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ABOUT ME

 

Hello and welcome to my site devoted to the naturalist Nick Baker  

I have been a fan of Nick since February 2000 when I happen to switch on to an episode of the Really Wild Show series being shown on BBC1 one cold and wet afternoon.  I had only been watching for a few minutes before I was absolutely captured by his style of presenting and can even remember the exact moment that I was hooked. It was when he watched a giant turtle laying her eggs (very poignant TV). Even though I am huge fan of wildlife programmes, his style of presenting was so refreshing from the normal natural history format. 

In his other series, especially the Quests, we follow Nick on his search for weird and wonderful creatures. Seeing things not always going according to plan just show how unpredictable nature can be and Nick is great at turning these moments into comic relief that you can't help but laugh. A good illustration of this is the Wild Penguin episode when he spent a night on a penguin colony - there were so many hilarious scenes that I defy anyone who doesn't becoming a fan afterwards. Not only does Nick shares his enthusiasm and love of nature he also puts forward the need for conservation and how we can all play a part in protecting animals both at home and abroad.

I have even been lucky enough to meet Nick on a few occasions and so you know he is just as (if not more) nice, charming and funny  in person as he comes through on screen. In fact, I can't tell you how great it was to finally meet him after sharing his adventures on TV.

My website started out as a simple web page in October 2000 - since then the site has expanded considerably and has undergone a few makeovers. Being a non technical person getting to grips with HTML is definitely a challenge! It's taken me awhile to get this far but it's been worth it and I especially enjoy reading the feedback I receive from people around the world. I'm not the type of girl who does this sort of thing so this is really strange behaviour for me and I'm still not sure what ignited my interest back in 2000 (hmm).

That's enough about me (for the time being anyway J), I hope you enjoy visiting my site and please feel free to contact me with any comments you have about my site, your stories or info about Nick that you would like to share.

Keep it wild!

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During the late summer of 2001, I went on my first Earthwatch conservation project and what a truly amazing experience it was. Earthwatch is an international environmental research charity which offers everyone the chance to get involved in some of the most exciting conservation projects around the world. This was the first time I have ever done this type of voluntary work - I have been on conventional wildlife holidays before and absolutely loved it but was always frustrated because I wanted to get more involved rather than just observe. I had chosen to join a 2 week expedition as part of a group to protect the Amazonian tortoises. Here, I want to share with you some of the experiences that I 'd journal as saw it through with the same passion as my companions...

I'd arrived at Palmas airport in central Brazil on Sunday 2nd September.   There was eight people on the team and we knew nothing about each other. Adriana Malvasio greeted us at the airport and introduced us to one another - we were of mixed ages, nationalities and backgrounds. Adriana is a respected zoologist from Tocantins University and had studied the reproductive patterns of the Amazon Tortoise and the Tracaja totoise on Banamal Island since 1997.

We traveled to Araguaia National Park and Adriana explained that our research project is to protect two species of soft water tortoises which are under threat from hunters, deforestation and river pollution. Our base during the two weeks was on the banks of Rio Javaes - at over 300km, this is the largest river island in the world and as became evident a place of extraordinary biodiversity. 

After five hours in the minibus we arrived at Porto Cangacu. The river was close by and we were to complete the final leg of our journey in a motorboat. We zoomed down the peaceful water of the Rio Javaes, zigzagging between the sand banks. The fatigue of the bus and the plane and the strains of urban life gave way to nature and the jungle!

An hour later we arrived at our camp. Before embarking, Alfeo, the warden of Araguaia National Park, warned us to be careful of the beautiful stingrays camouflaged by the sand for they were poisonous and can inflict a painful sting. What with the piranhas, the stingrays and the caimans, swimming in the river is absolutely not on the agenda.

Our group gathered round a refreshing 'feijoada' - the national dish of meat, rice and black beans, listening to Mariluce set out the programme for the next day when a noisy, hoarse cough echoed from the other side of the river. "Um onca," said one of the guides - while those of us who were less accustomed to the jungle shuddered - Mariluce translated, "a lot of jaguars live round here. Although they tend to be afraid of humans, it's best not to go into the forest alone". With this in mind, we each hurried back to our tents and hammocks for the night, sung to sleep by the tone-deaf croaking of the frogs.

