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The Botanical Ark Retreat
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Elephant Massacre is tragic for the Elephants and the Rainforests.
 
In May last year 26 rainforest elephants were massacred by poachers in the Central African Republic- for their ivory, possibly to help fund the civil war ravaging the country. That this massacre happened in a National Park- a refuge - is sadder still. Rainforest elephants are vital to the health of the local ecology.
 
In August 2006, I was in the Congo Region of the Central African Republic studying the useful plants of the Pygmies. The Central African Republic is one of the poorest and least developed countries on earth and in relatively recent times has had numerous civil wars, including the current one.
 
I was fortunate to visit the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park with two Missionary friends, Roy and Paul.
It was a full days travel on bush roads from Gamboula in the far west to Bayunga in the south, a tiny sliver of country nestled between Cameroon to the west and Congo to the east and south. As we passed the airport I noticed it was strewn with tyres, massive logs and other obstacles- strategically placed to stop the rebels from landing aircraft.
 
We visited the park to see the Elephants, and if we were lucky maybe the lowland gorillas.
I have always had an interest in primate foods, as a possible food resource for humans. As we traveled into the forest I would often look at animal droppings to see what seeds they contained to have a better insight into what was in season. There were more elephant droppings- massive amounts- than the gorilla’s so a fairly clear picture emerged of some of the major fruits that they were eating.
 
 We found seeds of the jungle soursop, Anonidium mannii, the African breadnut, Treculia Africana, and two species of the Sapotaceae famil, a Chrysophyllum species and a Synsepalum species, amongst other unidentified remnants. From the undigested seeds it is clear that the elephants are major seed dispersers for some large seeded fruits in this rainforest.
 
The massacre of 26 elephants is a major reduction to their population, and their impact on the dynamics of the local ecology will be significant.
 
In the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, the Elephants congregate in areas known as Bais, cleared sunny areas, that are rich in minerals and water. An elevated viewing platform has been constructed so researchers and visitors can study the Elephants from a safe place. It was from this platform that the massacre took place.
 
If we value our Elephants, in this case a separate species from their savannah counterparts, and less understood, then this slaughter must stop. We must take action against the Ivory trade, and deprive the poachers of a reason to slaughter them. The rainforest may depend upon it.
 
I am certain that some of the elephants I photographed back in 2006 were amongst those killed.
It saddens us greatly.
 
Map copyright http://voiceofthepersecuted.wordpress.com/
 
Please read further to learn more and take action.
http://www.salon.com/2014/01/05/african_forest_elephants_are_being_massacred_into_extinction_partner/
 
Article by Alan Carle
The Botanical Ark
www.botanicalarkretreat.com

 
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2014-01-20
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Fungi- At The Botanical Ark we have observed an amazing number and array of fungi over the past years as our garden has gone from a degraded cattle farm to what it is today. We are now starting to document the fungi hoping they will give us a better understanding of our local ecology.
 
In the past three years we have had two cyclones and lost a significant number of trees. Having observed the immediate colonisation of fungi and a succession of different species as decomposition occurred, I wanted my 7 year old grandson to observe this so we both may better understand how nature works.
 
We are both staring from scratch and welcome any comments, identification, literature and website sources we should access.
 
Over 31 years we have seen a number of fungi appear regularly, and some appear only once.  Hopefully the documentation we commence will enable us to determine why and how this occurs.
 
Apparently fungi are the largest organism on the planet- some reaching hundreds of square kilometres in size- while others are microscopic.
 
I want my grandson to discover and observe the role they play in maintaining plant health and decomposition and in plant communications.
 
If you wish to stay informed of our observations or see our photos, please click  the  ‘follow’ button on this page. Feel free to share it with others as well.
 
Thanking you,
 
Alan Carle
 
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Why does the Botanical Ark exist? Sometimes people who haven’t met us ask this question, and the answer is quite simple.
 
