Photo essay: Ramsar study tour to the Camargue, 2001
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The Camargue in southern France, part of the delta of the Rhône river into the Mediterranean, is one of Europe's greatest wetlands, and certainly one of its best-managed wetlands. And it's also the home of the Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat, an extensive research facility that not only studies the Camargue and manages parts of it, but also engages in far-flung research elsewhere and advises governments and intergovernmental instruments on sound science concerning wetlands, and also serves as one of the three technical components for the Ramsar Convention's MedWet Initiative (along with the Greek Wetland/Biotope Centre in Greece and SEHUMED in Valencia, Spain).
(left) Ramsar interns studying wetland conservation with Jean-Paul Taris, head of Tour du Valat.
No wonder, then, that Ramsar Bureau staff and friends should wish to investigate what's really going on down there. And finally to meet their Tour du Valat colleagues in person! Thus at the weekend of 15-17 June, quite a few Ramsar people hurtled southward from Switzerland to try to verify some of these previously disembodied reports and guidelines. They were ably organized by Dr Tobias Salathé, the Bureau's Coordinator for Europe, who just luckily has recently come to us from the Tour du Valat and happens also to be a superb study tour organizer.
Following a long drive and an informative tour round the Tour du Valat facilities, the Tour du Valat laid on a superb Friday evening dinner in a fledgling "bio-restaurant" in a restored traditional Camarguian set of farm buildings, over seven hundred courses of really interesting-looking things (with eggplants and bull sausages, etc.) that needed continuous commentary from the managers.
Photo: Inga Racinska and Marco Flores of Ramsar, closest to the digicam, and Dr Jean-Paul Taris, who arranged the happy occasion, seeking second helpings farther down the table.
At the second table, Ramsar's Annette Keller entertains Tour du Valat folks, particularly Alan Johnson, the flamingo expert on the right who subsequently (Saturday) explained the whole thing about successfully building fake nesting islands to bring the flamingos back and what not.
Dr Max Finlayson of the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (the what?!?) in Australia, who is sometimes referred to as Ramsar's "science engine", and who happened to be -- happened to be?? -- residing at the Tour du Valat at the time (reading over his agenda papers for the 10th meeting of the Ramsar STRP in Switzerland, and preparing his rebuttals), seen with Lisa Durham and (turned away) Ammy Gillesberg at the traditional bio-dinner.
Sandra Hails (Ramsar) hectoring Max Finlayson about wetland functions and values, relative to bull sausages in the Camargue; Tour du Valat's Jean Jalbert in the reddish shirt.
Ramsar's Secretary General tries out traditional Camargue bio-specialities energetically.
Tour du Valat director Jean-Paul Taris toasts Ramsar interns in an extremely welcoming and hospitable manner.
Watching, incredulous, as people try to eat bull sausages down at the end of the table, after all the eggplant quiche and asparagus nibbles and broccoli tarts and Great Big Lamb Chops.