Itinerant ecologist shares memories

‘The Mercenary Naturalist’ is new book by Doug Reagan

Sonya Ellingboe
sellingboe@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/29/22

Doug Reagan grabs your attention immediately! “A full moon floats over the surface of Lac de Guiers, Senegal” ... he’s out with a flashlight, “looking for the red eye shine of crocodiles.” …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Username
Password
Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.


Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Itinerant ecologist shares memories

‘The Mercenary Naturalist’ is new book by Doug Reagan

Posted

Doug Reagan grabs your attention immediately! “A full moon floats over the surface of Lac de Guiers, Senegal” ... he’s out with a flashlight, “looking for the red eye shine of crocodiles.” What if he trips over one, I wonder, thinking of those big sharp teeth. He’s just arrived in Western Africa, having flown in from New York. He explains that an environmental assessment of the Senegal River basin was needed as part of a project to build a dam ...

Reagan’s new book, “The Mercenary Naturalist,” is now available, with stories about his work in various tropical locations, with assistance from various crews, views of rare and startling birds and creatures, notes about foods, customs, lush trees and plants and, of course, individual ecosystems and the people who inhabit them ...

“Dakar assaulted my nostrils,” he wrote — “unlike any city I had visited back home ... Women in long, brightly colored print dresses and matching headwraps browsed through the shops and paraded regally among market stalls ... The beauty of gold necklaces, bracelets and ornate earrings displayed against their lustrous chocolate-black skin was stunning...”

After a good night’s sleep, he was awakened the next morning to the muzzein’s loud call to prayer for the Muslim faithful. 

With his first field trip scheduled the following week, he visited the office the next day to check on supplies he had ordered shipped there. But he learned that members of the health team had been in and taken his supplies, which weren’t set aside for him. He scrounged up what replacements he could and from then on, became skilled at improvising in the bush. 

The Senegal River Basin was about the size of New Mexico, Reagan says, and the first project had four components: construction of the Diama Dam near the Senegal River mouth; development of intense cropland along the lower portion of the river basin; construction of a high dam on the Bafing River to regulate water levels and generate hydroelectric power; and dredging of the lower river channel for navigation by commercial river traffic. Roads were poor and fieldwork was difficult. He further learned that because countries involved were poor, they would not be required to make even modest project modifications to compensate for impacts on the environment ... Into the Sahelian savannah ...

The only chance of successful mitigation seemed to require plans that would cost almost nothing ... Add prolonged drought and a shortage of drinking water. Birds were a bright spot: white pelicans; red-beaked hornbills; crimson bishop finches; hoopoes, with garish orange and black crests; Abyssinian rollers, turquoise crow-sized birds with iridescent cobalt blue wing patches ... iridescent blue-green bee-eaters and more ...

Troops of monkeys, an occasional gazelle, warthogs ...

As they traveled, they made an attempt to learn some basic words in the Wolof language and Reagan tried to record animal species and learn about them from local people.

I am just talking about the first excursion. Reagan goes on to describe more expeditions — back to Africa, to a rain forest in Puerto Rico, to Sumatra, to the Amazon, Eritrea, New Guinea, the Congo, the Philippines and more. In each location, Reagan was concerned about construction or mining’s effect on the flora and fauna, as well as identifying ecological issues and problems for any local resident ... often the outlook was bleak and concern for healthy surroundings was not a factor for corporate employers or national rulers ...

Reagan takes the reader on thought-provoking journeys with him and raises questions that will cause a reader to lose some sleep, I’m thinking. But “The “Mercenary Naturalist” provided many new ideas for this reader. I’m certain questions will keep surfacing about these amazing, lesser-known parts of our world ...

The book is available from Amazon.

doug reagan, mercenary naturalist, muzzenis

Comments

Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.