailed Bat Colony is the Largest Urban Colony in the World consuming 15 Tons of Insects each Night.

Discussion Questions:

1). Bats have an image problem. Did you have any preconceived ideas about bats before reading this book? Did the book change any of your preconceptions?

Vampire Bats form Strong Social Bonds

2). The book highlights the ecological, and even economic, usefulness of bats as they eat literally tons of insects each night and serve as efficient pollinators. Why do negative impressions of bats persist? Are those perceptions changing?

Pallid Bat and a Green Cricket
Eating Centipedes is Useful not to Mention Impressive

3). Some criticize the book as mostly a collection of stories about Tuttle’s past escapades. While it was fun and interesting to read, some may have anticipated current statistics and information, not old stories.  Do you share this criticism?

Human Skull Being Cleaned by Dermestid Beetles
Fruit Bat Colony at Monfort bat cave – Samal island, Davao

4). Many chapters are dedicated to bat photography and the power of this tool in conservation. Did you find these chapters interesting? Why or why not?

Merlin Tuttle Working with his Cast of Tamed Epauletted Bats during his 1984 National Geographic shoot in Kenya. Photographing Bats

5). The book exemplifies the power of truth. As a tireless bat protector Tuttle explains how sharing his knowledge has turned even bat hunters to his side as shared in the chapter’s regarding the Khao Chong Pran Cave in Thailand and the creation of a National Park in American Somoa. Can you think of other examples where sharing knowledge has had a similar impact?

6). Finally, did you like the book? Would you recommend it?

Bat Dad Joke!

Internet Sources:

Bat Conservation International: http://www.batcon.org/

Bats of Nevada, Nevada Department of Wildlife: http://www.ndow.org/uploadedFiles/ndoworg/Content/Nevada_Wildlife/Animals/Concerns/bat_brochure.pdf

Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation: https://www.merlintuttle.org/

The Fruit Bat Featured on a 2020 Quarter: https://apple.news/A1RcFyzxDRTGp90whyyLPLA

About the Author:

Dr. MERLIN TUTTLE is an ecologist, wildlife photographer, and conservationist who has studied bats worldwide for more than fifty years. He founded Bat Conservation International in 1982. His work has been featured in Science, the Wall Street JournalThe New Yorker, and National Geographic.

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