Volume 20, Issue 2, Summer 2002

Past & Future

20 Years of Bat Conservation and the Challenges Ahead

For 20 years now, we have struggled to protect some of the most unfairly reviled creatures in all of nature. Looking back,Bat Conservation International has achieved truly amazing success. Our philosophy of choosing cooperation over confrontation, of molding partnerships rather than inciting adversaries, has been amply vindicated. Yet, as we enter our third decade, huge challenges remain: Many bat species -- and the ecosystems that depend on them -- still face grave peril around the world. Our journey has only begun.

This special anniversary issue of BATS explores the history of BCI from its birth in Milwaukee in 1982 as a part-time effort by Merlin Tuttle, with one employee and a handful of stalwart friends as trustees, to an organization with a worldwide impact through multilingual education programs, international grants, research support, broad coalition building, and innovative conservation efforts.

BCI's philosophical foundations -- and, indeed, the organization itself -- evolved through Tuttle's decades-long commitment, begun as a teenager, to save the gray bat (Myotis grisescens) from extinction. He learned the awful price of ignorance: the senseless destruction of countless bats because of erroneous fears. He found a remarkable lack of reliable scientific data about bats and almost no realization of their inestimable value to the world.

And he encountered a striking reluctance among even the most dedicated conservation groups to champion an animal that was hardly more popular than cockroaches. The gray bat experience, now one of BCI's proudest successes, is the centerpiece of this issue.

BATS also examines some of BCI's most important initiatives, programs, and projects, citing our finest achievements and the strategies that produced them. It follows the career accomplishments of individuals BCI helped with scholarships, research grants, and training in their early years -- investments that will pay bat-conservation dividends for decades to come. We also profile some of BCI's most generous donors and steadfast friends who stepped forward at critical points in our history.

The individuals cited in this issue are but a sampling of the many friends, allies, and supporters who have made such a difference for bat conservation over the years. Our fondest wish is that we could acknowledge and personally thank every single individual who has helped to save the world's bats and their habitats. Unfortunately, we cannot. So these few examples represent our thanks to all of you who have given so much.


Finally, in this issue, we look to the future. Where is Bat Conservation International, with the support of its friends, most needed? How shall we meet tomorrow's crises in bat conservation? What successes will we report 10 years from now?

All articles in this issue: