Hike to the Continental Divide and back!

MTBC’s Bat Adventures in Panama Week 1 group started out from our base camp for an energetic hike to the top of the mountain ridge. Some did it in 3.5 hours, some 6.5 hours, and everything in between. My GPS said I hiked 19,190 steps (about 10 miles!) and burned 2,701 calories. Some will go back at night to net for bats in this cloud forest where they hope to find different species than the ones found at the Cocobolo Nature Reserve banana plants, and along the lower river forest.

Merlin in the lead for our hike from camp straight up the vertical climb to the ridge top of the Continental Divide, about halfway between the Pacific and Caribbean.
Vista at the top!
We did it! 2,000 feet (600 meters)
Paula and Merlin Tuttle with Teresa Nichta at Cocobolo Nature Reserve, Panama.

It’s the dry season, but there have been just enough showers to keep things cool!

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Off to a great start!

34 species, over a third of Panama’s 100+ bat species have been captured by our intrepid bat enthusiasts in just three nights!

Rebecca Edwards and Melissa Donnelly are raising the triple-high, while Fiona Parker looks on. This is a special rig to catch the freetail bats (high flyers) coming in to drink.


Fieldwork is teamwork! Melissa Donnelly and Daniel Hargreaves upright the triple-high net pole, while Fiona Parker and Baptiste Chadeyron open a mist net.




Processing team trio: Mary Smith weighs the bats, Karen Slote measures the bats’ forearm, and Mindy Vescovo enters all the data.




Melissa Donnelly has lots of experience catching bats and processing them. Here she trains Gretchen VanCleave, Maria Serrano, and Mindy Vescovo how to process the bats caught.
Merlin is set up for bat portraits, after bats are processed. Maria Seranno, Daniel Hargreaves, and Baptiste Chadeyron are checking out the setup.






Maria Serrano, a teacher and photographer, practices taking bat portraits.
Merlin assists Gretchen VanCleave in hand-feeding a fruit bat a sweet drink before release.

The bat list as of Day 3:

1 Artibeus intermedius

2 Artibeus jamaicensis

3 Artibeus lituratus

4 Artibeus phaeotis

5 Artibeus toltecus

6 Artibeus watsoni

7 Carollia brevicauda

8 Carollia castanea

9 Carollia perspicillata

10 Chiroderma salvini

11 Chiroderma villosum

12 Cynomops greenhalli

13 Desmodus rotundus

14 Eptesicus brasiliensis

15 Eumops auripendulus

16 Glossophaga commissarisi

17 Glossophaga soricina

18 Lichonycteris obscura

19 Lonchophylla robusta

20 Micronycteris microtis

21 Molossus molossus

22 Myotis albescens

23 Myotis riparius

24 Noctilio albiventris

25 Noctilio leporinus

26 Phyllostomus hastatus

27 Platyrrhinus helleri

28 Pteronutus parnellii

29 Pteropteryx macrotis

30 Rhogeessa tumida

31 Rhynchonycteris naso

32 Saccopteryx bilineata

33 Uroderma bilobatum

34 Vampyrodes caraccioli

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MTBC’s Bat Adventures: Panama-Week 1

MTBC’s Panama Bat Workshop Week 1

Merlin and Daniel Hargreaves, co-founder of Trinibats, have teamed up to co-lead two weeks of bat workshops at the Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama. The reserve is over 1,000 acres located about halfway between the Pacific and the Caribbean on the narrow Isthmus of Panama, about 35 miles wide.

Cocobolo Nature Reserve

Our days have basically gone according to the itinerary:

Day 1. Our group had a rendezvous at our hotel Riande Aeropuerto in Panama City the first night. Some of us purchased rubber boots at Novey or the Discovery Center, then we met at the poolside bar for drinks and dinner.

Day 2. The next morning we departed by minibus to Las Margaritas where we transferred to a few 4WD vehicles via primitive roads, fording several rivers to our destination in the heart of the tropical rainforest. Cocobolo Nature Reserve is located near Las Zahinas village in Chepo District, Panama, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Panama City.

Upon arrival at Cocobolo, we found our individual tents, with air mattresses, underneath thatched cottages raised from the ground called “ranchitos”. The field station has two bathrooms with composting toilets (home to resident bats!), and cold showers. The onsite kitchen provides our meals and the main hall is our regular meeting and eating place. We have access to onsite wifi and solar panels enabling us to keep our equipment charged.

First order of business, Merlin set up his traveling photo studio…
…while Daniel Hargreaves gave the group a safety briefing.

In the afternoon we prepared for the bat survey work, organized teams, equipment, and netting sites.

Day 3. After a short presentation by Michael Roy, the Founder of Cocobola, we all went on a two-hour hike, searching for new netting sites. In the evening we split into teams so that everybody has the opportunity to do netting, radio tracking, photography and processing.

Wifi is slow, so many more pics to come of all the fun we’re having!



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Algerian Bat Group Workshop Success

Les Chauves Souris D’algerie, ALGERIAN BAT GROUP recently held a bat workshop in Algeria, hosted by Professor Mourad Ahmim of the University of Bejaia. The workshop focused on the importance of bats and their impact on the national economy.

Merlin was asked to provide this 8-minute video introduction for workshop participants, giving them an overview of bat values and exhorting them to protect the bats of Algeria.


The workshop resulted in the first protection of a cave in Aokas, Algeria. The Cave of Aokas is now officially protected by a communal decree in memory of a former leader in European bat conservation, and much valued friend of Merlin’s, the late Professor Jiri Gaisler who discovered the cave and first studied its bats.


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