04 November 2017
"Armed conflict is good for preventing deforestation."
<p>The Blue-billed Curassow is a secretive bird that skulks in dark corners of moist forests, foraging for insects and fallen fruit, Mike Shanahan writes.</p><p>English zoologist Louis Fraser, encountering this turkey-sized bird in 1850, named it <em>Crax alberti</em>, after Queen Victoria's "illustrious consort, His Royal Highness Prince Albert." It lives only in Colombia's mountainous rain forests. </p><p>Less than 200 years later, between 150 and 700 Curassows remain. And this, Shanahan tells us, is where things get crazy. </p><p>Because while Colombia's 52-year civil war with the guerrilla movement FARC killed some 270,000 and displaced 7 million more, that violence "also protected large portions of the natural wealth that will be key to Colombia's future."</p><p>Shanahan is a ecologist by training (with a doctorate from the University of Leeds) who has spent years working in environmental justice and science. In 2016 he published "<a href="https://underthebanyan.wordpress.com/my-book/" target="_blank">Gods, Wasps and Stranglers</a>," a fascinating read about how figs have shaped our world, influence cultures and can help restore our forests. </p><p>His story of the Curassow is another good, but bitter, tale.</p>
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