From 1965 to 1968, the Smithsonian Institution, funded by the U.S. Army, set out on an ambitious project to document the mammals of Venezuela and their ectoparasites (fleas, mites, and ticks). It was hoped that such knowledge, collected at varied locations around the world, might save lives in the event of future military activities.
Merlin Tuttle was hired to co-direct the project for the first two years. He arrived in Venezuela with his field team at a time of extreme unrest. Communist insurgents were robbing banks, engaging in gun battles at the national university and killing police in downtown Caracas. Merlin was captured by communist guerillas. One of his first jungle camps was nearly bombed and strafed by Venezuelan marines. And his expedition to the remotest frontier areas had to survive record-breaking floods, an attack from river bandits, and threats from hostile Yanomamö.
Beyond his wild adventures, these two years of fieldwork in Venezuela had enormous impact on Merlin’s understanding of bat needs and values, helping to create the bat conservationist he is today.
These 50-year-old stories, photographs, and documentary films of Dr. Tuttle’s are shared for the first time in a blog series written by PK Miller.