The Botanical Ark exists because one man, a prominent botanist and scientist by the name of Dr. Peter Raven, gave a speech back in the 1980’s in southern Australia, and he commented that in the next 25 years we could possibly lose 20% of all life on earth. Dr. Raven was then the Director of the Missouri Botanic Garden, one of the world’s leading botanical research institutions.
 
Suzi and I read the report in the newspapers, and listed to commentary on the radio, and thought if his estimations were remotely possible, the world would be losing something very important. We were determined to do what we could to help raise awareness of this impending loss- a loss that rivals the extinction of the dinosaurs.
 
Lacking the financial means and the political influence to have an immediate impact, we decided to use our land and garden to raise awareness in the value of biodiversity, especially to humans. Of course we thought about our children, and what they might not be able to see or appreciate, but ultimately having a healthy biodiversity will enrich all future generations.
 
We are not distinguished scientists with degrees of wisdom, just a family that cares about the future. And we decided to do something about it.
 
We finally met Peter Raven, both in Missouri, and here at The Botanical Ark and
are convinced we made the correct choice in what to do with our lives.
 
Dr. Raven wrote the preface to The Botanical Ark book.
For more see http://botanicalarkretreat.com/about-the-ark/saving-rainforests/
 
If you would to read more posts like this, click the red Follow button above right now. If you know somebody/circle who would like this, please share it (arrow button under this post's photo) with them now.
 
Thanks, Alan Carle
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Rainforest Sweeteners.
Why does the rainforest have a number of very high-intensity natural sweeteners and can they be the answer to the snowballing obesity and type 2 diabetes?
 
African Rainforests harbour at least four of the world’s natural sweeteners and taste modifiers, some 3,000 times sweeter than sucrose. They are:
 
·       Thaumatococus daniellii, Marantaceae
·      Dioscoreophyllum cumminsii, Menispermaceae
·      Pentadiplandra brazzeana, Pentadiplandraceae
·      Synsepalum dulciificum, (Miracle Fruit)  Sapotaceae
 
 
The sweet prayer plant , Thaumatococcus danielii, produces the protein Thaumatin and has a sweetness factor 3,000 times greater than sucrose.
 
Dioscoreophyllum cumminsii  produces the protein Monellin, and, it too, is 3,000 times sweeter than sucrose.
 
Pentadiplandra brazzeana, produces two proteins, Pentadin and Brazzein, which are 550 and 2,000 times sweeter than sucrose.
 
Synsepalum dulcificum, the miracle fruit, produces the taste modifiyng protein called Miraculin and makes acid and sour foods and drinks taste sweet for up to two hours.
 
These incredible plants have evolved as understory plants in the African Rainforest and illustrate clearly how saving rainforest can save humans from their excesses.
 
A recent study by Credit Swisse on World Sugar Trends, confirms a move away from sugar to other natural and low calorie sweeteners.  It is not due to the affects of sugar per se, but because of the excessive amounts of added sugar that we are consuming.
 
These natural protein sweeteners can reduce caloric intake by massive amounts
and help save some of the world’s health budget, and perhaps some of the world’s magnificent rainforests.
 
Nature shows us the way, we just have to be willing to listen and learn.
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Plant Communications- incredible research happening and much more to come!

We recently had a visit by Jack Schultz and Heidi Appel, from the University of Missouri.
 
Jack and Heidi are chemical ecologists who have spent 30 years studying the "behavior" of plants coping with stress. Along the way they and collaborators discovered that plants complain about being eaten by insects, and call for help. Plants emit unique mixtures of volatiles (odors) in response to almost any stressful situation.  According to Jack and Heidi, there is a "conversation" going on all around us; plants are "talking" to other plants, to microbes, and to insects. They are working to develop plants as sentries and reporters, with the potential to revolutionize agriculture, environmental monitoring, and even national defense. This means developing the listening devices needed for eavesdropping on nature's conversations and interrogating plants about their lives.  If we can learn to listen, we can interrogate plants about their experiences. "Do you have disease?" "What has been eating you?" "How's the soil?" "Tell me about air quality."
            Schultz studies plant behavior as Director of the interdisciplinary Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO.  Appel is a Senior Research Associate and Senior Associate Director of Missouri's Honors College.

