The Secret Lives of Bats by Merlin Tuttle covers a lifetime of learning about and campaigning for bats. It holds everything from his early days exploring caves –and getting lost on one terrifying occasion–to his founding of Bat Conservation International (BCI) and beyond. He takes the reader along on travels around the world capturing and calming bats so they can be photographed. This includes close encounters with moonshiners (many of whom became his friends) to bat poachers (who had him over for dinner). Some of the journeys involve dangerous storms and getting too close for comfort to venomous snakes. Through all of them, one thing is clear: Tuttle loves his work, and he wants others to share his love.
Merlin Tuttle clearly likes both people and bats, describing both with enthusiasm and charm. He is at home visiting with moonshiners, mayors, and poachers alike and willing to drive over to someone’s house to reassure them about the bats living nearby. He takes the time to talk to bat poachers and learn about their lives and needs, stopping by to dinner at one place and figuring out how to care for the bats without harming people who need income.
Tuttle also supplies an incredible amount of detail about the bats, talking about the different kinds of bats, the food they eat, their social habits, and individual personalities. It quickly becomes clear that not only are bats not harmful, they are far more complex than generally given credit for and have a higher level of intelligence than most people assume. Some, at least, remember the people who fed them years ago, some adopt orphans of their own kind. All of them are essential to the ecological balance.
The book has a number of Tuttle’s photographs of bats, showing them at their most appealing. The color photographs are welcome, and make his argument for bats quite eloquently. They do leave the reader feeling greedy for more, though: Where’s the Tabletop Book of Bats?
In a book full of interesting information, the most surprising was this: Bats sing, maybe as much as birds do. Bats sing. We just don’t hear them.
The Secret Lives of Bats is a must-read for anyone concerned about the environment, interested in animals, or a fan of good writing. The book is out and available on Amazon.
Updated: I found some bat song recordings NPR. The NPR article also had more information on bats and why they sing and what some of them mean.
And because internet, I also found bats singing the Batman Theme Song: