It was the close of the day for us birdwatchers at the Hula Valley Bird Festival in Israel. Our guides dropped us off where we were to dine, and while we waited, we talked to the “birders” – passionate bird and wildlife observers – who travel the world to watch bird immigration and give talks on wildlife. One man stood out among the conservatively-dressed birders. The pudgy guy with a Mohawk haircut and earring had his arms covered with colorful tattoos. Not your usual conservation activist. He calls himself The Inked Naturalist.
Drawing closer, we saw that the tattoos were beautifully rendered images of birds. Good-naturedly hitching up his t-shirt sleeves to expose all 20-some tattoos, Tristan Reid explained his mission. The tattoos, all of native Turkish birds, are attention-getters to raise awareness of the imminent ecological disaster in Turkey, where over 2000 dams and 1,730 hydro-electric projects are in the works. These projects threaten to destroy the country’s fragile biodiversity and displace hundreds of human communities.
Reid says he “fell in love with Turkey” on a recent birdwatching trip there. He was enchanted by the rich biodiversity, beautiful scenery and pleasant people he met. On his return home to England, a friend enlightened him about the ecological threat that the proposed hydro-electric projects pose.
It’s clear that the Turkish government ignores that its own human populations must forcibly immigrate to make room for the dams and that neighboring countries’ water will be choked off. Wildlife and native flora conservation come at the bottom of the list, if they figure in the Turkish government’s calculations at all.
Horrified at the potential destruction of the Turkish natural paradise, Reid decided to raise awareness of the issue with attention-getting tattoos.
He tells Green Prophet:
“I always perceive art as being organic, like nature there are really no boundaries. Taking this concept a step forward, tattoos are pieces of art that are intrinsically organic. What is more organic than artwork on a living surface!”
Reid doesn’t stop at inking permanent images of birds onto his body. Putting his body in motion, he plans to walk 4000 kilometers, from the Aegean coast in Turkey to the Armenian border, to publicize the dangers of the hdyro-electric projects and raise funds to support the Turkish Birdlife International partner, Doğa Derneği (site in Turkish).
So far, he has raised £3000 of the £3.500 donation goal he has set for Doğa Derneği. He’s promised that if donations exceed £10,000, he’ll have his whole torso tattooed! In the meantime, you can view a slide show of his tattooed arms here.
The Inked Naturalist gives talks and presentations on wildlife conservation wherever he travels. A schedule of his talks in England is listed on his site, as are training walks. He invites the public to join him on his walks in England (register on his site) and parts of his walks through Turkey.
Details of the walk through Turkey will appear on his blog when they’re final. His British training events are also fund-raisers for Reid’s needs as he travels on foot through Turkey. He’ll be traveling light, depending on survival money transferred to him as he moves.
Will Reid’s arms and legs make the world aware that a huge region in the Middle East is in danger because of Turkey’s greed for energy? We wish him success.
No holds are barred in Turkey’s scramble for energy. Read more about it:
- Hydropower Energy in Turkey: At What Cost?
- Turkey’s Controversial Drilling in Cyprus
- Turkey Ripe For Energy Boom – So Why The Delay?
- Despite Japan, Turkey Goes Ahead With Nuclear Reactors
Lower photo of Tristan Reid by Miriam Kresh.