THE BALANCE OF FACTS
THE BALANCE OF FACTS
THE BALANCE OF FACTS
THE BALANCE OF FACTS
The Dreamtime, or the Dreaming, portrays the Aboriginal beliefs in spiritual existence. According to the tribes that first settled down in the continent, the Dreaming's roots date all the way back to the very begging of the creation of the world. The meaning and ideology of the term is generally not so well-understood by non-indigenous people as it is referred to as part of the culture of one of the early nations, which differs from modern perceptions.
The Spirits were the creators of everything. They made the land and the seas, the rocks and the plants, the sky and the earth. They were the higher power and the Australian Aborigines spent their lifetimes honoring this power, which guided their path and shaped their way of thinking. Not only creators of everything, which could be seen as well as felt, the Spirits also gave the Aborigines the Dreaming.
The time when everything started existing according to the initial Australians, was called the Dreaming. This is the foundation of the continent's culture. The origin of the Dreaming goes way back - 65 000 years back in time to be exact. The Ancestors of the nation shaped the land, forming some parts of it as sacred. The Aborigines were very careful and overprotective of those places, strongly believing in their significance.
The Australian Aborigines are known to have believed that the world didn't have any shape and was therefore empty. Darkness dominated, and life was simply asleep, but this changed when the creation began happening. After the Dreaming and the influence of the Spirits, objects began taking shapes and came to be. They created the four elements: water, earth, air and fire, as well as all the planets, the Sun and the Moon. The Dreaming therefore is a continuous process, which never ended. It is a small cosmos on its own, unifying the past, present and the future into one.
The Australian Aborigines' home riches so many vivid areas of the continent, including Fraser Island, Tasmania, Palm Island, Groote Eylandt and Mornington Island. The Aborigines had very strong believes in relation to the powers of the land, claiming that they never owned it - it rather owned them. The only reason they were able to call it their home is because they were looking after it and the land was taking care of the people in return.
Equally important to the Dreaming was the tribes' understandings of the disappearance of the Spirits. There came a time, when the creators of everything vanished from sight. Some of them were thought to have started living in sacred places, which is why the Aborigines perceived their homeland to be so sacred. The ancestors of today's Australians used to believe that the creators started living in rocks, in water holes and some went up to the sky to guide the people from above and keep them safe. Others transformed completely, taking the forms of the rain, the lightnings and the thunderstorms so they could be part of peoples' life.
Among the hundred's different Aboriginal languages, there isn't a word to describe 'time', because to them this simply doesn't exist. Dreaming and Dreamtime are used to replace it and summarize the ideologies of the Aborigines about everything they knew, everything they could see, feel and experience. This is why the Dreaming has such a vivid, and overwhelming meaning and has survived the obstacles of time. For the past couple thousand years, the Dreaming has built a rich cultural heritage that can identify a whole nation.
Read more about the Land, its connection to people and the way it has been perceived from different generations in the very first print issue of ORIGIN. The Land Issue covers varied topics, most of which remain related to cultural aspects of the land and its importance.
A lot of people travel to explore places and learn about them which is the message that ORIGIN wants to spread. With traveling, however, comes certain responsibilities that we should all be aware of. Elephants riding has become a popular way to explore locations by land. People have been doing this as part of their trips, mostly to places such as Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia and other parts of Asia. It is a common thing to see in certain places in Africa as well. We investigated the activity to explain why it is wrong and riding elephants should be banned everywhere.
Our first print issue studies culture and traveling represented through the land. We explored various location around the globe and learned what makes the land so valuable, which nations cherish it and how it helps us establish an identity. Traveling is important to us but traveling responsibly and making an impact is what we feel proud to stand behind. This is why riding elephants as a way of amusement should be reconsidered.
Let’s talk about the details. Elephants are very caring and extremely intelligent animals. It is a well-known fact that they never forget anything. When kept in captivity instead of spending their life in the wild, elephants die younger. Unlike in other species, this is common for the gentle giants and is often a result for stress.
