Wildlife as a symbol

Wildlife may be under pressure today, but seems it will always exist as a symbol. Homo-sapiens is a story-teller– as per the famous historian and writer Yuval Noah Harari – and most of his journey has been inspired-by and depended on nature and wildlife, and starting with early days, our ancestors tried to tell the story of survival, courage and admiration, through cave paintings, which survived thousands of years.

cave.art-Cueva.de.Manos  cave painting

Many wildlife icons become symbols (of power, of courage, of bravery, etc), and myths and traditions were born in multiple cultures, today having an animal representation for many aspects and ideologies of our modern life and personality traits, allowing human brain to continuously create meaning and decode these symbols through both denotation and connotation.

Many countries have wildlife icons as their national symbol, on flags or national currency notes or coins. Through-out time, wildlife has been immortalized through art, paintings, stories, objects of great value made gifts at time of emperors, permanent skin tattoos or even mummified in Egyptian ancient civilization time. This attention wasn’t all beneficial for the real wildlife, who were killed for various parts of their bodies to be traded by modern humans. Especially Asiatic culture has been particularly destructive here, through the believe that consuming particular wildlife parts will give you certain magic powers.

Today Wildlife symbols sell, especially to the parents in search for toys or clothes for their young ones. While this should be good, at least for the educational part, somehow neither kids nor parents connect the symbols with the real world and state of wildlife, and most contact with wildlife comes from visiting the local ZOOs

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How we want the Wildlife story to end? Today we are still writing it, as it is not too late for many species to be permanently turned into symbols only…But time is running short! We need to better learn to use wildlife symbols and share the wildlife impressive stories, to appeal and educate others and reconnect to nature and its wildlife, as well as, according to National Geographic, to recycle, volunteer, donate money and join wildlife-protection organizations or contact government representative (through specific petitions signing). If we want us humans to become a symbol of wisdom, and not one of shame for being responsible for the mass extinction of Earth’s biodiversity, we need to find a way to contribute, each of us! Choose your way today!

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Wild goats of l’Estartit, Spain’s Costa Brava

L’Estartit is an excellent tourist destination to enjoy some active tourism journeys. Stand out the fabulous sea bottom from the Medes Islands, a big reserve of fauna and marine flora considered one of the most interesting area in all the Mediterranean.

The nearby natural park is no less impressive, it surprised me when on my way to Cala Pedrosa (a rocky beach nearby), I had the privilege to meet some of the wild residents. I felt truly lucky (probably as my walk was outside touristic season) and promised to get back one day!

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Exclusive interview with the Lion King

Wildlife-Reporter: Your Highness, we are very happy to have you! After the amazing success of 2019’s animation movie – The Lion King – we definitely nominated you the Wildlife character and image of the Year, before even the year ended! How are you doing?

The Lion King: Thank you for having me! Indeed, for a short time, as the latest version of the movie “The Lion King” was rolling in the cinemas, our species got the a lot of sympathy from people of all ages around the world! However, did you know that in reality, between the release of the first version of “The Lion King” in 1994 until now, so in just 25 years, the number of wild lions reduced in half?

W-R: How is that possible? The movie didn’t share such tragic message…I was not aware!

L.K.: Indeed most people are too busy with their daily routines… And the movie was offering only a distraction to that routine, and bit of entertainment for the young ones, but doesn’t reflect our reality…

W-R: Is the mighty Lion King losing the fight against the Hyenas?

L.K.: Far from that…another human world stereotype! In our world, as opposed to Hollywood’s virtual world, we don’t have good characters and bad characters, we are all part of the same world, lions and hyenas, zebras and other animals and plants, locked in a permanent race for survival, but somehow always in a natural state of balance – the famous cycle of life! Hyenas are only our competitors in the Savannah, but they are doing a great sanitary service to the ecosystem, and they are not the cause of our disappearance! Animals are an easy subject of the media since they cannot protest, they can be inserted into any story as a positive or negative hero. Loss of prey species, loss of habitat, and human encroachment (agriculture, hunting and poaching) have caused our numbers to precipitously decline in the wild! But that has only led to a very concerning fact: in order to satisfy the demand of Western hunters, our kind is now bred and grown to maturity, legally, across Africa, in so called “lion farms” and sold to be killed for sport…not quite a royal death, I would say! Another earlier movie – Mia and the White Lion – has quite well captured this reality!

