Finding Sanctuary

Gavenus, Erika | September 22, 2016 | Leave a Comment

A review of Sanctuary: Global Oases of Innocence –a Dancing Star Foundation book by Michael Charles Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison, with a Foreword by the Queen of Bhutan, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck


Sanctuary arrived at my door in early August, providing a welcome break from a summer dominated by stories of hate, violence, and intolerance. Opening the book, I immediately found solace among the familiar scenes of Alaska’s coastal glaciers that beautifully illustrate the first chapter. I willfully dove in, submerging myself in the stories of inspiring efforts driven by care for the natural world.

For a week, I started my morning by eagerly re-opening to the next chapter and entering one of these slivers of sanctuary; the authors’ captivating photographs, writings, ecological knowledge and appreciation for the natural wonders that surround us temporarily transporting me to places both near and far.

Female Arabian Oryx, Born Ten Minutes Before, Al Areen, Bahrain, © M.C. Tobias
Female Arabian Oryx, Born Ten Minutes Before, Al Areen, Bahrain, © M.C. Tobias

 
I explored the novel in The Birth of an Oryx: Al Areen Wildlife Sanctuary, the Kingdom of Bahrain and knowingly appreciated the familiar in A Little Bird in the Largest Protected Area on Earth: Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Caudiciforms [bottle trees] (Adenium obesum socotranum), Socotra, Yemen, © M. C. Tobias
Caudiciforms [bottle trees] (Adenium obesum socotranum), Socotra, Yemen, © M. C. Tobias

 
In the stories of places I have been fortunate to visit, I found myself learning about their natural history, reminiscing on the feelings inspired by my time there, longing to return, and thanking the people whose energy went into fighting for their existence. Places new to me brought amazement of the curious wonders, like the bottle trees of Socotra, Yemen, that exist in this world and the people who tirelessly work for their protection.

Rookeries at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, California, © M.C. Tobias
Rookeries at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, California, © M.C. Tobias

 
It was with reluctance that I turned from the book back to the reality of my day, but I did so with renewed awe in the world and hope in our capacity to care for it.

Wild Burros in the Protected Highlands of Socotra, Yemen, © M.C. Tobias
Wild Burros in the Protected Highlands of Socotra, Yemen, © M.C. Tobias

 
Conservation leaders often debate the effectiveness of the myriad approaches and methods practiced to promote a flourishing world. Research and theories abound for how to ‘best’ protect natural wonders –discord even exists on how to define ‘best’. In the midst of this debate Sanctuary refreshingly presents various methods side-by-side: border-crossing protected lands, farm animal sanctuaries, park boundary communities, and city gardens. Sanctuary does not prescribe one course of action, rather it shares the broad range of ways the caring nature of people manifests into action to protect this incredible world we inhabit.

Brokpa Children, Eastern Bhutan, © M.C. Tobias
Brokpa Children, Eastern Bhutan, © M.C. Tobias

 
Whether trying to re-wild the Netherlands with European brown bears, to protect Namibian wild dog packs on a private reserve, to save orangutan cultures in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, vast stretches of pristine neotropics in Suriname, abandoned animals of all biological persuasion in a most unlikely paradise in Salzburg, to celebrate the more than 30 million people who come for solace in New York’s Central Park each year, the incredibly important last remaining relic Pleistocene forests of Białowieża in Poland and Belarus, or indigenous peoples and their ecosystems in eastern Bhutan and southern India, the book’s moral compass is premised on the unsurpassed truth that dedicated people of conviction can make all the difference in the world.

Ms. Tashi Payden at a Dog Sanctuary in Western Bhutan, © J.G. Morrison
Ms. Tashi Payden at a Dog Sanctuary in Western Bhutan, © J.G. Morrison

 
The sanctuary movement has shown us that each project has a critical role to play; each individual can make a huge difference. The legacy we leave the Earth should celebrate kindness and compassion… Every living being is inherently valuable by dint of the miracle of its life.

