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Animal Influencers at SXSW

By now you probably know that bats positively impact ecosystems worldwide and help combat climate change, but did you know that bats are helping humans stay inspired and avoid climate fatigue?

Repeated predictions of disappearing coastline and species extinction have resulted in climate fatigue among even the most ardent nature lovers. People exhausted by the doom and gloom can feel hopeless and powerless to make a difference. So how do we keep the conversation going and create change without burning out?

Animal influencers to the rescue!

We were delighted to share Merlin’s “Win Friends, not Battles” approach on the SXSW Interactive Climate Track this March, and to share the stage with three leading animal influencers on our panel, Animal Influencers as a Way Out of Climate Fatigue

Our panel showed that unassuming animals, like bats, octopuses, bobtail squids, and luna moths, are able to inspire people to change their perspectives and feel motivated to help protect the planet we all share. We can make great progress simply by sharing the truth. Bats are mysterious to many – making them not only easy scapegoats for scary speculation but also fantastic attention grabbers. People rarely protect what they don’t understand, so educating humans is one of the best ways to help animals and subsequently save ourselves and the planet.

Merlin preparing to share all about bats in the green room.
Left to Right: Artist, designer, creative technologist Jiabao Li shifts perspectives from ego-centric to eco-centric cocreating with the Bobtail Squid. Merlin Tuttle, founder of Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation and world's best known expert on bats. Warren Carlyle who founded and runs the Largest Octopus Fan Club with over ½ a billion views this past year. Artist Virginia Montgomery who creates dynamic visual art with the Luna Moth.

Big changes can come from small conversations. Merlin shared his long-time successful conservation philosophy of “winning friends not battles” and the worldwide audience immediately picked up the torch. Several folks stayed behind after the panel waiting to talk with Merlin and get specific advice and input on their conservation and climate concerns. We then invited everyone to walk with us to the bridge, hoping to see a beautiful bat emergence. Although the bats didn’t come out until it was dark and visibility was minimal, we enjoyed sharing stories, advice, and goals for the future. Merlin (and his cat Zuri) especially enjoyed his gift of a giant stuffed octopus from Warren!

If you want to become an animal influencer, you may have some bat facts from your own experience, but you can use MTBC resources and photos too!

For example:

  • Texas bats conservatively save farmers $1.4 billion annually in avoided pesticide use! 
  • Did you know without bats we might not have margaritas? Bats pollinate the agave from which tequila is made.
  • Free-tailed bats can fly thousands of feet above ground to intercept insect pests and fly at 100 miles an hour! 
  • Bats form long-term friendships and have social systems similar to those of primates!
Merlin showing a bat to Bonnie Miles, Robin Eastham, and Sally Ann Hurry on an MTBC field trip in Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Bats as animal influencers around the world…

Learn more about our co-panelists and their animal influencer work:

Teresa Nichta is the Collections and Outreach Manager and a Co-Founder of Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation.

People from all over the world enjoy the summer bridge emergence from a Capital Cruises ride, in Austin, Texas. Learn more about the famous colony and Merlin's impact on the history of Austin at

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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.