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Giving conservationists and nature lovers (some) reason to hope for the future

Tony Whitten's picture

It’s high time I write something which doesn’t seem to be the work of a manic-depressive. Many of my blogs have majored on the negatives, but I honestly wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t have within me a deep-rooted hope for the future. As I have remarked before, conservationists are a wonderful band, but put a group of ebullient conservation friends together, and within half an hour the conversation has quieted down, turned grumpy, and you need to watch out in case any of them looks as though they are contemplating jumping from the office balcony or a handy cliff. We don’t celebrate the successes, or even the potential ones, enough. It’s a cliché to say that the war is being lost while battles are being won, but we should at least encourage each other with battle victory parties.

Mongolia's forests burning: are they good or are they bad?

Tony Whitten's picture

Last weekend a small group of us decided to drive the 8 hours or so to the Khonin Nuga (pronounced Honing Nuk) research station, northwest of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. We had a standing invitation to visit the site for years from Professor Michael Mühlenberg of Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany, and Professor R. Samiya of National University, Ulaanbaatar – who together run the station. The route took us through the town of Zuun Kharaa, the vodka-producing capital of Mongolia, and off towards the dark-green forested mountains of the western Khentii.  We saw Mongolia’s largest bird, the Black Vulture, and also the respected and graceful Demoiselle Cranes picking up grasshoppers among the wind-blown solid waste around the town. We were going to spend the night in the research station, discuss with Prof. Mühlenberg the possibility of using the site as a training center within the forest landscapes project we are preparing, and find time to explore the taiga forest and steppe by horse. And then we were going to do the bumpy ride home again.

Instead, we found ourselves facing a major forest fire. (Continue reading after the jump)

Shifting wildlife baselines: For the sake of the future, listen to your grandparents

Tony Whitten's picture
"I was swimming in the river near Godmanchester and I got the fright of my life when a large triangular dorsal fin broke the surface of the water just in front of me. It was so close I could have touched it."

Indonesia: The giant cuckoos, enormous gingers, and pretty leeches of Halmahera

Tony Whitten's picture

Judith Schleicher and I have just left the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera, which was the subject of my first blog post a year ago. We were there on the second supervision mission – something which must sound pretty dull. In fact it was a real pleasure to meet with friends in the project team again, to see how well they are doing, and pretty exciting to have two days and two nights in the forests of the northern block of the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park to see – despite the rain – some of the biodiversity and human impacts in the area. P.T. Weda Bay Nickel kindly allowed us to use their helicopter to get into the forest, landing at the junction of three abandoned logging roads within the northern (Lolobata) section of the national park.

Burung Indonesia is doing a fine job of executing this project and has already developed solid relationships with government, civil society and private entities to form a strong and informed constituency of concern for the protection of this new national park.

(After the jump: More about Halmahera Island’s wildlife – including birds, trees and leeches – and photos.)