There have been five previous mass extinctions in the relatively short history of life on earth. The biggy came at the end of the Permian Period around 250 million years ago when an estimated 96% of all species were wiped out! That might seem like a lot and a long time ago but it’s a drop in the bucket and the blink of an eye in the 4.5 billion years since Mother Earth coalesced from the womb of our sun.

Amazing as the figures are, they are controversial for some. There are those out there who, according to biblical calculations, put the age of the earth at 4000 BCE + 5 days (prior to the creation of Adam on the 6th day).

Creation Museum

a scene from the Museum of Creation somewhere in Texas where they know about these things!

I’m not here to discuss pseudo-science or the co-existence  of humans and dinosaurs and so I stand by my figures and move on . .

It is estimated that there are currently 8.7 million species (excluding bacteria) living with us on planet Earth. It’s an estimate because we haven’t had the time to track them all down. Species have gone extinct since they ‘jelled’ in the primordial soup, it’s a normal and natural selection process – some make it and some don’t! The background, pre-human extinction rate stood at 0.1 per million species per year – pretty minuscule you might think. That said, species are presently going extinct at a rate that is approx 1000 times greater than the background rate! We are losing what we have never known we had faster than we discover new wonders and the cause of this staggering increase in die-off is us – you and me and the corrupt system that rules us!

Australian humpback dolphin

new species – Australian Humpback Dolphin

Edwardsiella anemones

new species – a sea anemone that lives on the underside of sea-ice

Liropus male skeleton shrimp

new species – Skeleton Shrimp

I’m not here to waffle on about climate change; burning less fossil fuel, saving the Amazon or the plastic gyres in the oceans – it’s too late for all that! Scientists first reported on human-created climate change effects back in the late 19th century – nobody in a position to do anything cared then and nobody in a position to do anything cares now. Anyway, it’s too late – unstoppable Anthropomorphic (human-induced) Climate Disruption is a fact. Extreme weather is here to stay and it is and will continue to get worse. Methane gas, a far stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, is erupting from the melting tundra leaving great sink holes.

siberian sink2


doesn’t look so dramatic, but trust me, it is!

The same gas is ‘boiling’ out of the Arctic ocean at phenomenal rates – this whilst lobbyists for fossil fuel corporations and their lackeys in parliaments around the so-called ‘developed world’ deny there is even such a thing as climate change!

We are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction!

So, if it’s unstoppable, what should we do? Be kind to those species, including our own, that surround us. Care for and enjoy this still beautiful planet whilst you still can. Go out and discover something new – it might not be a new species but it could easily be a new view from a new place or you could smile more often for no better reason than when you do there’s usually someone who will smile back. Your day and theirs will be a little brighter!

moody Okcularmoody Okçular

walk with a viewalways look on the bright side of life . . de-dum de-dum-de-dum-de-dum

J and I did just that one day last week when Mother Nature eased off a bit and relaxed – a new view from a new path, about 40 minutes drive away from home, that led to a small but significant discovery. As we passed a vertical buttress of rock I spotted what happens to be one of the rarest plants on the planet.

kocagol walk alkanna

did you spot it yet?

alkanna mughlae

Alkanna mughlae – a new location – has it made your day too?

First discovered some 15 years ago in two isolated and still secret locations in Muğla Province here in SW Turkey, I was lucky enough, 10 years back, to find it growing in profusion in Kocadere Valley near my house. What we have on this latest find is a colony of no more than half a dozen individuals of this critically endangered endemic by the name of Alkanna mughlae. So, not a new species but a new location for a fragile survivor and that has me smiling and happy. So happy that today I made Chelsea Buns!

chelsea buns

chelsea buns and coffee

Jolly nice they were too! As Nero once famously said, ‘ You hum it son, I’ll play it!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps J has just proof read this – she says I’m weird but the grammar is OK!


Puffing Zephyrs With Joseph Pujol

J and I woke up this morning to a truly beautiful day; the sun was shining in a blue and nearly cloudless sky; the birds were twitting; the air felt crisp and clean after the torrential rain and a walk beckoned.

Alkanna mughlae
one of the rarest plants on the planet Alkanna mughlae critically endangered endemic

We set out for a short wander to Kocadere Vadi (Valley), a truly beautiful place that seven years ago we were fighting alongside fellow villagers to preserve from the despoilers who wanted to quarry it out and build a cement factory. Kocadere is home to some critically endangered flora and fauna as well as being visually stunning!

Anyway, all that aside, we were, as I said, ambling along accompanied by the

Le Petomane farter extradinaire
Joseph Pujol 'Le Petomane' the perfect gentleman

twittering of birds, the tinkling of running water and the occasional interjection from various wind instruments. All of which soon had me thinking about a certain Monsieur Joseph Pujol, aka ‘Le Pétomane’, a very famous entertainer of his day. More of him shortly . .

Before that I need to fill in with a few minor bits of information: A number of years ago J and I were stopped short by a very worrying medical report that had our blood pressure and cholesterol going through the roof. We had not been very sensible about what we considered to be good, healthy farm produce. Shock duly applied and noted, we determined that from that moment forward we would eat less dairy and red meat stuff and tuck in with gusto to lots more vegetables. This was sensible and has proved to be a life lengthening policy as our condition is stabilised (pretty much).

Which brings me nicely to the link between walking, vegetables, music and Monsieur Le Pétomane – namely, flatulence!

Young Joseph discovered at a very early age that he had the ultimate trick up his grubby trouser leg for impressing other young boys who measure status by how far one can spit or how high up a wall one can pee. When I was 10 years old, the fact that Raymond Castle (may this disclosure get him sacked as captain of his golf club) could pee right over the lavvy wall really impressed me but left me totally pissed off! Joseph Pujol had such control over his abdominal muscles that he could suck up water via his anus and then jet it out over a distance of several metres! After he joined the army he was able to entertain and delight one and all with displays of his prowess, and, no doubt get out of boring ‘fatigues’ as we called unpleasant chores.

About this time he learned that he could also ingest air via the same orifice and expel it under control using his sphincter muscles and produce satisfyingly musical or theatrical effects.

Joseph Pujol Le PetomaneBy 1892 he was the star attraction at the Moulin Rouge performing for such luminaries as the Prince of Wales and Sigmund Freud, who probably based an entire branch of psychiatry about anal retentivity on the show! The highlights of his performances include blowing out a candle from several metres away; sound effects such as thunder and cannon fire; such renditions as ‘O Sole Mio’ and ‘La Marseillaise’ which he played on an ocarina with a rubber tube stuffed up his arse! Ladies and gentlemen, I kid you not – go check out on the internet.

After taking his show on the road he added a sort of ‘Old MacDonald’s Farm’ ditty with appropriate animal sound effects and the pièce de résistance was his stunning farting impression of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906! I bet that brought the house down!

The maestro retired in 1916 and died in 1945. We will not see his like again! Or so I thought. Which brings me very nicely full circle and back to my walk with J this morning. As I am under a ‘serious and imminent threat’ (to quote successive US presidents) of retaliation or even a pre-emptive first strike if I dare to mention J’s name in association with any of this, I will not. Suffice it to say that we both eat an awful lot of vegetables; we are both getting older (and you know what happens to your muscles as you age; ‘Slack Alice’ was not a teenager!) and J is a graduate of the once prestigious London School of Music!!!

hilarious silent film from 1900 like listening to a ventriloquist on the radio!!

just as funny!

Alan Fenn,Okçular Köyü


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Incredible Okçular!

Driving The ‘Evil-Doers’ Out Of Paradise

Alkanna mughlae (not a rose by any other name!)

This is the story of a ‘Wallflower’; a ‘Shrinking Violet’ so retiring in nature as to be overlooked and passed by ever since clever people began giving things names and fitting them into ‘boxes’.

Kocadere Valley - unique!

This is the story of a plant; an insignificant member of the Borage family which has over 2000 species. A plant with relatives that have wonderful names; names like ‘Viper’s Bugloss’, ‘Patterson’s Curse’, ‘Hound’s Tongue’, ‘Fiddleneck’, ‘Geiger Tree’, ‘Lungwort’ and ‘Forget-Me-Not’. Names that conjure up phantasmagorical images and have you wondering how such a monika could come about.

This is the story of a plant that doesn’t have a fancy or poetic name; a plant so secretive that it only came to the attention of science just over 10 years ago, in 1998. A plant so rare that it was known to exist in only two isolated and deliberately unpublicised places on Planet Earth; both of them in Muğla Province, here in Turkey. Isolated, that is, until I ‘discovered’ and photographed it growing in Kocadere Valley, Okçular.

‘Discovered’? Huh! What a joke that is. In order to discover something you have to have some idea that it is there to be discovered; that what you are looking at is new to science or to an area – it certainly has to be new to something! As far as I was concerned it was just one of several hundred different flowering plants I’d photographed around Okçular with my new digital camera toy. The camera was my obsession of the moment, not wading through my shelves of reference books looking for labels. I was collecting pics of flowers like little boys used to collect stamps, some ‘twitchers’ log birds in a book and traffic wardens collect car numbers! It was not a scientific exercise. Anyway, this plant was not that much to look at when lined up along side so many other beauties.

a lot of professors

When outsiders threatened to turn Kocadere Valley into a quarry and cement works; destroying its unrivaled flora and fauna, I sent CDs of every species I had to whoever I thought might be able to help. Within a few days, to my utter amazement, we had professors and students from İstanbul, Bolu and Ankara universities hammering at our door, all demanding to know one thing – ‘Where is this plant?’ ‘Why?’ asked I. ‘Because this is Alkanna mughlae – one of the rarest plants on earth!’ ‘Come with me’ I said, ‘but it can’t be that rare, it’s growing all over the place in Kocadere!’

Alkanna mughlae (critically endangered endemic)

And so it came to pass that a modest beauty queen of exceptional rarity joined forces with a few activists and a lot of very determined villagers and cast down the idol to Mammon and drove his ‘evil-doers’ out of our village and out of the biologically unique paradise that is Kocadere Valley – forever! Kocadere and Princess Alkanna of Muğla are safe and ready to welcome those who cherish modesty, beauty and the treasures that are our birthright.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Holy Week in Okçular

J and I went on a pilgrimage today to the ‘Shrine of Kocadere’. Actually, we tend to go there quite a lot at different times throughout the year because it’s a very special place. There is an intimacy as well as a grandeur about this cleft carved through the limestone by the forces of nature. Here I can sit or walk and actually hear myself think! No traffic noise, no music and usually, no other people; just the gentle sounds of our other, non-human neighbours that we share this corner of the world with.

Once, long ago the waters of an un-named little river in what today is Okçular discovered a fissure in the bed of the stream and began to bore its way through the soft limestone, ‘zigging’ and ‘zagging’ until, eventually, it burst back into the light of day some 5kms from where it had gone underground. Millennia passed and the relentless flow of water dissolved away the rock until a vast cavern had been hollowed out. I like to believe that this great gateway to the Underworld would have held very special significance for the early inhabitants of this area and this accounts for the affinity that I experience whenever I go there. A hydrologist whom I took there described it as a ‘bridged canyon’ which would have been open at both ends.

Today Kocadere is bridged no more because, based on best estimates, an earthquake about 2000 years ago caused the roof to crash down. What you see today as you walk into the valley proper are great vertical walls of limestone with many, many rocks and huge boulders littering the valley floor. It takes very little imagination to picture the area as it once was.

If you are reasonably fit and sensibly shod, you can traverse the valley from end to end, although there are no footpaths to ease your way. This very inaccessibility has led to a distribution of flora and fauna that, whilst not totally unique, is nearly so.

Critically endangered species like the endemic Fire Salamander Lyciasalmandra fazliae or Alkanna mughlae, a member of the Borage family of herbs, abound. The Alkanna was only known to exist at two sites in the world, both in Muğla Province after which it is named. When I happened upon it, and drew it to the attention of one of Turkey’s eminent environmentalists, Okçular was inundated with professors and students. Kocadere is, today, the most important site known for this species.

The sheer number of different species to be found around Okçular and Kocadere has astounded biologists. One example is orchids; to date I have recorded 27 species and one of these was my reason for going to the valley today – the beautifully delicate Holy Orchid Orchis sancta. Here you can enjoy a photograph; to see one in the ‘flesh’ in the supreme setting of Kocadere, you will need to be quick – they will only be flowering for the next few weeks. Give your senses a treat and come and visit, ‘We are waiting you’.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü