Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Sunday, December 22, 2002  

Trinidad features in the latest issue of National Geographic Explorer, though not in a light one would have hoped: the piping-guan bird, or pawi as it's commonly known and the only bird endemic to this island, is the subject of the December "Wildlife as Canon Sees it" ad, the latest in the famed series that highlights endangered animal species across the globe.

Before I go any further, a bit of history. As a child I, like many other children, had a passion for animals. Unlike most children, however, I had a particular fascination with rare species - the rarer the better. Not that I had some perverse desire to see all species of animal become extinct. It was that for some reason I felt an affinity for those creatures that existed in ever-dwindling numbers. I imagined them, practically the last of their species, alone, solemnly soldiering on, against the rest of a world that had pushed them to the brink and didn't know them at all. They reminded me of me, also (as I saw myeslf) alone, misunderstood, battling the world and totally (here it comes, Bina) solipsistic.

And so, every month when the National Geographic arrived (both my primary and secondary schools had subscriptions) and I got my grubby hands on it, I'd turn automatically to the back cover or back inside cover, where the "Wildlife as Canon Sees it" ads almost invariably ran. I'd stare with fascination at that month's animal, captured in vivid Canon colour - the brilliant seven-coloured tanager of Bahia, the imposing white Javanese rhino, the elusive Arabian oryx. Then I'd stare with equal wonder at the little map that accompanied the ad, with the land masses in orange, the ocean in blue and the habitat range of the animal in question in a little strip or blob of white.

That was when I was a child. Now I am an adult, and the fact that there are, according to the Canon ad's stats, only an estimated 70-200 pawi left in Trinidad, and therefore in the world, is no longer exciting, no longer elicits a thrill, but another feeling entirely.

posted by Jonathan | 6:02 AM 0 comments


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