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Adventures of a Real Batman: 1966-1967

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.

Chapter 1 - Back to Venezuela

Presidential intervention enables Merlin to return to Venezuela despite a Communist revolt. 

airplane leaving the united states

Chapter 2 - Belen Base Camp

Surviving trip up flooding river, establishing base camp in a Maquiritare village, making a rare bat discovery, collecting rats to cats, and preparing for Cerro Duida climb.

Chapter 3 - Climbing and Collecting on Cerro Duida

Climbing cliff-face ledges, capturing deadly bushmaster snake, and adjusting to impenetrable forest, treacherous crevasses, and unpredictable weather.

Chapter 4 - The Yanomamo at Boca Mavaca

Army ant invasion, adapting to waring Yanomamö, escaping attack, and collecting rare bats and rats.

Chapter 5 - Shamatari Adventure

Experience of a lifetime nearly costs Merlin his life.

Chapter 6 - Gnats and Bandits on the Casiquiare Canal

Discovering unique bat behavior amid swarms of biting gnats and threat of river bandits.

Chapter 7 - Rare Discoveries at San Juan de Manapiare

The richest wildlife diversity in Venezuela!

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Michael Lazari Karapetian

Michael Lazari Karapetian has over twenty years of investment management experience. He has a degree in business management, is a certified NBA agent, and gained early experience as a money manager for the Bank of America where he established model portfolios for high-net-worth clients. In 2003 he founded Lazari Capital Management, Inc. and Lazari Asset Management, Inc.  He is President and CIO of both and manages over a half a billion in assets. In his personal time he champions philanthropic causes. He serves on the board of Moravian College and has a strong affinity for wildlife, both funding and volunteering on behalf of endangered species.