Hey, it now includes me! Flattered to be listed with such cool and talented people.
All the same, the bones of the “Centaur of Tymfi” stands proudly on display at Tucson’s International Wildlife Museum in a just-opened exhibit. Nearby is the skull of a “griffin,” a legendary flying lion with an eagle’s skull, and the noggin of a “cyclops,” the one-eyed giant of Greek myth. Taking center stage is the centaur, designed by sculptor and zoologist Bill Willers of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.
Entitled “Mythological Wildlife,” the exhibit aims to make folks think about how we know what is real, says museum director Richard White. A paleontologist, White says the exhibit also looks at how folklore might hold a few hidden scientific stories.
“Once upon a time, mythology was science,” White says, accepted as part of the natural history world as perceived by the ancients. The ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, wrote about centaurs around 700 BC. Herodotus, “The Father of Historians,” wrote about griffinsaround 500 B.C. “It’s legitimate for museums to display mythological creatures to make people question what is real and what is science today.”
A shadowy corner of scholarship called “cryptozoology,” filled with folks looking for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, has put these sort of questions into disrepute. But scholars such as Stanford University’s Adrienne Mayor, author of The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times, have opened wide questions about what folklore has to offer science today.
For the exhibit, for example, the “cyclops” skull on display takes its cue from the suggestion that the skull of a prehistoric elephant called a mastodon, tipped on its side, might have resembled the skull of a one-eyed giant to the ancients, including a Roman emperor who perhaps kept a mastodon skull on display. A horn-faced dinosaur called Protoceratops, may have partly inspired the griffin.
“Someone saw a man on a horseback perhaps, and couldn’t explain it,” White says. “To him, the hypothesis was that it was a centaur. Now we know better. But there are still many things we struggle to explain, even today.”
Looking at the scientific origins of legends isn’t a new idea, notes art professor Beauvais Lyons of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, who points out that New York’s American Museum of Natural History ran a “Mythic Creatures” exhibit so popular it was extended from 2006 until 2008. And the renowned Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles has for decades blended real natural science with flights of biographical fantasy.
Lyons heads the “Hokes Archives” (as in hoax) at his university, “devoted to the fabrication and documentation of rare and unusual cultural artifacts.” The university brought “The Centaur of Volos,” created by Willers in 1980, to the university’s John C. Hodges Library. Instead of a standing centaur, the Volos display is of a centaur half-excavated from the ground in classic archaeological museum fashion.
“I am excited that Bill Willers has extended his investigations of centaur anatomy with his new upright work now in Tucson,” Lyons says. That centaur skeleton, the Centaur of Tymfi, in contrast, stands upright, the bones of a man seemingly jointed perfectly to a horse. Tymfi (TIM-fee) is the mountainous Greek village, a plaque carefully explains, where the centaur was found intact in the far recesses of a cave.
” There is an unconscious impulse to clothe bones in flesh when we first see them,” Willers says, explaining his centaur creation. With the Tymfi centaur, the plaque also offers visitors a written backstory of the legend, pure hokum of course, meant to extend the duration of time before disbelief takes over again. “I want to trigger that belief and extend it, to trigger a feeling of wonder that connects people to the natural world, to see a person like themselves as a wild animal,” says Willers.
The International Wildlife Museum is a bit unusual as well, White notes. Supported by the Safari Club International Foundation, its funding ultimately draws from hunters interested in animal conservation, and contains displays of wild animals (real ones) in most of its exhibits.
“I’m not worried about kids seeing the centaur and drawing the wrong conclusion. They have very strong senses of what is real and what is fantasy,” White says. “I’m a little worried about their parents,” he jokes.
No one is hunting for centaurs these days, of course, but science remains on the trail of all sorts of mysteries. People centuries from now will doubtless find some of those ideas credulous as well.
For now, anyone hoping to see a centaur might want to stop by Tucson sometime in the next two years, while it is on display at the museum. “After that, I’m hoping to find the centaur a good home,” Willers says, perhaps with a collector or museum. “After all, I have some ideas for other skeletons that I would like to start on.”
By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
Hosmer’s speech at the 2011 African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF) held in Swaziland.
Good morning everyone. My name is Joseph Hosmer. Over the past year, you will have noticed some changes to Safari Club International Foundation, we have improved our focus to make the Foundation an institution devoted exclusively on our core missions of science based wildlife research, improving wildlife conservation education, and increasing on the ground efforts for our humanitarian work. I am quite humbled to continue serving as the President of the Safari Club International Foundation.
