Is it time to reconsider a legal global trade in tiger, elephant and rhino products? That was the subject of this year’s Earthwatch Debate held on 17th October at London’s Royal Geographical Society.
An emotive subject ensured a full auditorium, with international onlookers invited to contribute via webinar. Martha Kearney, BBC broadcaster and journalist, expertly chaired the event as compelling arguments were put forward on both sides…
Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, dismissed any plan to combat the poaching crisis with legalised trade. “Legalising the trade of rhino horn and elephant ivory would not stop poaching and illegal trading, and would instead increase the demand for endangered animal products,” she said. Suggestions to introduce a regulated international market were simply “academic postulating” – and in practice, would make it much harder to detect and prosecute illegal trading. By contrast, South African born research fellow, Dr. Duan Biggs said that his home has turned into a war zone between poachers and conservationists, with rhino numbers still in decline. “Anti-poaching efforts in Kruger now involve the national army and the police…the current strategy of persisting with the trade ban on rhino horn is clearly failing.”
When put to a final vote, those against considering legal trade ‘won’ – and I agree. I have been fortunate to see a single black rhino in the wilds of the Masai Mara – but was saddened by the need for armed guards protecting it’s every move. The species had been pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching for horn, and remains critically endangered. I fear that any trade allowance would only increase the traffic in black-market animal products. But what do you think? – learn more by listening to the debate in full or read a summary of the event on the Earthwatch website.
I’ve always liked the edge. As a kid I would often be called back from exploring some crumbling ridge to take a peek over the other side. So it should be no surprise that I fell in love with Santorini, a Greek island born of mythology and rich in geology. Legend tells of a land gifted to the Argonauts by sea god Triton. The first settlers called this place Kallisti, ‘the most beautiful one’. It developed as a sophisticated outpost of Minoan civilisation until 1600 BC, when one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions tore the island apart. A tsunami raced and raged across the sea…perhaps claiming Plato’s ancient Atlantis beneath the waves?
The draw of modern-day Santorini is in no doubt. This is the Greece of a 1,000 picture-perfect postcards. A volcanic jewel in the Aegean Sea crowned by whitewashed villages. One such village is Oia, home to blue domed churches and traditional Greek windmills converted into unique holiday accommodations. Located at the Northern tip of the island, Oia is famous for it’s sunsets and it’s where I stayed for my Santorini photo shoot. Traditional cave houses appear as bites in the caldera cliff and hotels cling to the rim, competing for ever-superior sea views. Nameless streets and numerous steps link the viewpoint of Oia’s old fort down to the shores of Amoudi Bay. This tiny fishing port offers fresh seafood…and the chance to swim in the flooded caldera of a resting volcano.
Santorini is a ring of crater islands through which Mediterranean cruise ships sail. The main island is Thira and it’s capital town of Fira is where boatloads of tourists first set foot – helped from ship to shops by a cable car or donkey ride. From this cliff top tourist town it is possible to walk all the way back to Oia. A coastal path rewards hikers with stunning sea vistas, passing whitewashed villas and the roof top rowing boat of Homeric Poems Hotel in Firostefani.
From Firostefani, with it’s caldera view of volcanic Nea Kameni island, I continued on to the medieval Skaros Rock, site of a long lost castle fortress. Within a stones throw of this rocky headland is the luxurious Hotel White in Imerovigli. Infinity pools and hammocks aside, it was enough to admire that same million dollar view from the path, stood in trusty trail worn sandals! Itchy Feet didn’t make it straight back to Oia that night, distracted instead by fine food at the Blue Note Restaurant…where a chilled glass of wine and the Santorini sun sank together.
For such a small island, Santorini holds many charms. Travel inland from the balcony-clad coast and you will find a slower, less material way of life. Journey past vineyards to the hillside village of Pyrgos. This fortified settlement of churches and mansions has panoramic, coast to coast views overlooking the grape-growing landscape. Or step through the arched entrance of Emporio Castle into a miniature maze of twisting tunnels and narrow alleys that hide a tumble of medieval dwellings built tightly together to protect from pirates.
Santorini often features in the top 10 lists of travel destinations, best island holidays and romantic escapes. Plan a visit, and find out why!
See more pictures of Oia village and Santorini sunsets over at Itchyfeetphotography.com.
It was a pleasure to meet and photograph two world-class scientists last week, at an Earthwatch lecture exploring the theme Why Emotion Matters in Conservation Science.
Earthwatch scientist Dr. Anastasia Steffen highlighted her work studying the landscape and historical use of the Valles Caldera in New Mexico. Her co-speaker Dr. Wallace ‘J’ Nichols, a marine biologist, is leading the emerging scientific field of ‘neuroconservation’.
J is investigating how natural environments could be essential for our well-being, helping reduce stress – a factor that can lead to disease, and encouraging creativity. He noted that every well-executed marketing brand uses neuroscience to create an emotional hook. Music, magic and meditation are just some of areas which have exploited neuroscience – so perhaps it’s time conservationists did the same, he said. To hear the lecture in full visit earthwatch.org.
Taken at 8pm, the rays of a setting sun set the spring blossom of my favourite bluebell wood alight. As the days grow slowly longer, the Woodland Trust is preparing a campaign to encourage people to visit woods – and have selected my sunset shot for an upcoming advertisement. Check out the flora and fauna gallery at Itchy Feet Photography for more bluebell pictures.
‘Lonesome George’, the iconic giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands has died. Estimated to be over 100 years old, George was the last of the Pinta Island tortoise, subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdoni. I visited his captive home, the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz island in 2007. Alone in his bathing pool, George looked a sad sight but the efforts of staff at the centre are to be commended. It cannot be easy, tasked with protecting the wildlife of these iconic islands.
The Pinta Island tortoise – and a conservation icon – is now extinct. Sadly, many more endemic/threatened/rare species of the Galapagos are in danger of being lost forever. To discover more, visit the Galapagos Conservation Trust website.
Left to Right: Prof. Yadvinder Malhi, Dr. Dan Bebber and Kate Humble
Climate Change and Forests
Every year Earthwatch hosts a series of free lectures at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Their most recent event brought 3 eminent climate change scientists together to discuss the findings of a 5yr programme between HSBC, Earthwatch, the Climate Group, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF to inspire action by individuals, businesses and governments on climate change.
Visit the Earthwatch website to find out more, including audio of the 3 speakers and the introduction given by TV presenter, Kate Humble.
A few miles up the coast from Liverpool is Another Place – an art installation by Antony Gormley consisting of 100 life-size statues facing out to sea. These iron men face a daily battle against wind and sea, succumbing to each incoming tide.
In the artists words: “Another Place harnesses the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man’s relationship with nature. The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth’s substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.”
I wanted to express this idea of movement with some long exposure photography. To achieve this I used a neutral density filter that blocks out light and forces the shutter to remain open for longer. Combined with a remote release, the above image was taken with an exposure of 7 seconds – smoothing out the incoming waves and giving the water a glassy appearance.
See more images of the Antony Gormley sculptures at Itchy Feet Photography.
|Canon 5D Mark II
Manfrotto 441 Carbon Fibre Tripod
Hahnel GigaT Pro II Wireless Remote Control
Hoya ND400 Neutral Density Filter
ND Exposure Chart
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