Despite being published in 2008, this book and its messages remain as relevant today as they were then –if not more so. The stories featured by Michael and Jane are far from finished:

Wild Wisent, Białowieża National Park, Poland, © M.C. Tobias
Wild Wisent, Białowieża National Park, Poland, © M.C. Tobias

 
The Ancient Białowieża Forest located along the Polish-Belarussian border, described by the authors as, “…one of the sanctuaries in the world for both the living and the dead; a place that both scientifically and emotionally recognizes the interdependency of these two facets of biology,” faces major destruction. Refuge for the iconic European bison and resting place for many Polish people killed during WWII, the forest holds tremendous ecological and cultural importance. Yet, in March of this year the Polish Minister of the Environment passed an updated Forest Management Plan that includes a significant increase in logging and removal of the tree snags that shape the forest’s unique groundcover.

In Sanctuary we are introduced to Professor Tomasz Wesołowski with the Biological Sciences Department of Wrocław University, and the tireless work he was doing to protect woodpeckers and other birds that use tree cavities for nesting. This work continues, as he has joined other scientists and concerned citizens to fight against this forest management plan and advocate for protection of the whole Białowieża Forest.

Young Orangutan at Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, © J.G.Morrison
Young Orangutan at Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, © J.G.Morrison

 
In Borneo’s Tajung Puting National Park, illegal logging and mining along with slash and burn agricultural practices continue to threaten the orangutans who rely on the park’s forests. And Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas continues to work determinedly for their protection as the president of Orangutan Foundation International. Expanding palm oil plantations constrict the primary forest habitats of orangutans, and fires due to slash and burn practices pose a daunting threat to the park’s critical peat swamp forests. In addition to OFI’s forest protection program, Indonesia’s Friends of the National Park have multiple habitat restoration projects underway. Both groups are passionately defending orangutans from the many environmental challenges facing Borneo.

Gallus gallus and Human Friend at a New Zealand Sanctuary, © J.G. Morrison
Gallus gallus and Human Friend at a New Zealand Sanctuary, © J.G. Morrison

 
These evolving stories provide a blueprint for action, across borders, definitions, and modalities for protecting life on earth. As the human presence on Earth continues to grow and apply ever increasing pressure on the creatures we should be sharing it with, new inspiring actions are taking root. The successes shared in Sanctuary push them to stay true to two critical realities: that individuals can make a difference, and teams working to save other life forms are essential in a world where conservation teamwork is everything.

Despite the human turmoil in this world and its inordinate power over the rest of the Creation, we are hopeful, even optimistic, knowing that such special people are out there. They are working assiduously to safeguard these incredible oases with all their denizens, and by collective aspiration must ultimately succeed at restoring ecological balance and refurbishing this sanctuary, our one earth. Our home.

I urge you to open yourself to Sanctuary –read it, look through it, enjoy it, allow it to transport you to incredible places and be reminded of the wonder this world holds. Also be reminded of the goodness we possess and how powerful it can be if translated into action.

Wild Iberian Wolf Friend, Grupo Lobo, Portugal, © M.C. Tobias
Wild Iberian Wolf Friend, Grupo Lobo, Portugal, © M.C. Tobias

 
You can learn more about the book here.


Select images from Sanctuary shared by the authors M.C. Tobias and J.G. Morrison

Click images for larger versions

Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas and Friend, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, © J.G. Morrison
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas and Friend, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, © J.G. Morrison
Tomasz Wesołowski Working in Białowieża National Park, Poland © M.C. Tobias

Tomasz Wesołowski Working in Białowieża National Park, Poland © M.C. Tobias
Wild Burros in the Protected Highlands of Socotra, Yemen, © M.C. Tobias

Wild Burros in the Protected Highlands of Socotra, Yemen, © M.C. Tobias
Female Arabian Oryx, Born Ten Minutes Before, Al Areen, Bahrain, © M.C. Tobias

Female Arabian Oryx, Born Ten Minutes Before, Al Areen, Bahrain, © M.C. Tobias
Victoria Crowned Pigeon, New Guinea, © M.C. Tobias

Victoria Crowned Pigeon, New Guinea, © M.C. Tobias
In the All Vegetarian City of Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, © J.G. Morrison

