Alabama map turtle, Eco-tourism, Ethiopia, forests, Maria Fire, protecting rain forests, rescue animals, trees, Uncategorized

News from The Treetalker

Sorry, haven’t posted much in a while.

I check out the headlines of the NY Times every day, and have made note of a few recent articles, of which I will give a brief rendition, over the next few days. Here’s the first 3:

The Church Forests of Ethiopia, by Jeremy Seifert, Dec. 3 2019

From an interview and video by Dr. Alemayehu Wassie, Forest Ecologist, working with priests and communities since 1992 to save Ethiopia’s rapidly shrinking church forests.

“In Ethiopian Orthodox teaching, a church–to be a church–should be enveloped by a forest. It should resemble the garden of Eden.

A hundred years ago the highland was one big continuous forest. That big continuous forest has been eaten up by agriculture. It is the church who has protected these forests and only their patronage has safeguarded them from destruction.

Over the past century, nearly all of Ethiopia’s native forests have been cleared to make way for farming and cattle grazing.

“Every plant contains the power of God, the treasure of God, the blessing of God. The church is within the forest; the forest is inside the church. In ecology culture the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The mystery is to think beyond what we see. Everything is important and interlinked. So if you really care, we have to respect trees, the role of trees, and we have to learn to live with forests.  We can bring back the landscape given that these church forests exist. That’s my hope, that’s my vision. ” 

ram, post rescue
Owl rescued from ashes of Maria Fire by firefighters on patrol
Gretchen Wenner, Ventura County Star, Nov. 3, 2019

A Ventura County Fire Department hand crew was patrolling the fire line of the Maria Fire, which burned thousands of acres between Santa Paula, Saticoy and Somis during a Santa Ana wind event.  The crew was in a eucalyptus grove looking for “hazard” trees: burnt-out trees that can fall and kill firefighters and civilians, when they saw a Great horned owl hopping around in the ashes. One crew member, firefighter Caleb Amico, approached the owl, who was docile, wrapping it in his flame-resistant jacket.

Firefighters brought the owl to Nicky Thole at the nonprofit Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation, Des Forges said. The bird’s wings were fine and no bones were broken.

“She thinks the bird inhaled smoke and became dazed and confused,” he said. The owl is expected to make a full recovery and will be released back into its territory when conditions are safe.

The fire crew named their feathered find before handing it off: Ram. A ram is the crew’s mascot and Amico and the other crew members are big fans of the Los Angeles Rams football team, Des Forges said.

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

Looking to Scientists to Expand Eco-Tourism Efforts,
By Abby Ellin, Nov. 13, 2019

Hotels, lodges and resorts are bringing in scientists to conduct serious academic inquiries while also offering nature tours, workshops and classes for guests. Two years ago, the Mashpi Lodge, a luxury hotel in Ecuador, opened a research lab just steps from its main lodge.

Carmen Soto, a research scientist with a master’s degree in ecology and natural resources, collaborates with José Koechlin, the founder and chief executive of Inkaterra Hotels in Peru. He offered Ms. Soto a full-time job to help him with a pest problem at the Lodge.

Within a year, Ms. Soto was the resident biologist and orchid specialist at that hotel and at Inkaterra Asociación, the company’s nonprofit organization. Since then, she and her team of nearly a dozen workers have helped identify 372 orchid species, 22 of which are new. While continuing to identify new species of birds, butterflies and flora in the cloud forest, she also organizes specialized excursions for guests and educational workshops for area schoolchildren. Today, Mashpi has 12 biologists on staff, and seven studies have been published about the frogs, flowers, butterflies and birds found there.

Eco-tourism has been a part of the travel industry for some time now, but some other companies have begun hiring scientists to conduct serious academic inquiry while also offering nature tours, workshops and classes for guests. Hotel owners and managers say their ecological efforts trump any financial hits they may take.

As Daydream Island Resort’s “Living Reef Manager,” Mr. Johhny Gaskell is one of six full-time resident marine biologists. He is responsible for the resort’s reef restoration program and protecting the creatures of the Living Reef, one of Australia’s largest man-made living coral reef lagoons. He also runs the Reef After Dark program, when he’ll jump into the ocean at night and live-stream his findings onto a giant screen for guests.

Eleanor Butler, the resident biologist at Soneva Jani resort, in the Maldives, is inviting guests to help resore the coral reefs surrounding the resort, which were being destroyed by the high temperatures of the 2016 El Niño event.

She believes she’s able to reach more people, about climate change and the importance of reefs, than if she were working in academia.

ALSO, an excerpt from Volume Three of Secret Voices from the Forest:

The Alabama Map Turtle, a companion of the Longleaf Yellow Pine


Commonly known as the “Sawback” turtle, because of a black, knobbed ridge on its back, the Alabama map turtle can be seen basking on brush piles, tree branches or trunks along river banks.
Researchers have recently discovered a turtle’s organs do not gradually break down or become less efficient over time, unlike most other animals. It was found that the liver, lungs, and kidneys of a 100-year-old turtle are virtually indistinguishable from those of a juvenile.
The inner layer of a turtle’s shell is made up of about sixty bones that include portions of the backbone and the ribs, meaning the turtle cannot crawl out of its shell. In most turtles, the outer layer of the shell is covered by horny scales called scutes that are part of its outer skin.
Turtles once had a complete set of teeth, like most other animals, but now all turtle species have beaks. Generally, once an organism stops producing teeth, the genes specific to teeth start to mutate and become non-functional, but in turtles, most of these tooth-specific enamel genes are still present and in reasonable shape despite turtles having lost their teeth well before birds even evolved, about 150-200 million years ago. This indicates that turtles have a really slow mutation rate.
The first primitive ancestors of turtles are believed to have existed about 220 million years ago. Their shell is thought to have evolved from bony extensions of their backbones and broad ribs that expanded and grew together to form a complete shell that offered protection at every stage of its evolution, even when the bony component of the shell was not complete. A genetic analysis suggests that turtles are a sister group to birds and crocodiles, the separation of the three estimated to have occurred around 255 million years ago.
The Alabama map turtle lives only in the Mobile Bay drainage basin, inhabiting flowing waters in areas of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. Because of its limited range, it is variously—according to state—listed as “rare,” “protected,” “near-threatened” or “a species of special concern,” because of habitat destruction and fragmentation, caused primarily by development, and by collection for the pet trade. Although sale of under-4-inch turtles is highly restricted by the FDA, and illegal in many states, dealers discovered a loophole in the regulation that allows for the sale of small turtles for educational purposes.

And, don’t forget that all 3 volumes of my book series, Secret Voices from the Forest, Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees, are on sale on Amazon!

Vol. 3 - The East copy    cover     cover-SV2