Hello and welcome to my site devoted to the naturalist
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
Keep it wild!
* * *
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...
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.