W-R: But will your fans around the world be able to help your kind?

L.K.: No doubt some of our human fans help a lot, through donations, by raising awareness of our reality or simply visiting national parks, where our kind is usually the main attraction…But we have lost already 94% of our historical range, and this is part of a bigger picture. Human world today looks rather similar with Hyenas world in the movie, where nature’s sustainable balance has been broken, there are no other species around and even the grass stopped growing! The human laws today are above Nature, serving only themselves, especially the top 1%…and another big majority, especially urban population, living in a state of “Hakuna Matata”, where good life is a guarantee and not much responsibility is desired! There is less and less room for wildlife and nature in the human world! Man is born into a world of artificially created institutions which are the only ones he considers to be objective and natural, standing apart from truly natural processes! And the impenetrable barrier only deepens between the realm of nature and culture! In this division nature is passive. It embodies irrationality, instinct and therefore primitivity!

W-R: If there was an All-Mighty Human King, what should he do to reverse the trend in a better direction, for humans, wildlife and Nature together?

L.K.: As said in the movie, the compassion is the main quality of a king, but not only, should be of each person, because change must start with each of you! A world without its biodiversity will be a different world, one of loneliness, one of suffering… even if the latest technology makes lions look very real on the cinema screen, the virtual world is no substitute for the real one! Human societies and leaders should be wiser today, think more long term, drive the change, educate others, do the right things…you have this responsibility, and you need to embrace it, as the dominant species of the Planet! Objective is to overcome the imaginary boundary between wildlife, nature and man, only this will enable a society to view nature as a place where all organisms can live together!

W-R: Is there still hope?

L.K.: There is always hope! But hoping without acting, that is dreaming! Think how you can help, set a number of objectives, learn, make some changes in your lifestyle to make it more nature friendly, influence other where you can and visit wildlife national parks, and spend more time in nature!

W-R: Thank you, Your Highness! Hope our worlds will never set apart, and we will meet again, in the African savanna next time!

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Did you know that…

scientists have tried and so far failed to recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth?

The complexity of Earth’s biosphere is illustrated by man’s inability to construct artificial, closed and self-sustaining ecosystems.  The best known and largest of these experiments was Biosphere 2. From 1991 to 1994, scientists built a 1.6 acre glass dome housing a closed ecosystem acting as a life-support system for its inhabitants. This dome included varied environments such as rain forest, desert zone, swamp, an artificial ocean, agricultural areas, and human habitat.

Eight scientists were hermetically sealed inside the dome for a first 18-month experiment. Apart from rearing domestic animals and plants, they studied ongoing changes in the artificial ecosystems. The aim was to construct a fully self-supporting and regenerating system that did not depend on the input of material or energy other than sunlight. Such systems are a prerequisite for extended space missions, where continuous supply is impossible.

Contrary to the planned use for one century, only two enclosing experiments were actually conducted. The ecological balance in Biosphere 2 became unstable. The problems were caused by small details that had been overlooked. The harvest was lower than predicted and the team faced food shortages. Bacteria introduced with the soil produced nitrogen oxides, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, while lowering the oxygen levels. Cockroach and ant populations increased unchecked, but the bees necessary for pollination died. Both experiments were terminated prematurely. It all goes to show you can’t recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth. More details and lessons learned here.

Therefore, shouldn’t we do more to protect the Earth, the only viable ecosystem we have? Contrary to latest discussions, we won’t colonize Mars or other planet pretty soon, far from it. And even if we would, majority of people will still be bound to Earth, where even more inhospitable places are far more human survival friendly than other planets known to-date.

