White-Nose Syndrome: New Policies Needed for Cave Management

Merlin has updated our White-Nose Syndrome resource page. As he explains, WNS has now spread from coast to coast despite our best efforts. There is no longer hope of stopping, slowing or finding a cure that can be effectively applied. It is time to focus on helping the survivors rebuild populations from resistant remnants. Further surveys to detect spread of WNS have become pointless. We can’t help except by strictly protecting weakened survivors from disturbance, especially during hibernation. Members of the National Speleological Society have been extremely cooperative in efforts to slow or stop WNS, even agreeing to cease activities in their favorite caves, including many that do not support bats. There is no longer justification for closure of caves not needed by bats. In fact permitting wider caver access increases opportunities for recognition and protection of caves of past importance to bats, where populations could be restored with protection. Many caves that once provided critical habitat for bats remain unprotected simply because they lost their bats so long ago, that their importance is no longer recognized. No one is better prepared to detect, report and help protect such sites than organized cavers, and it is time for governmental and private conservation organizations to maximize cooperation with this key group of concerned volunteers. In this update Merlin provides helpful guidance on recognition of long lost bat caves that could be restored and urges full collaboration.

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Teresa’s first cave experience

MTBC’s Teresa Nichta’s final story in this series of her first field trip with Merlin. Enjoy!

 

Unloading equipment to begin the ascent up Tamana Hill.
Merlin and the Trinibats team unloading equipment to begin the ascent up Tamana Hill.

 

 

 

For me, a much anticipated highlight of my Trinidad adventure was my first trip into a major bat cave. Tamana Cave shelters tens of thousands of bats including half a dozen species of an intriguing variety. But first, you have to get there! It’s a long, windy drive to the base of the “hill.” Once you can drive no further it’s time to begin the steep ascent to the top of Tamana Hill… (more…)

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Letters from a Young Bat Scientist-No. 3

Alexis Valentine’s, aka “Bat Girl,” history project on Leadership & Legacy about Dr. Merlin Tuttle. Photo taken by Alexis’ mom Amy

 

October 20, 2014

Hi Dr. Tuttle,

How are you? Hope you guys are doing good. Say hi to Mrs. Tuttle for me. Below are the questions for my history project on Leadership & Legacy. Thanks for helping me!

Love,
Alexis 🙂
“Bat Girl”

 

 

 

 

1. What event inspired you to want to protect bats?

2. Was it difficult to get BCI started?

3. What is your favorite bat?

4. Can you please give me a quote for my project about bat conservation?

Merlin as a teenager emerging from a tight passage in a Tennessee cave while searching for gray bats.

October 30, 2014

Hi Alexis,

The following are my responses to your questions. Good luck with your project!

1. It wasn’t just one event. It was an accumulation of seeing lots of gray bat colonies being destroyed. I was aware that these bats were harmless and highly beneficial. However public health officials were claiming them to be dangerous carriers of rabies despite the fact that no one had ever gotten rabies from a gray bat, or that getting rabies from any kind of bat was extremely rare. I couldn’t resist explaining this to cave owners, and when they changed from killing to protecting their bats, I was encouraged to do more.

2. Founding Bat Conservation International required hard work. When I founded BCI most people were extremely frightened of bats. Even leading conservation organizations avoided them like the plague, considering them to be too unpopular to be helped. I had to spend huge amounts of time preparing scientific documentation and learning to put claims of disease dangers in perspective. For example, I pointed out that while only two people, on average, die of bat rabies each year in the U.S. 20-30 are killed by dogs. How could we consider bats dangerous and dogs safe, given these facts? In the end the facts about bat values versus risks are so strong that they are easy to defend if we just arm ourselves with the facts. Great success in life can only be achieved by tackling great challenges.

3. I don’t have a favorite bat, though I especially enjoy working with carnivorous species, because they seem to be exceptionally intelligent. But even the tiny woolly bats that I recently worked with in Borneo turned out to be far smarter than I had ever imagined, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them. Check out the video of them bumping me in the nose to gain my attention to feed them (see woolly bat blogs on my web site at merlintuttle.com).

4. Bats provide essential ecological services required to keep our planet healthy. We cannot ignore their plight without risking our own future.

Paula says hi.

Very best wishes,
Merlin

November 4, 2014

Hi Dr. Tuttle,

Thanks so much for answering my bat questions. History fair is in a couple of weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes. Science fair is coming up too. 🙂

My history project is called “Batman of BCI” and my science fair project is called “Bat Chat–using echolocation to determine WNS effects.”

Talk to you soon. Tell Mrs. Tuttle hi for me. Have fun and be safe on your next bat trip.

Have a “Bat”tastic Day,
Alexis
“Bat Girl”

 

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Thailand Bat Cave Revisited

Merlin meeting with the head monk at Wat Khao Chong Pran who was happy to see him again.
Merlin meeting with the head monk at Wat Khao Chong Phran who was happy to see him return.

We arrived at Wat Khao Chong Phran unannounced and surprisingly the head monk agreed to see us immediately on the same porch where we met him with Daniel Hargreaves in 2012 (See Sept. 20 blog Guano happens). Merlin even wore the same shirt, his favorite field shirt! Pongsanant, our BatThai guide and interpreter then and now, told us the monk was quite happy to see us again. We had a short visit and were granted permission to go up to the cave entrance to photograph the emergence. We made an appointment to see him the following morning to discuss our findings.

MDT_TH4_C3_5203
Merlin at the cave entrance with our guide Pongsanant interpreting, while he explains to the head guard and a monk which trees and vines need trimming for the safety of the bats as they emerge each night.

The wrinkle-lipped bat (Chaerephon plicatus) colony had been slowly declining in recent years, despite protection, so Merlin was concerned to discover why. After climbing to the cave we noticed that trees and vines had gradually grown up around the entrance, disrupting the bats’ emergence, as thousands collided with obstacles. We saw clear problems that in other free-tailed bat caves have caused abandonment and reported this the next morning. Merlin was happy to provide an on-site explanation and delighted when the tree trimming was promptly ordered. The cave managers are now aware that this should be repeated every couple of years in the future as a routine part of protection.

Given Merlin’s involvement in gaining the first protection for these bats 34 years ago, he’s especially interested in ensuring their continued safety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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