First, I would like to thank everyone for joining us for the 10th African Wildlife Consultative Forum. This year we have representatives from the countries of Botswana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe; seven NGOs and scientific bodies; and representatives from seven professional hunter associations. The AWCF has grown significantly in 10 years, and we are looking forward to investing in this meeting for the next 10. We hope that throughout the coming year, you are able to discuss the importance of the AWCF with your colleagues who could not join us this year. By increasing participation annually, we can increase the effectiveness of our work improving wildlife conservation and management. However our work must continue if we are to build on our past successes.
Africa continues to face great challenges in wildlife conservation. Human population growth and consequent loss of wildlife habitats will be a continual problem – globally – but especially in Africa. This is because Africa still has much undeveloped space and unexploited natural resources that will be of greater and greater value to both wildlife and humans. More urgently, the world is begging for a solution to put an end to rhinoceros poaching and illicit trade of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. In the past year we have seen dramatic increases in anti-poaching and enforcement efforts, but the problems remain. Perhaps today we will have some creative ideas shared to help us find solutions to the problem.
I want to discuss with you today, and also throughout this week, how SCIF can become a resource for you, so that together, we can improve wildlife conservation in your countries and improve relations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Over the past 10 years that we have gathered for AWCF, you have had the opportunity to work with our incredible staff; Matthew Eckert who manages SCIF’s conservation programs, our staff from the South Africa Office and George Pangeti who has always been such an asset. What many of you do not realize is that we have a larger staff working in Washington, DC; well positioned to meet with representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or with members of embassy staff. It is my hope that at the conclusion of the 10th AWCF, we can collectively agree on principles of conservation that need to be improved with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others in Washington. Safari Club’s staff is ready to do more for conservation than we ever have in the past. We want to act not only as a partner, but more importantly, as your voice when we discuss conservation concerns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By agreeing upon a core set of conservation principles at this meeting, Safari Club will be more proactive to improve wildlife conservation both at home and in Africa.
We must continue to witness tangible improvements – across the continent – in wildlife management and the professional capacity of many of the people sitting in this room. We need to encourage our colleagues to attend AWCF next year. We need to inform more of our conservation partners, government officials and the general public about the incredible work that needs to be done to ensure wildlife conservation continues for future generations. I hope the cooperative spirit that lives in this Forum continues throughout this week and many years into the future.
Thank you all.
Original Post available here.
TESTIMONY OF THE SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION
President, Safari Club International Foundation
Subcommittee for Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs;
House Natural Resources Committee
Re: HR 50 – Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act of 2011
July 28, 2011
Good morning, my name is Joe Hosmer, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the hunter-conservation community today.
The Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that funds and manages programs dedicated to wildlife conservation, outdoor education, and humanitarian services. Since 2000, SCIF has provided in excess of $50 million in support to these causes around the world. SCIF has worked tirelessly to increase wildlife management capability throughout Southern and Eastern Africa through strategic partnerships with African nations and conservation NGOs.
Currently, SCIF participates on the steering committee of the Multinational Species Conservation Fund Coalition and SCIF has participated as a member of the Multinational Species Coalition for well over 10 years. In our current role on the coalition, we assist in providing grassroots support for the species conservation funds.
Safari Club International Foundation believes that the United States plays a pivotal role in international conservation. We further believe that the United States’ continued support for international conservation projects is necessary, both for the continued growth of wildlife populations, and for the stability of rural economies throughout many nations of Africa. For these reasons the Safari Club International Foundation strongly supports HR 50, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act of 2011.
As an organization, SCIF is highly committed to wildlife conservation throughout the world, but we have a particular affection and interest for African wildlife species. I would like to offer the hunting community’s perspective on the importance of investing in conservation funding internationally. There is a tremendous return on investment that rural economies realize through effective sustainable use practices for wildlife management.
SCIF’s Conservation Committee dedicates over a million dollars annually to global wildlife conservation, with a specific focus on conserving African species. SCIF’s leadership in Africa has led to the development of the African Wildlife Consultative Forum, which brings together African wildlife officials, representatives of the African professional hunter associations, international NGO’s and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services staff. At these meetings we have increased collaboration for sustainable use conservation programs, and we have improved relations to increase rural economic development around sustainable hunting.