Upon returning to the USA they sent us the following email.

"We stopped by Botanical Ark at the suggestion of Michael Pollan, and what a great suggestion that was!  The collection of tropical fruit trees Alan and Suzi have assembled is amazing, but our hosts' encyclopedic knowledge and great natural history stories made the visit really exciting. More than just collectors, Alan and Suzi bring a solid understanding of fundamental biology and ecology to their project. Over the past 25 years they have used this understanding to convert treeless pasture to a sustainable botanical garden with one of the largest tropical fruit tree collections in the world. 

Situated in the midst of this botanical grandeur is the Botanical Ark Retreat, a luxurious and totally private accommodation popular with wedding parties, business meetings and individual visitors. We really wished we could have stayed there, but the Daintree and Cape Tribulation were calling. We learned later that it would be feasible to stay at the Retreat and make day trips to the Daintree area. It's hard to imagine a more tranquil, luxurious and fascinating place to stay in the Queensland tropics."

photo: Heidi, Jack, Andre Leu (President of IFOAM) and Alan
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How we found Buddha's Bud ginger- Etlingera mangayi
by Alan Carle

We were in an Elephant Reserve in NW Malaysia back in the 1980s and wandering through a dense bamboo grove when we heard this horrendous roar of animals coming towards us. Unable to run because of fallen bamboo culms, we had to hope that whatever was coming missed us. Fortunately it was just a herd of wild boar, not angry elephants. On our way out we found this magnificent plant in flower, with small furry buds we called Buddah's buds.

It now flowers every  November (spring) at The Botanical Ark.
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I helped collect this ginger in the 1980s and introduce it to horticulture in Australia and around the world.
November is a great flowering month at the Botanical Ark Retreat with jungle gems like this Etlingera Corneri in bloom. A 2m plant from the Northern Malay Peninsula, and Southern Thailand, this plant adds form and colour to tropical gardens.
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A gift of peace

Every summer (Dec-March), The Botanical Ark Retreat gives three free nights to one person who really deserves it – a very special offer in many ways.

If you know somebody who deserves to stay in our exclusive accommodation for three peaceful nights, tell us who and why. And if they want or need to bring a friend along, they can come to – also for free.

We are now accepting nominations for the 2014/15 summer. Nomination close 31 Aug 2014. For full details, go to http://botanicalarkretreat.com/about-the-retreat/special-offers/#A_gift_of_peace_for_someone_special
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Brisbane to Cairns for $105 - Virgin Australia

Travel dates are 1 Feb - 2 April and 1 May - 22 June 2014. Book before midnight 15 November. For more details, go to http://www.virginaustralia.com/au/en/specials-offers/flight-specials/view-best-fares/?RRID=424058180&RMID=VM_20131112_LeisureSale_FULL&cmpid=VM_20131112_LeisureSale_FULL_banner_no1

February, May, and June are fabulous times to visit the Daintree region. February is still summer hot and May/June are more like those warm winter days with blue skies and cooler evenings. Either way, makes getting out of Brisbane for a few days all the more attractive!
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ONE AND ONLY PLANT SALE

The Botanical Ark, home to The Botanical Ark Retreat, is holding our first and only plant sale on 9 & 10 November 2013, from 8am - 4pm on each day.

We are the people who introduced dozens, if not hundreds, of plants into Australia. Some are now quite common, like the black sapote and rollinia, and some are still unknown but deserving of commercial attention, like the araca. 

At the sale, we are selling: 
Rare Fruit & Nut Trees
Palms
Flowering Trees
Heliconias
Gingers
And lots more

For a partial list, contact us the week prior to the sale. 
phone: 40988174,
P.O. Box 354, Mossman, 4873, or
info@botanicalark.com
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