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Archive for June, 2009

Coming Home: First to Jakarta

OFI buying forest from happy local man

OFI buying forest from happy local man

Mr. Freddy, a local businessperson from the province of Kalimantan Tengah, flew to Jakarta so that he could immediately receive the funds for 20 ha. of forest that he agreed to sell OFI.  Otherwise, the forest would have been cleared for palm oil and lost forever to a relic population of about 50 – 100 wild orangutans just barely hanging on by the skin of their teeth in a mixed area of peatswamp forest, dry ground forest and cleared land near Pangkalan Bun.

This forest will be ours in perpetuity.  Twenty hectares (approximately 50 acres) may not seem like much but for the birds and mammals who live there, it will be like a universe saved!

Mr. Freddy charged the same price for the forest that he ws planning to charge a palm oil concession but he admits that he feels better about being able to save the forest!

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Coming Home: Indonesia

I flew back to Indonesia on Singapore Airlines, middle seat, economy.  The journey took over 30 hours as I had to briefly overnight in Singapore (in by 2 am; out by 6 am).  Singapore Airlines must have the most comfortable seats on an international flight since I was able to fall asleep despite being shoehorned by a 6 foot five engineer from Texas on one side and a young sleeping Japanese man on the other.  As the latter slept, he leaned over to my shoulder and a thick shock of black hair went into my face.  Woken abruptly, I reeled.  For a second, I thought his black hair was a huge tarantula coming at me!

The excitement on the plane was provided by an East Indian woman who passed out in the aisle.  The Air Singapore stewards brought out the oxygen and called repeatedly for a doctor.  After ten minutes, one appeared – a Chinese-looking man in a yellow polo shirt.  (Obviously he had not paid attention to the fashion advice that people with his skin tones should not wear yellow! Since I have the same skin tones myself, I know.  I avoid yellow like the plague.)  I anxiously tried to see what was happening but she was in the aisle just on the other side of me and I couldn’t get high enough (without conspicuously standing on my seat) to see.  The stewards were very busy.  One took off his jacket as though he really meant business.  There must have been half a dozen airline staff  leaning over her.  The doctor soon left and after about an hour, she finally got up and returned to sit in her seat.  I heard buzzing about low blood pressure.  She was a Tamil woman in a sari who seemed all right for the rest of the journey.  She looked younger than me.  When you reach my age and younger people pass out on planes, you start to worry that it could easily happen to you.  However, I was impressed by the competence of the Singapore Airlines staff.

Eventually I arrived in Jakarta and went straight to our small spartan OFI office where I promptly went to sleep.  Upon waking, I read the Indonesian daily newspapers to catch up on the news.  What is in the news and what the media emphasize says much about the culture of a nation and its people.  So I try to peruse the newspapers wherever I am.  What is fascinating is that much of what is of great interest and concern in Indonesia is totally unknown in North America.

The largest number of letters to the editor in the Jakarta newspapers did not deal with the on-going presidential election, corruption trials of prominent politicians, or economic issues.  Rather pages were filled with indignant rants about the fact that the current Miss Indonesia allegedly does not speak Indonesian.  Her brother, the Indonesian actor Yusuf Iman, defended his sister by saying she was home-schooled in English and didn’t go out very much so she can’t practice her Indonesian.

Her selection was probably influenced by the fact that last year’s Miss Indonesia spoke English so badly she called Indonesia “a city.”

As far as I am concerned, I don’t think any beauty queen is chosen primarily for her intellectural or linguistic achievements so the flap about the current Miss Indonesia is really irrelevant.  In any case, she promised to brush up on her Indonesian language skills for the Miss World contest.  She probably speaks some Indonesian  (being Indonesian!) but froze at the beauty contest when asked questions.

Other news that filled the newspapers was the case of an ordinary housewife who had expressed a complaint via e-mail to her friends about the treatment she had received at a local hospital.  She was arrested for defamation.  It was claimed that she had tarnished the reputation of the hospital and one doctor who had treated her.  She was kept in jail for three weeks, unable to receive visitors, and cut from contact with her two infant children, one of whom she was still breast-feeding.

Prita’s nightmare came to an end after presidential candidate and former president, Mrs. Megawati, visited Prita in jail and an outpouring of outrage from the public forced the government to release her.  However, the charges against her were not cancelled.   She will still have to go to court and defend herself, despite the fact that the e-mails she sent were private missives to her friends.

In Indonesia the freedom to express an opinion is guaranteed under the constitution.  People are very concerned that this case will gag public opinion and people will now be afraid to send private e-mails criticizing anything to their friends.  Welcome to Indonesia – and the rest of the world – where what you say, even in a private e-mail, may have repurcussions once it hits the internet and is recycled for public distribution.

 Malaysia-bashing was also prominent in the newspapers.  Malaysia is a neighbor that shares the northern third of Borneo with Indonesia and extends into continental Asia north of Singapore.  What is interesting is that there is currently relatively little Singapore bashing in Indonesia.

The front pages of newspapers were filled with a photo of an Indonesian maid in a Jakarta hospital.  The maid was allegedly tortured by her Malaysian employer before being rescued.  The maid was photographed receiving a sympathy phone call from the president of Indonesia himself. 

Many Indonesians were also upset by the incursion of the Malaysian Navy into Indonesian territorial waters off Ambalat, somewhere near East Borneo.  Members of the Betawi Brotherhood Forum and other Moslem youth groups demonstrated in the hundreds in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta and declared that they were ready to wage war against Malaysia.  Letters to the editor suggested that Indonesia would win such a war because Indonesia had more war experience than Malaysia, despite the fact that the Malaysian army is better equipped.

However, some in Indonesia were not convinced because the Indonesian military has been hit by numerous disasters, despite the fact that they currently are not fighting a war.  In the last three months over a hundred  personnel have died when  two military planes and two helicopters crashed. As usual, these accidents sparked heated debates about the reasons for their occurence.  The army blamed bad weather.  Others blamed lack of funds for maintenance.  Letters to the editor asked how could Indonesia fight a war if military aircraft keep crashing and weapons and equipment are outdated.  In reality, it is highly unlikely that any war will be fought between Indonesia and Malaysia, neighbors who share much in common and fellow members of ASEAN (Association of East Asian Nations), the most important grouping in the region.

Possibly the best Malaysian scandal that tittilated the Indonesian public  and upstaged the Ambalat row with Malaysia involved a 17 year old Indonesian model who claimed that during her one year marriage to a member of Malaysian royalty, the prince of Kelantan state, she was slashed with razor blades, injected with strange substances,  burned with a cigar, and locked in closets.  The model escaped from the prince but was abducted after a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.  While her mother went public with her daughter’s story, Manohara herself escaped from her husband in Singapore. Represented by Indonesian celebrity lawyer Hotman Paris(no, I am not making this up!) who is known for his flashy Italian sportscars, the teen model sued the prince in an Indonesian court while he counter-sued in a Malaysian court.

Manohara’s story is slightly reminiscent of the Lady Diana – Prince Charles saga where an innocent young girl doesn’t really understand what she’s getting into when she marries into royalty (Obviously, the details are very different; it is probably preposterous to think of Prince Charles  with a burning cigar locking people up in closets!).  Manohora was tricked into marriage. The Prince of Kelatan invited the sixteen year old Manohara to dinner where she was told his family had already sent out the wedding invitations.  In typical Indonesian graciousness, she did not want to embarrass his family so she married him. She had seen him before since she was fourteen but always with a group of friends.

The prince apparently was alternatively abusive and “extremely sweet and gentlemanly,” a pattern typical of  many abusive spouses.  Most of the time, apart from the abusive interludes, Manohara and the prince allegedly “only met up for dinner”during their marriage.  Manohara is very pretty with plump cheeks and a sweet look that is a vision of childlike innocence.  She speaks about setting up the equivalent of “Boys and Girls Clubs” in Jakarta where children have a place to go to after school.  Manohara and the abused Indonesian maid represent, in some way, Indonesia’s frustration that the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population is not given the respect that many feel it deserves.

Manohara showed some class.  She cited someone who had once said “Forgiving is freeing yourself”  about her attitude to her husband even after the horrific abuse she allegedly suffered.

Let us hope we can all show the same type of class after terrible things are done us.

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Coming Home: Los Angeles

Coming back from the Canary Islands took three planes, two airlines, and twenty hours.

It is great to be back in L.A.  If you live in an established neighborhood and have a car, then Los Angeles is probably the most convenient city in the world.  In fact, where my family lives, you don’t even need a car with restaurants, supermarkets (including a 24-hour one), shops, the library, a church, parks all within walking distance.

After all the discussions at the Animal Rights conference in the Canary Islands about human cruelty to animals and climate change, it was a little bleak to come back to California and see that so much controversy centered around Prop. 8 which denies people the right to marry.

My former husband, Rod, was the straightest man you could ever imagine.  When (male) Indonesian officials stroked him or placed their hands on his knee, Rod simply was not used to it.  He did not particularly welcome those kinds of gestures of friendship.

When we first arrived in Kalimantan, Rod and I were very much in love.  I remember one day in Camp Leakey when I noticed Rod staring at me very intently.  I asked him what he was thinking.  He gave me one of the biggest compliments that anyone has ever given me in my entire life.  He said,”I am so glad that you were born a woman because if you had been born a man, I would have had no choice but to become gay.”

I think that summarizes it.  The heart wants what it wants. Let’s not worry too much about whom other people want to marry. 

Let us worry about the real things that matter on this earth: our treatment of animals, overpopulation, and the crisis of climate change.

Al Gore recently made the point that if the United States and every other deveoped country in the world reduced its carbon dioxide emissions to zero but if there was no change in the developing world, then “the crisis will still overtake us.” 

 Twenty per cent of the carbon emissions into the atmosphere come, not from industrial processes, but from the simple burning and destruction of the world’s forests, particularly in developing countries.

We need to save forests in developing countries in order to mitigate climate change,  as well as to save biodiversity.  When I return to Indonesia, much of OFI’s and my work involves trying to save forests.

Harbor Building on Wilshire Blvd. where OFI office was located until the end of 2008

Harbor Building on Wilshire Blvd. where OFI office was located until the end of 2008

                                                                 Harbor Building in Los Angeles

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Canary Islands: A Perfect Day

Northern coast of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Northern coast of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

It is always doubly delicious when you meet a delightful stranger somewhere distant and then discover that he or she is actually from your home town.  It happened to me in the Canary Islands.  At lunch the day of my lecture I had started talking to Luis Salazar, a distinguished film maker, who was in the process of making a film in Spain.  It turned out he was from Los Angeles and had attended Cal State Northridge (from which my son Fred had recently graduated) and UCLA (my own alma mater).  One of his films was about the sad re-location of some 200 Navajo families from land claimed by the Hopi tribe.  We started talking and he invited me to join him and his Spanish veterinarian wife and absolutely adorable 3-year old daughter, Sophie, the next day on a trip to the north coast of the island (Gran Canaria) to see the museum which exhibits the  aboriginal painted cave found in the nineteenth century.  This cave has a series of painted triangles and geometric forms that were probably used by the aboriginal people for calender calculations, very important for horticultural people without writing.

We visited the museum on a guided tour.  The videos were outstanding and the government had done an excellent job in preserving the very large site which included not only the painted cave but also a village with house floors as well as four re-constructed huts.  As Luis said:  all one needed was an internet connection and one could live very well in one of these furniture-less huts with platforms for beds.

Unfortunately, one couldn’t take photographs in the museum but it was terrific: very well done and modern.  The conquest of the Canary Islands was presented as was a sympathetic view of the conquered people themselves.  Very few of the aborigines escaped the slavery and slaughter but the few who did rapidly became Spaniards – just to survive as individuals.  There were also many courageous warriors who, in the hundreds, jumped off cliffs to avoid being taken as slaves.

Luis muttered, almost under his breath, when I emerged from the museum wiping a tear from my eyes, “It’s just the same old story from all over the world.”  It was as if to say “And why are you still surprised?”

I was pleased by the sympathy and respect shown to the now long-gone people of the Canary Islands in this museum.  I think, like many people, the Spanish can now look back at their past from five hundred years ago and admit the terrible wrong that they once inflicted on the Canary Islands.  ( Armenians, I hope you don’t have to wait another five hundred years for the apology due you.  No, obviously not from the Spaniards!)

We drove to the coast and ate lunch near one of the beaches where the co-owner of the restaurant came out to serve us.  When I looked at her out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly realized, to my surprise, that she must be of Chinese heritage.  She was.  Her two young daughters, sitting nearby,  were as cute as cute could be and played with Sophie in the gentle manner of  (some) girls.

The meal was delicious and we drove off, looking for some forest or foliage to relieve us of  all the dry brown and bare rock that we had seen.  We found some  wooded slopes, got out of the car, and walked for about an hour.   The delightful Sophie picked some  flowers and handed them to her father.  As he bent over to receive them, it became one of those one in a million moments you treasure forever.

Luis, who is of Mexican heritage (not all that surprising for a native Angeleno) and his Basque wife, were very gracious hosts, pulling out fresh avocadoes,  tomatoes, and crustless bread, making sandwiches for us while I sat with Sophie in the back seat of the car.  Sophie had a jar of olives which she was eating like candy.  She offered me some and I took about a dozen.   She didn’t even pull back the jar but continued holding it with great equanimity.  Many other toddlers would have protested the big stranger taking a dozen of  their candy equivalent. She continued eating and finished off the jar.  She must have eaten 40 olives! They start early with the olives in Spain and it probably helps keep them healthy for a long time!

Luis and his family drove me back to my hotel shortly before dusk.  It was my last full day in the Canary Islands.  It had been a perfect day with wonderful new friends, a blue sky, beautiful beaches, a slight breeze, great food, and the green foliage of Gran Canaria’s mountain slopes.

And what will I remember most about the Canary Islands?  The terrible tragedy of the distant past?  NO!  One must remember the past but one can’t live there.  Of course, I will remember the friendship and warmth of the people I met in the Canary Islands, especially the animal activists who had dedicated their lives and labors to helping animals!

But, ironically, it is the avacadoes and especially the tomatoes that I will remember best.  (Probably because I tasted them!)  The avocadoes have insinuated themselves into Canary Island cuisine and are served everywhere.  And the tomatoes!  The tomatoes are grown on the islands in greenhouses and plucked when ripe.  They are probably the best tomatoes I have eaten since I did archaeology in the former Yugoslavia over forty years ago!

My one regret is that I don’t even have a picture of a Canary Island tomato!

Northern coast, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Northern coast, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Sun-bathers on a beach on the northern coast of Gran Canaria

Sun-bathers on a beach on the northern coast of Gran Canaria

Town on the north coast of Gran Canaria with bright-eyed dog in front of doorway

Town on the north coast of Gran Canaria with bright-eyed dog in front of doorway

Buildings on a green hill in the north of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Buildings on a green hill in the north of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Luis Salazar and family with Birute at the end of a perfect day in the Canary Islands

Luis Salazar and family with Birute at the end of a perfect day in the Canary Islands

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Behind the beauty of the Canary Islands is a terrible sorrowI could not insert this photo into my original post on the Canary Islands.  My computer and the internet fought me.  After two hours I gave up.   But I wanted people to see what Roger and Deborah Fouts and I saw our first full day on this beautiful island. Whether it is animals or people being brutalized, it is the same.  We need to change some aspect of humankind so that tragedies of extinction , like that which took place so long ago in the Canary Islands, do not occur.

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The  jet lag was so brutal my second day in the Canary Islands that I woke up at 12:30 pm.  I had drunk a cup of coffee the night before.  Big mistake!  I couldn’t  fall sleep until 7:30 am and when I forced myself to wake up, I felt like a zombie.  But I went straight to work.  I had a digital question and answer session over the internet which lasted over an hour.  A few of the questions were unique.  Somebody asked me if orangutans  make good pets!  Some of the session would be published the next day in the local newspaper. 

Shortly afterwards, I was interviewed on local television.  The big news concerning great apes that day in the Canaries was that a pet chimpanzee had been confiscated from a woman’s apartment.  Thus, for the five minutes of the TV interview I was subjected to questions about chimpanzees.  “No, it is a bad idea to keep a chimpanzee as a pet.  They are very strong and they might not particularly care for captivity.  Would you?” was my main message.  “If you want a pet, get a dog or a cat!”

Lunch was a seemingly never ending series of  vegetarian dishes.  We must have tasted at least twelve, most of which were quite delicious; a few, however, I must admit, were not to my taste.  On my left sat a scientist who had been studying Mediterranean tuna for the last seven years.  He did not hold out much hope for the tuna. Part of the problem was “pee-rate” fishing boats, “rate” rhymning with “fate.”  It took me about a minute to figure out he meant “pirate” fishing boats which left their country of origin and then returned bearing flags of convenience such as those of Panama or Senegal.  They were just Spanish ships but now, with their new flags, they did not register their catches or report to anyone in Europe.  The scientist suspected that the tuna catch in the Mediterranean was twice or even three times that reported.  Further, due to climate change, fish were heading north, leaving warmer waters behind.  Mackeral were now for the first time seen in waters near Iceland, something that had never been previously recorded. I asked the scientist about the presence of tuna in the Baltic Sea now that the world’s oceans were growing warmer, a question that seemingly startled him.  They had never been known in the Baltic Sea, he told me.  Even the concept seemed surprising to him.

