After taking over 1,500 photographs, here are some shots from the Formosan Golden Bats’ Home.
Our digital and social media coordinator, Teresa Nichta, is learning firsthand the challenges of bat photography, whether in the studio or in the wild. This is her experience in her words.
I already knew I would love the rain forest; it was so massive yet I felt right at home.
Documenting where bats live was a major objective of this trip, and that was just what we did! Of course, I’d seen Merlin’s photos and learned about what we were looking for but seeing bats at home in the forest in person was even more enthralling than I had imagined. Bats are nearly everywhere but they’re seldom seen because they hide so well. (more…)
Thanks to Trinibat volunteers, 43 of Trinidad’s 68 bat species were captured, documented and released over the past two weeks. Little known species like Spectral (Vampirum spectrum) and Striped hairy-nosed (Mimon crenulatum) bats were tracked back to their unique roosts, providing new information essential to their conservation. (more…)
Hip hip hooray, more good press for bats! First the Wall Street Journal did a glowing review of Merlin’s book, “The Secret Lives of Bats,” and it made Amazon’s Top Ten of the Month list; then our hometown paper, the Austin American-Statesman wrote about the history of Austin’s bridge bats and the role Merlin played; and now an article by the Huffington Post about Merlin and his passion to reveal the truth about bats, the world’s most misunderstood mammal!
A year ago Merlin and I had the wonderful privilege of joining Caroline and Michael Schöner to photographically document their research discoveries of tiny woolly bats living in pitcher plants. To read about our work with the Schöners in Brunei, see our September 2014 blogs Woolly bat personalities and Fanged pitcher plants and other shelters.
As they are finally nearing completion of their PhD theses of these bats, their discoveries are finally getting the attention they deserve. One of the things we weren’t able to mention earlier was their discovery that the pitcher plant (Nepenthes hemsleyana) has, like the flowers we documented with Ralph Simon, developed special echo-reflectors to help guide approaching bats. Not surprisingly Ralph ended up joining them in this new discovery.
This has been one of Merlin’s favorite stories. He especially enjoyed working with these tiny bats that attempted to train him to feed them in response to their getting in his face, as you can see in the video posted in the September 2014 Woolly bat personalities blog.
The Schöners’ latest research paper is now published in the July 20, 2015 issue of Current Biology. One of Merlin’s photos is on the cover, and Ralph Simon is a co-author.
The story of Cave Nectar Bats’ contributions and requirements is complex and only beginning to be fully understood. These bats traditionally formed huge colonies in caves, 100,000 individuals in a single cave. However colonies are extremely vulnerable, and few large colonies remain. People commonly set nets over cave entrances, capturing large numbers to be eaten as a delicacy. Also, limestone quarries pose constant threats of permanent destruction of essential caves, and durian growers themselves sometimes kill large numbers.
Dr. Sara Bumrungsri, a leading bat ecologist, invited us to help document the essential roles of Cave Nectar Bats (Eonycteris spelaea) in pollinating some of SE Asia’s most ecologically and economically valuable plants near Hat Yai in Thailand’s Songkhla Province. We set up our bat photo studio in Sara’s lab at the Prince of Songkhla University, caught two cave nectar bats in mist nets set beneath durian flowers in an orchard, tamed them so they would go about their normal activities in Merlin’s enclosure, then brought them fresh flowers so he could photographically document their importance as pollinators.
Literally thousands of temple ruins are near Siem Reap to explore, and at least three days is recommended to see most of them. In one day we visited ten, and were pleased to find bats in most of them.
The complex of temples known as Angkor was built from the 9th to 13th century by successive Khmer rulers, and the mother of them all is the Angkor Wat Temple, the largest (first Hindu, later Buddhist) temple in the world. Between the 12th and 13th century, when London had a mere population of about 50,000, it is estimated that Angkor had 1,000,000, making it the largest city in the world at the time. They were the people, under successive Khmer kings, who built these massive construction projects on the scale of the Egyptian Pharaohs’ pyramids.
We spent two nights at the Battambang Bat Caves in Cambodia to photograph the incredible emergences of the Asian wrinkle-lipped bats (Chaerephon plicatus). With help from Thona, our colleague and interpreter, Merlin interviewed the owner of the guano harvesting permit for one of the caves (he called it Tarum). He advised the man to never again use pesticides inside the cave (apparently to kill insects that bothered the guano collectors) and recommended removal of a large dead tree in the emerging bats’ flight path. The tree was causing a traffic jam of bats that greatly increased injuries and predation. This was done immediately. (See the remaining stump, lower left of photo).
Jeff Acopian videotaped the bat-watching tourists. Just before the emergence, I perched myself on the small hill under the entrance to photograph the bats. An incredible thunderstorm came through, turning my umbrella inside out. Once it passed, the bats finally emerged. At this same time, Merlin took shelter from the rain beneath a ledge in the cave entrance where he had just seen an approximately seven-foot unidentified snake enter a hole about a meter away. He could only hope the snake wasn’t poisonous.
Approximately 250 members, representing 22 nations of the ATBC met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for their 2015 annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Chapter, March 31 to April 3, and Merlin provided a 45-minute plenary lecture titled “The Amazing World of Bats and a Novel View of Conservation.”
Following his talk Merlin co-chaired a parallel symposium with Neil Furey, Understanding and Conserving the Diversity and Ecology of South East Asian Bats. He also served as a judge for student papers and was exceptionally impressed with their well prepared quality.
Finally, due to special interest, Merlin was allotted a room and projector that evening where he answered questions for nearly three more hours. As the word got out regarding how interesting the discussion was, more and more people showed up, and topics ranged widely.
This video is excerpted from Merlin’s closing remarks in the evening Question and Answer Session at the ATBC Annual Meeting in Cambodia.