Bat Flash! Encouragement for Positivity in Cambodia

This powerful article in Southeast Asia Globe, by Claire Baker-Munton, on the value of artificial bat roosts in Southeast Asia deserves much praise. With the help of Merlin’s photos, this article clearly promotes a better understanding of bats and their values. At a time when so many media headlines are attempting to grab readership by speculating potential linkage of bats to scary diseases, positive stories like this are crucial. In reality, as Claire points out, Cambodians have found bats to be highly valued neighbors.


Choose any or all means of contact to reach out with your praise and encouragement on behalf of bats.


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Bat caves of Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang Bat Cave
Wrinkle-lipped bat emergence at one of the caves (Tarum) in Battambang, Cambodia

We spent two nights at the Battambang Bat Caves in Cambodia to photograph the incredible emergences of the Asian wrinkle-lipped bats (Chaerephon plicatus). With help from Thona, our colleague and interpreter, Merlin interviewed the owner of the guano harvesting permit for one of the caves (he called it Tarum). He advised the man to never again use pesticides inside the cave (apparently to kill insects that bothered the guano collectors) and recommended removal of a large dead tree in the emerging bats’ flight path. The tree was causing a traffic jam of bats that greatly increased injuries and predation. This was done immediately. (See the remaining stump, lower left of photo).

Merlin interviewed the guano miner of the Tarum bat cave, Battambang, Cambodia
Merlin spoke to the owner of the guano harvesting permit for the cave he called “Tarum” in Battambang, Cambodia


Jeff Acopian videotaped the bat-watching tourists. Just before the emergence, I perched myself on the small hill under the entrance to photograph the bats. An incredible thunderstorm came through, turning my umbrella inside out. Once it passed, the bats finally emerged. At this same time, Merlin took shelter from the rain beneath a ledge in the cave entrance where he had just seen an approximately seven-foot unidentified snake enter a hole about a meter away. He could only hope the snake wasn’t poisonous.



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Association for Tropical Biology Conference, Asia-Pacific Chapter Meeting 2015

Merlin Tuttle's ATBC plenary lecture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Merlin Tuttle’s 2015 ATBC plenary lecture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Approximately 250 members, representing 22 nations of the ATBC met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for their 2015 annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Chapter, March 31 to April 3, and Merlin provided a 45-minute plenary lecture titled “The Amazing World of Bats and a Novel View of Conservation.”

Following his talk Merlin co-chaired a parallel symposium with Neil Furey, Understanding and Conserving the Diversity and Ecology of South East Asian Bats. He also served as a judge for student papers and was exceptionally impressed with their well prepared quality.

Finally, due to special interest, Merlin was allotted a room and projector that evening where he answered questions for nearly three more hours. As the word got out regarding how interesting the discussion was, more and more people showed up, and topics ranged widely.

This video is excerpted from Merlin’s closing remarks in the evening Question and Answer Session at the ATBC Annual Meeting in Cambodia.


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Cambodian Cave Conservation Workshop

In Phnom Chhnork Cave, Cambodia, our cave workshop group photo was taken outside the 7th century Hindu temple within the cave dedicated to Shiva.
In Phnom Chhngauk, Kampot Province, Cambodia, our cave workshop group photo was taken outside the cave’s 7th century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva.

Merlin and Dr. Neil Furey, a conservation biologist who’s worked in Cambodia for the past six years with extensive knowledge of SE Asian bats, co-led a cave conservation workshop preceding the Association for Tropical Biology & Conservation–Asia-Pacific Chapter Annual Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cave Conservation Workshop, Kampot, Cambodia


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Vihear Luong Cave, Cambodia

Merlin sits inside the Vihear Luong Cave entrance photographing the Asian wrinkle-lipped bat (Chaerephon plicatus) emerging at sunset along the high ceiling of the cave.
Merlin sits inside the Vihear Luong Cave entrance photographing the Asian wrinkle-lipped bat (Chaerephon plicatus) emerging at sunset along the high ceiling of the cave.

Following our field trip to the bat farms along the Mekong River south of Phnom Penh in Kandal Province, Merlin and Neil Furey of Cambodia put on a two-day cave workshop for about 10 participants. They lectured with slide presentations to students who already had more than basic knowledge and experience with bats. After lunch, we drove to several caves. At the Phnom Chhngauk limestone mountain the students trapped bats at one of the cave entrances, and Merlin demonstrated bat portrait photography onsite. (more…)

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