Bats are “sophisticated, beautiful, even cute, quite aside from their crucial roles as primary predators of insects, pollinators of flowers and dispersers of seeds,” writes Tuttle, an ecologist who has championed their cause for more than 50 years.
The author’s cover stories and photographs have been featured in National Geographic and other magazines, and he has traveled the globe to study bats in their natural cave habitats, risking his life in the process. After obtaining a doctorate in bat biology, Tuttle worked as the curator of the Milwaukee Public Museum. In 1982, he resigned and founded the advocacy organization Bat Conservation International to enlist support for these much-maligned mammals that are in danger of becoming an endangered species. Bats are wrongly accused of destroying crops and spreading diseases such as rabies, and they are confused with their mythical blood-sucking namesakes. Tuttle sets the record straight, showing the important role bats play in pest control and their potential boom for farmers. “A single bat could catch thousands of insects in just one hour,” he writes. “Bats ha[ve] a far better record of living safely with humans than even our beloved dogs, and…they also play essential roles in supporting human economies.” Using implanted microchips to track their behavior, scientists have established that certain bats are comparable to elephants in their ability to maintain complex social relationships. They have highly sophisticated hunting practices and are altruistic within their groups. Tuttle notes that it is not unusual to find as many as 100,000 bats clustered together hibernating. His fascination with them began when he was 12 and he observed them in a cave near his Tennessee home. Encouraged by his father, who was a botanist, he explored the local caves where bats hibernated and studied their migratory behavior. Tuttle's recent attempts to photograph them in their natural habitat have led him through many hair-raising adventures, which he entertainingly chronicles.
A page-turning memoir of curiosity about—and dedication to—a significant part of the natural world.