The animal activist to the right of me related how the existence of bull-fighting was maintained not by Spanish tradition but by the massive profits pulled in by major players in the industry.  Many Spaniards were opposed to bull fights.  However, the people who bred the bulls, raised them, fed them, and the people who organized the fights, etc. fought the banning of bull fights tooth and nail  because of all the profits that they would lose.

Lunch lasted two hours.  It was a pleasant interlude.  Afterwards,  it was time to review my slides.  After I had done so, I slipped into the auditorium and listened to the speaker just ahead of me. Luis Luque Polo was a tall, older gentleman with a deep voice that resonated across the auditorium.  He was very eloquent, almost poetic. He had been fighting for animal rights since he was 15 and he had already been retired for a few years. It was the government pension that allowed him to continue his fight.  He spoke about the “migratory” pigeons (clearly passenger pigeons)  that had gone extinct and the bison that almost did as well.  “Defense of animals meant defense of humans,” especially given processes such as climate change, thundered Luis, and I agreed with him.  I cited him at least four times in my speech which might have accounted for the fact that, after my talk, he rushed up to me, kissed me on both cheeks, and heartily spoke in Spanish.  It was exciting to listen to him but I didn’t understand a word he said. Rarely have I had such an enthusiastic reaction to one of my talks!  Clearly, there was something about my speech he liked.  I just didn’t know if it was the numerous references to himself and his eloquence.

The audience was so silent during my talk (no coughing or whispering) that it encouraged me to exceed my time limit.  Normally when that happens, the question or answer period is either cut or totally eliminated.  Not in Spain!  People were very formal and polite, first congratulating me on my work before they asked their questions.

After my talk I was presented with five coffee table books, lavishly illustrated, about the Canary Islands, books that must have weighed 20 pounds.  I tried to figure out how I would fit them all into my carry on luggage which is all that I had brought with me.  At least, these books gave me a reason to learn Spanish.

By the time I returned to my hotel it was past 11 pm.  The hotel restaurant had just closed.  I was rescued by Frederico, the head of the Jane Goodall Institute in Spain, a most pleasant genteel man who had been a volunteer for Jane for a long time, and his friend who was an illustrator.  We went to a local restaurant two blocks away.  “All locals!” Frederico commented as we went inside.  Indeed, there were several uniformed police officers sitting at the bar.  Although it was half an hour before midnight, the restaurant was bustling and  noisey.  The food was excellent, a tuna salad (hopefully, not with a Mediterranean tuna), an absolutely delicious chicken garlic soup, a tasty legume dish, and some fried potatoes which I gobbled up like the proverbial hot cakes.  We left an hour later.  I was told the restaurant, still full, would stay open at least another two hours.  The tip must have been good as the waiter insisted on shaking our hands as we left.   Frederico said that it was just the normal courtesy and friendliness of Canary Islanders.

I like the Canary Islands and the laid back spirit that even the Spanish find mellow.  We are less than a hundred miles from the African coast but  at least several hundred miles from Spain. I like this tropical version of Europe.

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Canary Islands: Day One

I arrived in the Canary Islands at one a.m. and went straight to sleep.  I couldn’t get up until twelve hours later at one p.m.  I was so groggy that I could barely make my way out of the hotel room.  I was so jet-lagged and nauseous that I would have willingly confessed to any past misdeeds:  mistreating my potted plants, misleading my students about the importance of the Hittite Empire, etc.  with only the slightest  bit of threat or encouragement. 

After I staggered up into the hotel restaurant three floors up for lunch, I encountered Roger and Deborah Fouts, prominent great ape activists and scientists who had spent many years working with Washoe, the original signing chimpanzee.  They claimed great suffering from  jet lag but, ironically, both looked as fresh and well-scrubbed as daisies.  Yesterday after arriving in Las Palmas, they had walked several hours in the city and seen the sights.  They recommended a nearby museum with exhibits on the extinct aborigines of the Canary Islands.  It took Roger and me about thirty seconds into the conversation to start sharing our outrage at this great extinction.  Roger told me about his surprise when he walked into a large room at the museum and found it filled with hundreds of skulls and some skeletons of these extinct people, the Guanches.

After much water, lunch, and sharing of outrage, I felt better and walked around the city.  It was tropical and charming with some cobblestone streets, colorful old buildings, and a profusion of palm trees.  (After all, it was named “Las Palmas” for a reason).  Although the ocean wasn’t quite the deep blue of Fiji or the brilliant turquoise of  Hawaii, it was much bluer than the blue-grey Pacific off the coast of Santa Monica or Malibu in southern California. 