Many African cultures respect elephants, believing they symbolize strength, loyalty and power. However, power can be a very tender concept. Elephant used as a tourism tool suffer from great pain daily. Elephants can be hurt very severely from the weight of carrying people and a trainer on their backs. The reason for this is the design of their spines. They have sharp protrusions, extending upwards from their spine instead of having round spinal disks. The protrusions and the tissue that serves to protect them can be harmed easily from weight pressure. Once a damage to their spine has been made, there is no going back and sometimes the harm can be irreversible. While this can’t be physically seen, the harm that the chairs can do to the elephants’ skin is. It is often the case that the chairs and the weight on their back can damage the animal’s skin and cause pain to their body. The chair, called Howdah, that gets attached to their backs, rubs on their skin and can cause blisters, which can sometimes get infected.
The training that elephants are required to go through when in captivity sometimes adopts a traditional Thai ‘phajaan’ or ‘crush’ technique. Explaining the technique would compare it to the animals’ spirits constantly and continuously being broken by the means of torture and social isolation. This is done in order to tame them. Elephants are wild animals, this is their nature as they are born in such conditions. Making them safe and obedient around people requires them to go through such training. As horrible as it sounds, in some places young elephants are taken away from their mothers to be abused with nails, bull hooks and bamboo sticks to make them obey rules, given by people. The animals often lack sleep and are starved to become submissive.
Actions from such nature are cruel and harmful as the technique is used to crash the animals’ spirit. Once wild and free, elephants become a source of tourism and entertainment. Nobody, who cared about sustainable tourism should ever ride an elephant.
In a sense, elephants have a human soul. They socialise and feel everything – pain, happiness, grief, sadness etc. They spend their life building families and finding friends. The largest land animals are a gift from nature and it is our responsibility to take special care of them and make sure they live according to their nature. Many animals, who are kept in captivity, are forced to live in isolation and carry heavy loads all day long, which is a wrong way to treat them. Their strength and power shouldn’t be abused but treated gently and celebrated by people. Elephants require minimal care to stay happy and healthy, which comes from giving them freedom to behave naturally and socialise. It is our responsibility to be culturally aware while traveling and make sure to spread awareness about the problem.
You can read the rest of the article as published in the LAND issue.
LIONFISH: THE VENOMOUS PREDATORS INVADING CORAL REEFS
Join us in learning about lionfish’s venom, the ecological threat of the predators and the common myths about their invasion in the Caribbean, Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Danielle Bouchard
27 June 2020
The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific (the Indian and South Pacific Oceans) including the Red Sea. The invasive species made it to the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. They inhabit a large range between southern Japan, southern Korea, western Australia and Malaysia. Lionfish is now common in the waters surrounding French Polynesia alongside UK’s Pitcairn Islands in the east and the Kermadec Islands of New Zealand.
The top predator competes for marine space and food causing harm to reef ecosystems. Lionfish are unique for their long fins, distinctive maroon colour, vivid stripes and venomous dorsal spines. Their rapid invasion in coastal waters and in artificial reefs impose harm on reef ecosystems, since the carnivorous fish competes for space and food with native stocks.
Their population is on the rise, expanding in range as well. In a year the female release about two million eggs. Alongside reproducing all year long, lionfish have no predators other than humans. All this generates fears among scientists over the potential that lionfish hunts helpful species, such as the algae-eating parrotfish, which prevents seaweed from taking over reefs.
An Invasive Species
Across many coral reef environments in the Atlantic, lionfish have turned into a top predator. They consume over 50 fish species, including some that are essential in ecological and environmental aspect. A 2015 mapping expedition in the Caribbean reported 135 lionfish over twenty-six dives at a depth up to 768 feet. The nocturnal hunters inhabit warm waters around the tropics. The species was first spotted in 1985 near Dania in South Florida, but their first official documentation wasn’t until the early 2000s. Over time, ocean currents guided the invasion of lionfish to its current reach and severity. The species gathered economic importance in the aquarium trade, especially in the U.S.
