AUSTIN (KXAN)Located in the heart of Austin, the Congress Avenue Bridge hosts the world’s largest urban bat colony. Yet, these bats may not exist without the work of Merlin Tuttle.

For this reason, Aug. 26 is being celebrated citywide as Merlin Tuttle Day, in honor of his success in saving the world-famous bats.

In the 1980s, locals were up in arms about the bats and signed petitions to have them eradicated. Nevertheless, Tuttle believed bats could be safe and highly beneficial neighbors.

Tuttle eventually convinced Austin City Council to keep them. The rest is history, as the bridge bats have become one of the state’s most popular, multi-million dollar tourist attractions.

“Extremely proud of our bats. They bring in millions of dollars, tourist dollars, every summer,” Tuttle said. “They consume tons of insect pests every night, and they’ve never harmed anyone.”

Looking back on his decades-long dedication to Austin’s bats, one may wonder what may have transpired if they were removed from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge.

According to Tuttle, it could have cost Texas millions of dollars in agricultural losses and dramatically increased reliance on pesticides.

“Just one of these bats can catch enough pests in a single night to prevent them from laying more than 20,000 eggs on crops,” he said.

“Ecologically we would probably be in a really scary place,” Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation operations manager Teresa Nichta said. “The bats eat tons of insects every night.”

To celebrate Tuttle’s 81st birthday Friday, a bat-watching sunset cruise, hosted by Merlin himself, will take place on a Capitol Cruises double-decker capital boat at 6:30 p.m.

It’ll include food, drinks, storytelling, bat-watching and a Q&A along with a chance to win a signed and matted print and more prizes.

All proceeds will benefit Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation, his nonprofit that tries to protect bats worldwide while also educating the people on the benefit they have for humans.

To purchase tickets, you can click this link.