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the weather was perfect with a slight breeze blowing from the ocean.  It was not surprising that over half a million tourists, mainly from Europe, come every year to this relatively small island of Gran Canaria, the third largest in the archipelago.

After briefly visiting Columbus House, I found the musuem Roger had mentioned.  Despite the fact I was forewarned, I was still surprised by the skull room.  Hundreds of skulls were neatly lined up in rows on shelves that spanned the entire length of the long room. 

The museum also had much information about the aboriginal people, the Guanches, who first arrived in the Canary Islands about four thousand years ago and are believed to have been related to the Berbers of North Africa.   These aboriginal people lived in caves and round stone buildings, used stone tools and were skilled in the making of pottery.  They decorated their pottery with simple geometric motifs and buffed it to a perfect sheen with small stones.  They did not use metals nor did they have a known written language. 

They practised a Neolithic lifestyle.  They grew grains, herded goats and kept sheep and pigs.  Their clothes were simple, from the skin of sheep and goats.  The local people of the island of Gran Canaria (where Las Palmas is located) also made beautifully woven knee-length skirts or kilts from palm leaves and reeds.  They  decorated their faces with removable tattoos in bright colors of geometric patterns similar to what they put on their pottery.  They were tall, athletic, and European-looking.  Some were blonde with blue eyes.  They practised serial monogomy although on one small island a woman could have up to three husbands at the same time.  The husbands rotated in terms of sleeping with their wife.  (Clearly, a superior people!)

At the museum I bought the two English language books available on the aborigines and the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands.  Since I read them both the same night, it didn’t do my profound jet-lag any good.  However, I discovered, among the tragedy and sorrow of the conquest, a happy fact.  Some Guanches did survive!  Their culture and language did not but some of the people did.  Tens of thousands were exterminated but some were taken to Spain as slaves.  Ironically, hundreds were freed by the Spanish Crown (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Christopher Columbus fame) who objected to Catholics being kept as slaves, the Guanches having been converted.  (It probably helped that the Guanche slaves looked European and had adopted Spanish names).

Many of these freed slaves eventually made it back to the Canary Islands.  Others in the long course of the war of conquest inter-married with the invading Spaniards and probably some natives survived in the isolated parts of these extremely rugged islands.  In addition, a  few of the more fatalistic noblemen had actually sided with the Spanish and survived.

It took the Spaniards 94 years to conquer the Canary Islands.  During that time, the remaining few aboriginal people made the leap from the Neolithic to the Renaissance.  A few of the surviving Guanches who had sided with the Spanish were actually rewarded with land after the end of the conquest.

The story was bitter; the ending was tragic.  But it made me feel much better to learn that a few of the aboriginal people of the Canary Islands had survived, and a very few had actually thrived – but as Spaniards, no longer culturally Guanches.   There has been so much talk about change these last few years and the story of the Guanches, once again, indicates the flexibility, plasticity, and adaptibility of humans, a trait humans share with some of their monkey cousins.  Unfortunately, the great apes don’t have the same flexibility in their reproductive rates in the wild with their ten year birth intervals (Sumatran orangutans) and seven year birth intervals (forest chimpanzees) to survive much change  – such as the massive killings and destruction of habitat going on in Borneo and Sumatra as well as West and Central Africa.

The conference was held in Spanish that evening with no translators present.  The last event was a film on bull fighting. Like the Fouts, I fled the film.  For me, it was unwatchable to see the agony that the bulls suffer before they are brought down.  Bull-fighting in Spain is justified in the name of “tradition”.  My answer to that is that the Dayaks of Borneo have hunted human heads for centuries but nobody justifies the practice in the name of tradition.

That evening Agustin, our event facilitator, took me to one of the beaches in the city of Las Palmas.  This city has one of the highest population densities in the world with half a million people living primarily in apartments and flats.  At dusk the beach was extraordinarily beautiful with the twinkling lights of the city competing with the distant light of moon and stars.  I went back to the hotel delighted with what I had seen but with two books to read about the past history and culture of these beautiful islands called the Canaries.

Together at the Animal Rights Conference on May 28,2009

Together at the Animal Rights Conference on May 28,2009

Photo is of translators Sara and Veronica, facilitator Agustin, Birute, Deborah and Roger Fouts

Typical street in the old part of the city of Las Palmas

Typical street in the old part of the city of Las Palmas

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