A unique characteristic of these ocean creatures is their spine, which can deliver a venomous sting. A deadly poison is carried in 18 venomous feathery spines located along their sides and backs. Once the spine punctures the skin, the venom can last for days causing sweating, respiratory diseases, extreme pain, paralysis and potential deadly complications as a result of an allergic reaction followed by an anaphylactic shock. Although lionfish produce a toxin harmful to other organisms, they are not poisonous. These predators are venomous species, meaning that their neurotoxic venom gets injected into the skin rather than getting absorbed or ingested by the victim. In other words, if you stay clear of their spine, you’d be okay.
The Myth of Eating Lionfish
There is a common misconception that lionfish cannot be eaten. Since the species is venomous, and not poisonous, consuming lionfish meat causes no harm. The risk of envenomation disappears once you dispose of the spines. Lionfish can be cooked in various ways and the tender meat tastes flavorsome, melting in your mouth. The white fish is best cooked rare, served with heavy seasoning and creamy sauces that bring out its sweetness. The meat tastes buttery and moist, like a cross between lobster and a shrimp. Restaurants across the U.S. and the Caribbean often offer lionfish. This way locals to tropical areas not only invite guests to try something different, but they also educate visitors about the ecological impact of the predatory species over the fine balance of marine ecosystems.
The Ecological Threat
Invasive lionfish across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico are destroying reefs and native fish stocks. When food is plentiful, lionfish eat constantly. Reposing on reef structures, they have unique hunting techniques and consume their prey at a rapid rate. Since they don’t have natural predators, lionfish easily dominate coral reefs, consuming a lot of the young fish. They are not picky, but some of their favorites include snappers, groupers, crustaceans and small reef varieties. The spiny invaders blow water before herding the prey with their fins and swallowing in a single bite. Their lifespan in the wild stretches between ten and fifteen years.
One of the biggest issues with lionfish is their escalating reproduction, which harms the fishing industries. These super predators are invasive species and creating commercial markets for lionfish meat is vital to control the spread. Millions of fish populations are decimated by these predators, which can lead to the extinction of native marine animals and plants in their competition for limited resources. Any marine ecosystem can be seriously harmed by a massive invasion of non-indigenous species. Lionfish tend to avoid hook and line bait as well, imposing a real environmental threat to marine ecosystems.
LIONFISH: THREAT OF INVASION: Lionfish is venomous not poisonous, therefore it can be eaten safely once the spine is removed. Deadly poison is carried in 18 venomous feathery spines located along the nocturnal hunters' sides and backs. The invasive species is an ecological threat across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico where lionfish are destroying coral reefs and native fish stocks.
Lionfish and Commercialism
Lionfish predation of commercially important marine species puts pressure on local fisheries that rely on traditional fishing methods. Scuba divers report that the creatures’ eating habits have already caused a noticeable decrease in juvenile populations of species such as seahorses, octopuses and lobsters. Taking a step away from the ocean reveals a bigger picture of the lionfish’s impact on commercialism. Reef declines create the need for seeking new diving sites and fishing centers in different destinations across the world. In turn, this will lead to the building of new restaurants, hotels and recreational complexes. When the reef health is so dramatically affected, it is essential that more travellers learn about the consequences of lionfish invasion. Cozumel, Mexico is another region where the same problem occurred in recent years. The most reliable way to control lionfish population and ensure the survival of native species is direct actions from fishermen hunters.
Solutions to Lionfish Threats
While lionfish’s expertise may be invading non-native ranges of tropical waters, the locals in these regions have created some pretty efficient ingenious solutions to the economic and ecological threats. Regular dive operations remove these spiny invaders from the sea, hence tourists rarely spot the species in popular diving sites. Another creative way to bring awareness and clean the reefs are fishing competitions, which gain popularity with award prizes for smallest, largest and most lionfish captured.
Every year environmental groups in Florida for two-day events, where they harvest over 15,000 lionfish from the local waters for chefs, who demonstrate how to dispose of the venomous spines and how to cook the meat. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) managed to remove over 10,231 lionfish between 2009 and 2012. In addition, enthusiasts continue to develop effective tools for lionfish capture. Spearfishing is another efficient hunting practice where divers head underwater with specifically designed equipment to clear reef structures off of lionfish. While it is rather difficult to become fully educated on the spiny predators, it is important to regulate the population in order to protect the native marine environment in the Caribbean, the Western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.