We awoke at dawn to a bright day and already swarms of mosquitoes flew up and the cicadas began to stir. I was in a team with Adriana and three others. After a 10 minute boat ride, we got off at Praia Comprida. During the dry season, the low water makes way for huge beaches of sand where the tortoises come to lay eggs at night. Our study area spread along four beaches below the camp. It was explained to us that to find the nests all we had to do was to follow the tortoise tracks out of the water. The tortoise footprint is approximately 50cm long and the wet mark their feet, shell and tail make on the sand, made the tracks fairly easy to recognise. Following its random wandering to the egg laying location was a rather more delicate operation, the Amazonian tortoise can potter several hundred metres before settling down to bury her offsprings. Nose to the ground like a sniffer dog, there I was tracking my first tortoise.

Success! We spotted the white of our first egg shells from 40cms underground. Then the real work began. The eggs were taken out one by one from the hole where they had been laid, being careful not to change their orientation as even the smallest rotation could have damaged the development of the embryo. Once I had cleaned off the last of the sand, I laid them out in a line. The eggs were carefully measured - their length and width with a calliper and weighed to the nearest gram - Adriana made a note of the facts aloud. This was a balanced unit performing real teamwork!

Gently handling a hundred or so eggs in the blazing sun (it was over 35 degrees in the shade and about 80% humidity), with the buzzing sandflies and other stinging insects lurking, hardly constituted a holiday rest and at times I did find the conditions hard going. So it was with a certain amount of relief that the last egg was measured and put back in its protective coating. The other team came to join us armed with a bucket of sand. Mariluce explained that if the laying takes place too close to the shore or not deep enough we were to move the eggs to Cangucu beach to be shaded from the birds and the rising waters. 

Once we were settled in the boat, we heard a hissing sound coming from the middle of the Rio. Our guide said "Um tonina". Even in this shallow water, there were soft water dolphins in the Amazon rivers and their noise soon became familiar to us, just like the unnerving closeness of the shoals of caimans basking on the riverbanks.

With the merciless sun beating down, it wasn't until mid afternoon did we head off for the Cocos beach. In teams of two, we climbed the bank looking for new tracks. We quickly found a couple but the dozen of little green and white numbered labels suggested that we are not the first team to find them. In one month more than two hundred nests had already been identified and studied. The info we were gathering will be studied by biology students at the university.

Despite the routine movements, the team's morale was high. Night had fallen some time ago but there was still plenty of life in the camp. We were off to the beach next to Cangucu. Our aim was to catch the tortoises while they were laying the eggs and bring them back to take blood samples and measurements. I was with a Brazilian veterinary student this time and found myself climbing a steep bank in the dark with strange noises all around me. I slipped down a bit - just in time to see a caiman disappearing in the dark waters. 

Some shouting on the beach caught our attention - pushing with all her strength on her huge feet, a great big tortoise raced towards the river (I can't believe a tortoise can go as fast as that!). The whole group surrounded the 40 kilo, 80cm tortoise but the initial excitement soon gave way to worry and indeed bitterness. I found it hard to convince myself that this was really for its own good - catching a wild animal is a pretty unpleasant job. By this time it was 3am. We crawled into our tents exhausted after a further two captures.

As the days went on, we got into a routine. Every morning and afternoon, we found and measured eggs on the four study beaches. At night we'd set off in search of tortoises. We carried all this out faster and with more confidence and the info gathered made quick progress. My skin went brown in the sun but I failed to get used to the insect bites. We all  did their own thing in the midday sun and I tried my hand at fishing for piranhas (which were released) with Alfeo.

Each of us came here for personal reasons but we all shared the same desire to do something good for nature. With the rainy season came our departure. In the minibus back to Palmas there was a feeling that the adventure had come to an end. Adriana told us that at the beginning of the year several hundreds of thousands of hectares of "cerrado" will be flooded by an enormous tidal wave. The Tocantins, where we were, is a true "Far West" where nature conservation is completely overshadowed by economic development. This poses a real threat to the rivers' natural water levels and our tortoises too. I was thinking over these sad thoughts when we arrived in Palmas. It was 14th September and we learnt on the radio, three days after everyone else about the horrendous disaster that hit New York.

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Created October 2000 !