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Will the bird that dodged a bullet pay the price of peace?

"Armed conflict is good for preventing deforestation."


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.

English zoologist Louis Fraser, encountering this turkey-sized bird in 1850, named it Crax alberti, after Queen Victoria's "illustrious consort, His Royal Highness Prince Albert." It lives only in Colombia's mountainous rain forests.

Less than 200 years later, between 150 and 700 Curassows remain. And this, Shanahan tells us, is where things get crazy.

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."

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 "Gods, Wasps and Stranglers," a fascinating read about how figs have shaped our world, influence cultures and can help restore our forests.

His story of the Curassow is another good, but bitter, tale.

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