In the All Vegetarian City of Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, © J.G. Morrison
Central Park, 5:30 am, Manhattan, New York, © M.C.Tobias

Central Park, 5:30 am, Manhattan, New York, © M.C. Tobias
European Brown Bears at Alertis Sanctuary, The Netherlands, © M.C. Tobias

European Brown Bears at Alertis Sanctuary, The Netherlands, © M.C. Tobias
Conversing Bovine at a U.S. Sanctuary © J.G. Morrison

Conversing Bovine at a U.S. Sanctuary © J.G. Morrison
Gallus gallus and Human Friend at a New Zealand Sanctuary, © J.G. Morrison

Gallus gallus and Human Friend at a New Zealand Sanctuary, © J.G. Morrison
Brokpa Children, Eastern Bhutan, © M.C. Tobias

Brokpa Children, Eastern Bhutan, © M.C. Tobias
Ms. Tashi Payden at a Dog Sanctuary in Western Bhutan, © J.G. Morrison

Ms. Tashi Payden at a Dog Sanctuary in Western Bhutan, © J.G. Morrison
Adult Cheetah at a Southern African Wildlife Sanctuary, © M.C. Tobias

Adult Cheetah at a Southern African Wildlife Sanctuary, © M.C. Tobias
White Rhino Family on Private Sanctuary, South Africa, © M.C. Tobias

White Rhino Family on Private Sanctuary, South Africa, © M.C. Tobias
Caudiciforms [bottle trees] (Adenium obesum socotranum), Socotra, Yemen, © M.C. Tobias

Caudiciforms [bottle trees] (Adenium obesum socotranum), Socotra, Yemen, © M.C. Tobias
Her Majesty, Queen of the Fourth King of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, © J.G. Morrison

Her Majesty, Queen of the Fourth King of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, © J.G. Morrison
Rookeries at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, California, © M.C. Tobias

Rookeries at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, California, © M.C. Tobias
Wild Wisent, Białowieża National Park, Poland, © M.C. Tobias

Wild Wisent, Białowieża National Park, Poland, © M.C. Tobias
Moss Garden in Kyoto, Japan © J.G. Morrison

Moss Garden in Kyoto, Japan © J.G. Morrison
Dr. Russell Mittermeier atop the 245 meter high Volksberg, Central Suriname Nature Reserve, © M.C. Tobias
Dr. Russell Mittermeier atop the 245 meter high Volksberg, Central Suriname Nature Reserve, © M.C. Tobias
Michael Aufhauser and Friends at Gut Aiderbichl Sanctuary, Salzburg, Austria, © Michael Aufhauser and Gut Aiderbichl
Michael Aufhauser and Friends at Gut Aiderbichl Sanctuary, Salzburg, Austria, © Michael Aufhauser and Gut Aiderbichl
Wild Horses on UNESCO Protected Site, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile, © M.C. Tobias

Wild Horses on UNESCO Protected Site, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile, © M.C. Tobias
Young Orangutan at Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, © J.G. Morrison

Young Orangutan at Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, © J.G. Morrison
Amid the Largest Protected Pack of African Wild Dogs at Harnas Sanctuary, Namibia, © M.C. Tobias

Amid the Largest Protected Pack of African Wild Dogs at Harnas Sanctuary, Namibia, © M.C. Tobias
Silent Valley National Park, Tamil Nadu, India, © M.C. Tobias

Silent Valley National Park, Tamil Nadu, India, © M.C. Tobias
Wild Iberian Wolf Friend, Grupo Lobo, Portugal, © M.C. Tobias

Wild Iberian Wolf Friend, Grupo Lobo, Portugal, © M.C. Tobias
Mount St. Elias, Alaska, © M.C. Tobias

Mount St. Elias, Alaska, © M.C. Tobias
Marieta van der Merwe and Friend, Harnas Sanctuary, Namibia, © M.C.Tobias

Marieta van der Merwe and Friend, Harnas Sanctuary, Namibia, © M.C.Tobias

 

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