Costa Rica’s Bat-Friendly Hotel


By Paula Tuttle

Merlin and I recently spent an especially productive week promoting bat conservation at the Harmony Hotel in northwestern Costa Rica. Merlin’s lecture, introducing the many values of Costa Rican bats, attracted a large and enthusiastic audience that included both hotel guests and community members.

Thanks to the owner’s passionate commitment to a healthy, sustainable environment, the hotel is a wildlife oasis in the midst of the small town of Nosara. Wherever possible, a lush profusion of native vegetation has been restored or introduced, serving as a magnet for animals, from howler monkeys, coatis and margay cats to large iguanas and an impressive variety of bats.

We quickly recorded more than a dozen bat species, belonging to five families, and introduced them to appreciative staff and guests. In fact, the proximity of multiple species posed the biggest challenge to use of a bat detector. The hotel may soon attract even more bats, as it intends to put up bat houses.

We were especially encouraged to learn of all the hotel’s progress toward environmental sustainability while maintaining top quality. The staff were outstanding. The food was healthy and delicious, and we thoroughly enjoyed the two evenings spent introducing the owners’ family and friends to the diverse array of bats found in their own yard.

Merlin has prepared a program on Costa Rican bats for the hotel to share with guests and in local schools, and we look forward to further collaboration.   

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Northern Ghost Bat

Merlin went to Costa Rica last week, with hopes to photograph a Northern ghost bat (Diclidurus albus) roosting beneath a palm frond. Researchers rarely have been able to capture these bats, and almost nothing is known about them. More than 45 years ago, while leading a Smithsonian expedition on Venezuela’s Rio Mavaca, Merlin discovered that these bats are relatively abundant. He spotted them feeding high above ground where they were nearly impossible to capture, though he did get a portrait of one.

Recently, a few sharp-eyed observers have spotted individuals roosting beneath palm fronds where they are difficult to see.  Their snow white bodies blend with the bright rays of sun shining through the fronds. Merlin’s friend, Carlos Roberto Chavarria, had spotted one, and helped photograph it. Merlin was also assisted by our Austin friend, Steve Swanson. He had hoped, later in the week, to show this spectacular bat. We kept our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t move before it could be photographed.

On the first evening (Jan. 27) they couldn’t find the bat where it had been most recently seen. The next morning was very discouraging. Carlos Chavarria, Steve Swanson and Merlin hiked several miles of forest trail without seeing a single bat. Then, at mid-day, they encountered a local nature guide friend of Carlos’ who had seen the Diclidurus earlier that morning. The one that Carlos had seen had returned to its former location, and his friend had seen it that morning.

He even knew where a second one was roosting just 20 feet away. They wouldn’t have noticed it without help from an experienced guide who knew the locations of these two bats’ alternate roosts. He explained that they frequently moved among several roosts. The afternoon of the 28th and from mid-morning till mid-afternoon on the 29th, Carlos, Steve and Merlin spent a total of about 8 hours photographing these bats. It was quite tricky getting flashes and ambient light to match, but as you can see, he ended up with great shots!

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NASBR 43rd & 16th International Bat Research Conference, San José, Costa Rica

The end of conference banquet: Merlin and Paula Tuttle with Ann Froschauer of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Merlin has attended every NASBR conference, since the beginning.


Corey Kane, a writer with the Tico Times, wrote an excellent article. During the conference, he interviewed Merlin and included some of his photographs. I’ve included the link, if you care to read all about it:

Rodrigo Medellin accepting Merlin’s latest Pallid bat at cardon flower taken in the Baja in April 2013.

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