GROWLS event packs Phoenix Auditorium

By Janina Stajic
Gabriola Sounder
March 24 2009

On Thursday, March 19th Gabriolan’s packed the Haven’s Phoenix auditorium to hear Dr. Chris Darimont of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, speak about B.C’s Great Bear Rainforest.

“We tried to arrange to have Dr. Darimont speak last year but he wasn’t available,” says Liz Ciocea, of GROWLS, “but it came together this year.” The event was a fundraiser for GROWLS.

Why a talk on this rainforest? “Because the Great Bear Rainforest is such an incredible part of the province,” says Liz.

And she’s right. It’s the largest intact, coastal temperate rainforest left in the world – 60,000 square kilometers of wilderness on B.C.’s central coast, inhabited by a huge variety of species – including one, as Gabriolans discovered Thursday, not found anywhere else on the planet.

Using, poetry, film, photographs, anecdotes and jokes Dr. Darimont introduced us to the “rain wolves,” a one-of-a-kind species he’s been researching for nine years.

“We’re jokingly calling this wolf, Canada’s newest marine mammal,” smiled Dr. Darimont. And when you consider this animal makes more than “75 percent of [its] living from marine resources like salmon, beached whales, and seals,” the moniker makes sense. The wolves also swim between islands to feed themselves.

Why is Raincoast so interested in these wolves? The answer is within the foundation’s vision “to protect the habitats of umbrella species,” which they believe “help ensure the survival of all species and ecological
processes that exist at different scales.” In short, protecting the larger carnivores helps protect the rainforest.

As was expected, some of the information Dr. Darimont imparted was sobering. Although some protections have been put in place, it seems there are not enough – yet. “There are some gaps in government policy,” Dr. Darimont explained.

And, destruction of habitat through activities such as logging, diseases and, perhaps most horrific of all trophy-hunting, is threatening many of the umbrella species in the Great Bear Rainforest.

But Raincoast has seen some triumphs.

“All we do stems from our science, which we pass through the scrutiny of peer-review in leading scientific journals,” says Dr. Darimont.

They then use this science to inform decision makers. This approach paid off in 2001 when the EU ruled in their favour and banned grizzly bear imports. The ban was upheld by the EU, twice, in 2005.

And, because the foundation is independently funded, they are able to think out of the conservation box and employ unusual but effective tactics to meet their goals.

For example, in November 2005, after six months of fundraising, Raincoast bought the guide-outfitting rights to a large chunk of the rainforest – essentially putting a stop to trophy hunting in the area. “We basically thought if we can’t beat em’, buy em’,” said Dr. Darimont.

At the moment they’re working on a number of different campaigns and continuing to build up their body of research.

But, says Dr. Darimont, “We also want to inspire people.” Which they did rather effectively on Thursday night – wowing the audience with the story of the Great Bear Rainforest and her elusive rain wolves.

GROWLS will be continuing the rain wolf story on Earth Day showing Rain Wolves of the Great Bear Rainforest and other presentations at the Roxy throughout the day and evening – free of charge.