Other speakers today will touch on the incredible impact that the conservation funds have made for wildlife populations. I would like to speak specifically about the impact on rural economies that sustainable use and conservation of these species can have.
The role of sport hunting today in many developing countries is vital to the very survival of communities. Using southern Africa as an example, sport hunting has been one of the main economic engines in rural communities. In many countries of southern Africa, agrarian or pastoral economies cannot flourish, due to limited land suitable for agriculture or grazing. In these areas, regulated sport hunting has been a consistent form of revenue for local communities. To take better advantage of sustainable wildlife use, many governments have begun Community Based Natural Resources Programs. These programs, in essence, devolve power from the central government so that locally created community councils can regulate and manage wildlife in their areas. Their mission is to utilize wildlife so that it remains a sustainable resource for their community.
Successful community based programs have been developed across Africa including, but not limited to, Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources, otherwise known as CAMPFIRE, in Zimbabwe; Living In a Finite Environment, known as LIFE in Namibia; and other programs in Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania.
These programs create an incentive for rural communities to actively conserve wildlife. Revenue retention schemes ensure that money generated from sport hunting ends up in the hands of indigenous people. In the case of sport hunting in southern Africa, communities in the most rural portions of countries reap the benefit of conserving wildlife through Community Based Natural Resource Programs.
Here are some facts and figures on the positive economic impact that sport hunting has in Africa.
1. International hunting by 18,500 hunters generates $200 million USD annually in remote rural areas of Africa in 23 countries. Private hunting operations conserve wildlife on 540,000 square miles, which is 22% more land mass than is found in all the national parks of Africa. (Lindsey, Conservation Biology, 2007)
2. “Hunting is of key importance to conservation in Africa by creating [financial] incentives to promote and retain wildlife as a land use over vast areas…” (National Geographic News, March, 2007)
3. In Namibia, 29 conservancies involve almost 150,000 rural individuals through trophy hunting, conservancy management or secondary industries. (Weaver, C.L. & Skyer, P. 2003.)
4. The Zambian Wildlife Authority works with safari operators to ensure that as part of their contract they must develop and manage roads, employ Zambian Professional Hunters or Apprentice Hunters, ensure that a minimum of 80% of labor comes from neighboring
communities, develop local infrastructure, notably schools, clinic and wells, and employ Zambian game scouts to manage wildlife and poaching. (Kampamba, G. 2005.)
5. International hunting employs approximately 3,700 people annually in Tanzania. (www.tanzania.go.tz/) and supports over 88,000 families (Hurt & Ravn 2000)
Particularly in Africa, creating an incentive to coexist with wildlife has been a central reason why so many populations of species are now thriving. Elephants, rhinos and lions are the best examples of this dynamic at work. Of the 23 southern African nations that have regulated hunting, an overall trend of positive species population growth has been reported. The growing population of white rhino has been one of the most notable success stories. Unsurprisingly, in countries like Kenya, where wildlife utilization by indigenous people is extremely limited and where hunting does not exist, wildlife population levels are now low and in continuous decline. Trophy hunting in Kenya was banned in 1977 and this ban has resulted in an accelerated loss of wildlife due to the removal of incentives for conservation (Baker 1997; Lewis & Jackson 2005).
As an organization, SCIF has not directly utilized the funds made available through the authorizing legislation. However, organizations that SCIF has partnered with in providing matching grants have been recipients of funding from the FWS.
The investments that the U.S. government has made through the multination species conservation funds are necessary. They provide stability and continuity for ongoing wildlife conservation investments from other organizations, and from the hunters who travel to Africa. The MSCF certainly provides significant and measurable successes for a very small investment of federal dollars.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the subcommittee today.
The above testimony, from a July 28th hearing held by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, can be downloaded in full here. The Safari Club International Foundation’s press release on the hearing, released July 28th, can be downloadedhere. The Safari Club International Foundation is an ICCF Advisory Council member.
SCIF awards a large grant of $50,000 to the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust in support of the project “Kodiak Bear Density and Associated Harvet Stretegy on Sitkalidak Island, Alaska (2011-2012).” The project is considered very high priority by brown bear managers on the Kodiak Archipelago and the support provided by SCIF will be key to achievement of the research.
Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) President, Joe Hosmer, and Conservation Committee Members receive a wonderful thank you letter from the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust.
Full text please click here: SCI Foundation Letter – 6 August 2011.