Texas bat expert, B.C. non-profit team up to launch mobile game about the ‘misunderstood’ furry flier

October 27, 2021
Texas bat expert, B.C. non-profit team up to launch mobile game about the 'misunderstood' furry flier

Texas-based ecologist Merlin Tuttle has been studying bats longer than video games have been around, and now, he’s hoping that by sharing his decades of knowledge with a B.C. game creator, the duo can dispel some misconceptions he says people have about these nocturnal fliers by getting to know them better virtually.

Tuttle, who has studied bats for over 60 years, has teamed up with AJ Dhalla, executive director of the non-profit society Thought Generation to create Find the Bats, an upcoming mobile education game where players explore bat habitats around the world to learn more about them.

Dhalla, a Coquitlam resident, previously worked with his teenage son, award-winning birdwatcher Adam Dhalla, on a similar game called Find the Birds that was released in April. While on a trip together in Arizona doing research for their bird game, the Dhallas came upon a bat and the idea for a second game was born.

When the father-son team reached out to Tuttle to see if he would join them in their new project, he didn’t take much convincing.

“I’m always happy to help anyone who is attempting to right the misunderstandings of bats,” said Tuttle, speaking to Stephen Quinn, host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

Watch | Prominent bat researcher Merlin Tuttle on the importance of bats:

Tuttle said bats are often blamed for spreading diseases, when in reality, they rarely pose a threat to humans.

According to him, the animals get a bad rap for spreading rabies when they are responsible for only one or two cases across North America annually and, when these cases cause death, he said, it is because people have not sought medical attention after being bitten.

As an example, Tuttle pointed to the estimated 1.5 million bats living under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, Texas, the city where Tuttle lives. He said the bats, which attract about 10 million tourist dollars a year, have lived there for decades without ever harming a human.

“Hopefully, by appealing to younger people, we can head off problems before they become too indoctrinated with old wives tales about bats being dangerous,” said Tuttle about the coming game.

What he wants is for people to understand that bats are vital pollinators and also help to keep insect populations under control.

A big brown bat, the most common species of bat in the United States, flies with a beetle in its mouth in this undated photo. (MerlinTuttle.org/MerlinTuttle’sBatConservation)

Dhalla wants the same things.

He said fears around the origins of COVID-19 have also been hard on bats’ reputations which are already up against the idea they are spooky, vampiric vermin with wings.

 “We are showing that bats are beautiful, interesting, [and] important,” said Dhalla.

Find the Bats will be available as a free download worldwide from Google Play and the App Store. Dhall said the game should be available by Christmas and those wanting more information can visit Findthebats.com.

Players will be able to choose an avatar and search for local species, and complete quests, in simulated bat habitats in Zambia, Texas, and Thailand. They may also run into a digital version of Tuttle who pops up now and then to share bat facts.

7:55New video game to turn around reputation of bats

Merlin Tuttle and AJ Dhalla speak with Stephen Quinn about their game that shines a positive light on bats. 7:55

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