By Paula Tuttle
While leading news media, from The Wall Street Journal to Time magazine, were maligning bats with an unprecedented flood of scary stories threatening terrible disease pandemics, Merlin was busy setting the record straight.
At the annual banquet of the National Speleological Society, in New Mexico, he thanked members for their invaluable service to bats over the past 40 years, especially mentioning their volunteered help in reporting key bat caves in need of protection, designing and building the world’s finest protective gates at hundreds of locations, and helping educate cave owners regarding bat values and needs. He also credited them with leadership essential to recovery of the federally endangered gray bat (Myotis grisescens) and thanked them for their generous help during the white-nose syndrome (WNS) crisis.
Merlin has since agreed to collaborate with National Speleological Society leadership on behalf of improving management policies to better protect important caves for both bats and cavers.
As the featured speaker for the Association of Medical Illustrators 2017 annual conference, Merlin was asked to share his “Win friends, not battles” conservation philosophy. Of course, they also enthusiastically learned a lot about bats as well! The group’s real mission is medical education, making them an ideal audience at a time when there are so many gross exaggerations linking bats to disease.
Many stayed to ask questions for an extra 45 minutes. At a time when so many disagreements become too confrontational to permit reasoned progress, Merlin’s positive approaches struck a special cord.