My take, in contradiction to Stephen Hawking’s advise*, I would say: Always look down at your feet before looking up! You’d avoid falling off a cliff before you learn how to fly!

*Stephen Hawking quote: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”

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Bears of South Kamchatka Sanctuary – part 2

We are back in Russia, where unfortunately massive wildfires are ongoing in several regions of Siberia, at a scale never seen before, covering million of hectares of pristine forest, sparked by unusually dry weather conditions. The coverage though gets so little attention in other parts of the world, where is business as usual, with everyone out for vacations in major cities, failing to grasp the meaning of this and other climate change effects, for all of us, regardless the location…Climate change can wait, vacations not!

In Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula however bears are just preparing for another feast, in anticipation for the yearly salmon run, which as of early July, didn’t yet start! Visibly skinnier after the long winter season, the bears still put safety before hunger, when a large boar makes his appearance on this beach, that is enough to send some even adult bears up in a tree (as heavy bulk is not an issue in early summer days)! Besides, this is an excellent spot for watching both neighbors and coming salmons!

Enjoy some of the great photos taken in July 2019 at Kuril Lake, South Kamchatka Sanctuary!

The Caucasian leopard

Leopards are usually associated with exotic places like African Savannah, but in reality, this master of survival, was once common in Eurasia as well.

Today, one of the subspecies, namely the Persian or Caucasian leopard (depends on the area where can be spotted, from Northern Iran to Russia Dagestan’s mountains), is fighting for its survival. According to Wikipiedia, as of 2008, of the estimated 871–1,290 mature leopards:

  • 550–850 live in Iran, which is the leopard’s stronghold in Southwest Asia
  • about 200–300 survive in Afghanistan, where their status is poorly known;
  • about 78–90 live in Turkmenistan;
  • fewer than 10–13 survive in Armenia;
  • fewer than 10–13 survive in Azerbaijan;
  • fewer than 10 survive in the Russian North Caucasus;
  • fewer than 5 survive in Turkey;
  • fewer than 5 survive in Georgia;
  • about 3–4 survive in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Some of these countries, together with WWF, have joined forces to make a priority the survival of this magnificent wild species! You can read more on Wilderness-Society blog or WWF Armenia website on the related monitoring, educating and conservation initiatives and the progress made and the beautiful pictures captured in the wild! During our trip to Georgia and Armenia we did enjoy beautiful nature and wonderful people as well as ancient history and culture, but we did not spot the leopard. We do share with you some of our pictures taken and hope for the best outcome from the Caucasian Leopard survival projects!

Chernobyl’s accidental Wildlife Sanctuary

According to Yuval Noah Harari‘s latest book “21 lessons for 21st century“, there are 3 main risks that humanity is facing today: nuclear, climate change and technology disruption.

The first one, the nuclear risk, is recently reclaiming people’s attention with “Chernobyl“, a recent HBO production, that tells the story of the 1986 nuclear accident in former Soviet Union, one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, and the sacrifices made to save Europe from a greater unimaginable disaster.

But what is less known is that in 1988, two years after the Chernobyl disaster, a closed nature reserve, Palieski State Radioecological Reserve, was established in Belarus to isolate the most affected territory of the country. While the area will remains inappropriate for human habitation for hundreds more years, wildlife has since flourished there. The reserve hosts many rare and endangered species, which thrive here thanks to the mere absence of humans. A complete ecosystem, the reserve is now home to large predators as Brown Bears, Wolves (allegedly 7 times the number of wolves outside the  the reserve) or Lynx, as well as herbivores like Elk, Moose and prospering herds of European Bison and Wild Horses (Przewalski’s horses – released in the Zone after the accident), and rare birds as Greater Spotted Eagle and Eagle Owl and White-tailed Eagle.

More than 30 years later, the area is the nearest that Europe has to a wilderness and gives key lessons on how wildlife doesn’t need us, and how nature can recover from worst man-made disasters to its primeval state, if only allowed to do that!

Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe