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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Artist’s Efforts Expand Environmental Awareness of Egyptian Wildlife

• Malibuite’s  Foldout Series Takes Travelers—Whether by Jumbo Jet or Armchair—on Fascinating Sojourns

BY ANNE SOBLE

A young Malibu artist and adventurer is involved in a colorful effort to make the diverse natural wonders of Egypt more accessible to the rest of the world.
American University in Cairo Press has published a new series called AUC Press Nature Foldouts, illustrated and written by Dominique Navarro.
Each foldout introduces a selection of Egypt’s animals and plants, from river wetland residents and desert survivors, to the wildlife of the ancients and prehistoric dinosaurs.
Navarro told the Malibu Surfside News, “Egypt is synonymous with desert tombs, mummies, pharaohs and revolutions, but there is another side to it that is vivid and invaluable: Egypt boasts a unique and exotic assortment of birds, mammals, fish and reptiles living everywhere from mountains to lakes to mangrove forests along the Red Sea.”
She said, “Egypt is full of surprises and remarkable beauty. What is exciting about this series is that it has something to offer everyone, whether they are a tourist visiting the ancient archeological sites, an animal or bird enthusiast, or simply curious about Egypt past and present.”
Navarro’s background is forensic art. She participated in an archeological dig near Luxor in 2011. For nearly two months, she worked at the excavation of a temple tomb, digging up hieroglyphic fragments and encountering images of birds and animals as depicted by ancient artists with each find.
Navarro said, “History is about learning from the past. I was inspired by the way the ancient Egyptians found their environment so invaluable that they depicted it in all aspects of their culture, from their architecture to their hieroglyphic writing.”
While living on the West Bank of Luxor, she said she was captivated by the landscape, especially “the desert mountains that conceal the Valley of the Kings, and the lush Nile River, which nourishes the vast agricultural fields and is the life source of the country.”
Navarro said she observed “a variety of birds thriving on the banks of the river as fishermen cast their nets from boats; and in the fields, farmers tilled the soil surrounded by cattle egret, while at dusk or dawn, one might catch sight of resident foxes hiding amongst the fields of sugar cane.”
The artist said she was “challenged to find information about the species she was encountering” and “conducted extensive research into the ecology of Egypt, consulting numerous scientific books and historical texts, asking experts, and exploring.”
She said she jumped headfirst into finding habitat of existing animals, but also discovered there were species that “some assumed were extinct” that were not.
While exploring, she “found two feisty, captive juvenile crocodiles in a Nubian village, but their fates were uncertain. [She] was told they would be returned to the wild, [but] it seemed more likely they would become dead souvenirs for a naive tourist.”
Navarro said, “Tourists have an impact on a country, for better or for worst. It is my hope that the AUC foldouts inspire people to think about the environment as a place we all share and must care for.”
She has completed the first two volumes of the series: “Egypt’s Flora & Fauna” with scientific consultant-naturalist Richard Hoath, and “Birds of the Nile Valley” with ornithologist John Wyatt.
She is currently at work on the next two in the series: “Ancient Egypt’s Wildlife” with renowned Egyptologist Salima Ikram; and Egypt’s Prehistoric Fauna, with paleontologist Matthew Lamanna, who helped discover the sauropod Paralititanstromeri, one of the largest dinosaurs known, in Egypt’s Western Desert in 2001.
The AUC foldouts are compact and laminated for outdoor use. They contain photographs, maps, illustrations of dozens of species, general text and scientific information. Navarro said the series will become available in the Arabic language to help “inspire school children and others in Egypt, and encourage environmental programs and promote ecotourism.”
The longtime Malibuite who grew up in Malibu Park and attended local schools said, “Despite the recent revolution and political turmoil, millions of tourists continue to travel to Egypt from around the world. People feel innately drawn to Egypt’s ancient civilization; they contributed so much to science and art, and continue to be a source of awe and inspiration.”
Navarro concluded, “The relationship of ancient Egyptians with nature is something we can learn from as well.” She added, “While we continue to admire and preserve the antiquities of the past, it’s vitally important that we also encourage the conservation of Egypt’s natural heritage and ecological future.”
AUC Press Nature Foldouts are available online from booksellers, including the publisher AUC Press at www.aucpress.com, or Navarro’s website at www.dominique navarro.com, or from Navarro’s blog, “Nature Unfolding”: http:// natureunfolding.wordpress.com/

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