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Do something useful..

I am at a loss. Apparently Indonesia has the fastest deforestation rate in the world. Half of Sumatra’s forests were destroyed in just 20 years.

The relentless destruction of Sumatra’s rainforests has pushed the Sumatran orangutan to the edge of extinction. With only around 14,600 remaining in the wild, the species is classified as Critically Endangered – and we have to raise funds and have publicity to let the Humans responsible know? 


The Sumatran orangutan relies on forests, but the forests of Sumatra are under immense and mounting threat. They are being torn down for farmlands, logging, mining and roads. International demand for products such as Palm oil and timber, combined with weak forest governance and short-sighted land-use policies are driving deforestation at such an alarming rate its unbelievable.

While you sit at home, or are out enjoying your daily life, the world is collapsing around you. I would suggest doing something Useful, to make a difference…   Take some ACTION I would say from the heart, …  or maybe you don’t. I am not the one, or don’t want to be the one who says what you should do. Listen to yourself and act on your own behalf..


MORE Trees Please

Saving Forests

The solution

Inspired by Nature





National Geographic

Watch Here

Ebay seller disgrace

Near threatened bat species available on eBay

The selling of killed vertebrate animals on Ebay continues to escalate seemingly without care – Did you know that thousands of amazing animals are being captured and killed especially to be sold in this way?

It turns out that in many places, such as in Malaysia and Indonesia, there has been an ever growing trade in capturing live rainforest bats and other animals ‘en masse’ for killing and selling online.

Literally thousands of these amazing flying mammals are being taken from their natural habitats, including National Parks, to be sold world-wide for one reason or another. Some of the ways they are treated and killed after being collected really is atrocious. The bats are not pests, but play an extremely important role in the future of rainforests: Bats are crucial to them for many reasons

Near threatened frog, killed, and on eBay

Some species being killed are selected especially to be sold internationally – framed or stapled-up in plastic bags and sold on the internet to buyers who really just don’t care how they got there. I emailed some sellers to say they should be ashamed of themselves for making money this way as they know full well that the bat species in question were being collected and killed especially. Some refer to an ‘Ethical link that doesn’t exist or is absolute rubbish’  and on one occasion I actually got a reply back saying: ‘you are right, I am sorry‘ but then they continued to list the specimens for sale. The mentality of these people, and their lack of conscience, is beyond words.

This ‘trade’, fuelled by selling wild collected animals on eBay, also reflects very badly on countries where these people are living. There are several in the US and the UK, some even listing newly killed tropical frogs which are also ‘prepared by their own entomologists‘. These sellers include the freshly killed and mounted treefrogs in picture frames, some species categorised as being Near threatened with extinction.

Please help by contacting those responsible to voice your views and raise awareness about this vile trade to help stop wild creatures being collected and killed simply to be sold online. Please share your views on Facebook, twitter, and in any way you can:

Buy an especially killed ‘Near Threatened’ frog from an eBay seller here?

Support the capture and killing of beautiful fire bats here?

Buy an especially killed rainforest bat from this UK eBay seller?

Buy a ‘Near threatened’ bat species from a USA eBay seller which was collected alive from the wild in February 2019 and killed just so you could buy it for $11?

Buy Data Deficient (status unknown) bats by bulk direct from Indonesia here (Condition: New)?

Staying Sustainable


Sunset at Macaw Lodge © Matthew O’Donnell

Sustainability is a major focus and key strategy of the University of Manchester and Manchester Museum, and promoting sustainable values to our students and visitors is a vital role of both institutions. What better way to do that than to take our field course students to the wonderful Macaw Lodge in Carrara. This tranquil eco retreat has been our base for the first week of our trip to Costa Rica.

Owned by the knowledgable and passionate Pablo Gordienko since the 1980’s this once open pasture land has been transformed into a vibrant botanical gardens and 100 hectares rainforest reserve, nurtured and preserved for over 35 years. This hard work of Pablo and his dedicated colleagues has paid dividends, with a huge abundance of flora and fauna all around for visitors to experience.


This giant bug hotel is home to several exciting insect species © Matthew O’Donnell

Completely off the grid, powered by the sun and applying sustainability and conservation to all aspects of their business, it really is a refreshing and thought provoking place: “The mission of Macaw Lodge is to inspire environmental conservation through mindful and sustainable practices. Our mission—a philosophy really—is more than just a statement. It’s something we live and breathe, truly believe in and want to share with you. Macaw Lodge exists as an example that it’s possible to live happily, purposefully and in harmony with nature. We hope to inspire you to pursue your passion, discover your potential and improve your little corner of the world.”


Cocoa: Root to Fruit tour © Matthew O’Donnell

A highlight of our stay was a fantastic sustainability and Cocoa: Root to Fruit tour. We were guided through the plantations and gardens that supply the lodge by Pablo and Lisa. This included tasting and interacting with a huge number of plants, including the iconic cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) from which chocolate is made. This plant has a long and fascinating history stretching back before the Mayans, and has formed an important part of Central and South American culture for thousands of years.

Our tours were completed with a first hand experience of the traditional methods of preparing the Cacao or Kakao drink, sampling the end product that would have been consumed in these lands for generations before sugar and milk turned it into the chocolate we now know. After all this excitement we were also treated to an unboxing of a hive of tiny native Meliponini bees, stingless and quite docile, they produce a fascinating honey, long revered within local communities for its health properties, it is great to see that these ancient traditions are being maintained and promoted in a sustainable manner.

Finally, a big thank you from me, the rest of the staff and all of our students to Pablo, Alejandra, Lisa and all the staff at Macaw Lodge, you made our visit so memorable, and really made us all feel at home. Onwards to La Selva…

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Fabulous finds on the Pacific Coast                                                      Costa del Crocs

Toads and Tapirs


Fantastic variety of epiphytes within the cloud forest © Franziska Elsner-Gearing

I’m currently in Costa Rica teaching on the University of Manchester field course, introducing students to the amazing variety of flora and fauna that the rainforests here have to offer. Whilst here I have also taken the opportunity to conduct some field eDNA sampling, contributing to a collaborative project between Manchester Museum, the University of Salford, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica and several other national and international researchers and institutions.


Moss covered trees lining the track to our destination © Franziska Elsner-Gearing

This exciting technique formed the basis of my master’s degree dissertation project, and it is great to be able to build upon that work to begin applying it towards conservation interventions in the field. Working alongside Juan, Franziska, Lilliana and Vivienne we set off from San Jose, up into the moss covered mountains of the Braulio Carrillo national park, over 2,000 meters above sea level.

This is the home of many rare and elusive species, including the critically endangered Holdridge’s toad (Incilius holdridgei), a species that Juan rediscovered (from presumed extinction) in 2008 and has been monitoring ever since.


Hard at work hunting for new ponds © Liliana Piedra Castro

We were aiming to sample as many ponds as possible throughout the area to possibly identify any additional remaining populations that might have so far evaded detection. What is immediately evident once you are in the habitat is that the ponds are actually what I would describe as puddles, formed amongst tangled tree roots, leaf litter and moss that covers the entire forest floor. They are also rare, as most rainfall is absorbed into the soil/moss or runs off into streams, so this represents a significant problem for this rare species, already threatened by the chytrid fungus which thrives within this high altitude habitat.

Thankfully we did manage to find a number of ponds to sample which we aim to include in a wider project coming later this year. The results of which will hopefully help direct conservation interventions for a number of rare species of frogs and toads that call these mountains home.

Excitingly we also encountered many signs of a much larger but equally secretive species, Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii), Central America’s largest species of mammal!

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Talking Tapirs                                                Reaseheath realised


Wellbeing in Wales


Workshop participants proudly display their creations

Last weekend I was invited to host a terrarium building workshop as part of a three day wellbeing event at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. In addition to the science of environmental conservation, I am personally interested and invested in the intrinsic side of nature and it’s effects on the health and wellbeing. Terrarium building is also at the foundation of the living displays (vivaria) you see in our collection, which have been crafted to suit the natural habitats of their occupants.


Myself and event organizer, Faye Watson

Set in the picturesque Carmarthenshire countryside, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to travel to the botanic gardens and  contribute to such an important and exciting event. Vendors and workshop leaders provided instruction and information advocating health and wellbeing through art and interaction with the natural world over the course of the weekend. My workshop focused on the satisfaction and relaxation promoted by working with plants in a hands-on, stress free environment, with hardy species suitable for every aspiring gardener to professional botanist. I’d like to thank and congratulate the event organizer, and all participating members of staff, on hosting such a successful and well-attended event.


If you’ve often come to marvel at our beautiful living displays and wish you could have something similar at home or office, then I encourage you to try a low maintenance, up-cycled container terrarium for live plants to bring a bit of nature and calm into your everyday space.

National Botanic Gardens of Wales