Who is the Inked Naturalist: Tattoos meets Conservation
The Inked Naturalist is me of course; but here is a bit of background on how Tristan Reid became ‘The Inked Naturalist’!
Last May saw me visiting Turkey with a group of friends. The main purpose of the trip was birding; we travelled through Southern & Central Turkey and saw loads of fantastic birds! You can view our full trip report >HERE<!
Suffice to say, we had an epic trip! There were three things that stood out to me about Turkey, these were:
- Incredible biodiversity
- Beautiful scenery
- Amazing people
There was no doubt that I had fallen in love with Turkey; hook, line & sinker!
Once back in the UK, I was chatting to my good friend and Talking-naturally partner Charlie Moores. I was telling him about the amazing time I’d had in Turkey and the fantastic range of wildlife I had seen. He then informed me of the massive development plans ongoing there. Here is a brief summary:
The Turkish government have sold all of the countries waterways to private corporations. There are 1,738 Hydro Electric Power Plants (HePP’s) being built and an additional 2,000 dams either planned or currently being constructed. Charlie puts this very succinctly ‘In fact just 10% of the water in the entire river system will be left in the ground and virtually no sediments will reach flood-plains or the sea. You don’t have to be a qualified ecologist to understand that emptying, diverting, or building on the very water systems that hydrate the biodiversity of Turkey will leave very little room for natural ecosystems to function’
Here are the hard facts:
- The fact that at least 185 out of 305 Key Biodiversity Areas are threatened from dams and HEPP’s and will effectively be destroyed;
- that the Turkish Government has responded to almost one hundred lawsuits by changing the law to eliminate any legal obstacles against HEPP and dam projects;
- that the power plants are being built by overseas multinationals (the same companys that have devastated Bolivian biodiversity);
- that hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of smallholders are being forced off their land and into already crowded cities as the water supplies they and their families have used for millennia are disappearing;
- that the ‘drying up’ of Turkey will undoubtedly effect biodiversity throughout a far larger area than just Turkey…
- 30% of the global population of the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis (which has a global population of just several hundred pairs – please go to Talking Naturally for more information )
- 25% of the European breeding population of the Endangered White-headed Duck
- more than 10% of the global population of the Endangered Egyptian Vulture (a species which now only really survives in large numbers on Yemen’s Socotra Island)
- more than 30% of the global population of European Rollers
- more than 70% of the global population of the near Turkish endemic and Near Threatened Krueper’s Nuthatch (the species shown in the painting at the head of this post, which is by Joseph Wolf and is in the public domain)
- and more than 90% of the global population of the Cinereous Bunting
Turkey has five endemic mammals (mountains here still apparently hold the Anatolian or Asia Minor Leopard Panthera pardus tulliana), has 52 endemic freshwater fish, 13 endemic reptiles, one third of Turkish plant species (30,6 %) are endemic to Turkey and the nearby Aegean Islands (which include perhaps 50 endemic (of 175 in total) orchid species, many of which are already threatened).
One thing that stood out to me when trying to absorb all these harsh facts, was the misconception that hydro electric power is ‘green energy’. Ignoring the obvious carbon expulsion caused by making the concrete for the structures; these structures permanently scar the landscape and diversion of waterways can only have long term detrimental effect on the surrounding biodiversity.
[The Birdlife International partner in Turkey Doğa Derneği have recently formed the international conservation movement Damocracy, striving to debunk the myth of dams as clean energy. While large dam projects worldwide are promoted as sources ofrenewable energy, in reality they cause irreversible damage to nature, people and cultures around the world.]
Having learnt this very sad situation I knew that I had to do something to both raise awareness and to raise funds to support Doğa Derneği in their fight to protect wildlife and people in their holistic region.
So what could I do? It had to be something that would grab peoples attention! This challenge sparked something in the depths of my imagination! Tattoos, it had to be tattoos! I always perceive art as being organic, like nature there are really no boundaries. Taking this concept a step forward, tattoos are pieces of art that are intrinsically organic. What is more organic than artwork on a living surface!
So the idea was there, all I had to do was act. So I did! I set up a fundraising page (http://www.justgiving.com/givingmyrightarm) and started promoting what I was doing and why I was doing it. I decided to have at least ten species of iconic Turkish Birds tattooed onto both my arms. The next stage was finding a tattoo artist who was capable of doing a good good job! Thanks to the local BBC I was introduced to the mighty Immortal Art Studio whilst they were doing a piece on on my project for the news. The owners Richard Batey and Rob Richardson made me feel instantly welcome, I could see that they had the skills and they showed to be very supportive of my project.
Almost a year on I have only three birds left to be tattooed and I have raised £3,000 to support the work of Doğa Derneği. Perhaps more importantly, a lot more people are aware of the conservation issues facing Turkey.
So this is how I became ‘The Inked Naturalist’! I will continue fighting the fight and supporting Doğa Derneği in all their work. There is a long road ahead to stop the development of the destructive HePP’s & Dams. There are also a few more tattoos to be had yet!
I will also be writing a book about my journey and how I became ’The Inked Naturalist’…………..just need to find a good publisher!