Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Giant Otters and the Virtue of Fertility

Diane McTurk and giant otter

ADF defines “fertility as the bounty of mind, body, and spirits, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, an appreciation of the physical, sensual, and nurturing.”

“Fertility”, today seems to only apply to the reproduction of humans. Various pundits discuss the “birth dearth”. In other circles, fertility has become a “bad” word because of overpopulation. But fertility encompasses more than the reproduction of humans. Fertile imaginations give us great stories and art. Scientific breakthroughs are another form of fertility. People imagine what could be, and then invent it.

One example of this virtue is the Karanambu Trust, which works to keep giant otters in the wild. (Giant otters are the top keystone species of South American river systems.) When Diane McTurk was in her fifties, she started rescuing giant otters on her ranch (Karanambu) in Guyana. Her appreciation of the otters lead to her nurturing and teaching them important otter skills.

Then, Ms. McTurk employed her neighbors to play with the animals. (Play is important to giant otter development.) She also reached out to the local villages not to kill otters, but to bring them to her. Her efforts encouraged people to come to see the otters and visit the surrounding areas. The local villagers benefited from providing services for the visitors. By preserving an untouched part of the rainforest, Diane McTurk promoted ecotourism for a poor country.

Diane McTurk saw the sensual aspects of giant otters at play, mating, and rearing their young. She enjoyed watching them pet each other. By being a part of the natural world herself, she nurtured the giant otters to reclaim theirs. Through her work, Ms. McTurk has kept one of the most fertile parts of the earth alive.

Commentary on her work by the Zoological Society of San Diego:

Karanambu Ranch and Trust:

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