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Nature meets culture: Vegan violin, chart-topping bird album and more

© Bruce M Beehler

It can be hard to connect with nature in our daily lives. But with a little help, you can find nature everywhere. With that in mind, here’s some recent arts and culture news to help bring nature to life for you, wherever you are.

1. A vegan violin made with pears and berries

When we think “vegan” we typically think food. But what about all the other items — from plastic bags to laundry detergent — made with animal products? 

Recently, one craftsman answered the call of vegan string players who’ve long wrestled with the dilemma of using instruments made with cow hide, sheep guts and other animal parts. 

Craftsman Padraig O’Dubhlaoidh created the world’s first vegan violin using wood inlaid with steamed pear; berries and spring water act as adhesives, rather than traditional glues made from horse hooves and bones. 

“With our planet facing crises on almost every front, the collective voice of people wanting a fairer future grows stronger every day,” O’Dubhlaoidh said in a statement. “Ethical musicians are part of this movement and have long wished for a violin that is fully vegan yet retains all the qualities of the classic instrument.”

According to O’Dubhlaoidh, there are a few “unforeseen advantages” that come from playing a vegan violin. 

“Apart from the benefit to animals, society and our environment, it has become very clear that animal-based glues have harmful effects on violins, inducing powerful tensions on wooden components,” he told Treehugger. “The adhesive used in my vegan violins, however, has no such effect. Irrespective of ethics, this is an acoustic improvement."

2. Chart-topping birds 

Fernwrens and black-eared miners are perched near the top of Australia’s 50 most popular albums — and no, those aren’t new bands, they're endangered bird species. 

A 24-minute album of bird calls — titled “Songs of Disappearance”— beat out Grammy -winner Taylor Swift and fluttered to third place on the chart. 

It includes “a chorus of iconic cockatoos, the buzzing of bowerbirds, a bizarre symphony of seabirds, and the haunting call of one of the last remaining night parrots,” according to the website.

Produced by musician Anthony Albrecht, the album was released with a report that found one in six Australian bird species are edging closer to extinction. Each album comes with a copy of an action plan to protect these native species and a guide to identifying bird calls. All proceeds will be donated to conservation nonprofit BirdLife Australia.

“When we have community on board, that brings pressure… to government to do the right thing," Sean Dooley, a scientist at BirdLife International, told NPR. "And we know that these conservation actions do work."

But beware: These recordings aren’t all the melodic bird songs of a peaceful meditation soundtrack. 

"Things like the golden bowerbird — it sounds like a death ray from some cheesy '70s sci-fi series," Dooley said. 

"And then you get to the Christmas Island frigatebird, which the male, it has a flap of skin under its chin that it inflates like a giant red balloon,” he added. “And so when it's doing these courtship sounds, it looks incredible as well as sounds bizarre."

3. Sips for salamanders 

Adorned with a crown of feather-like gills and a mouth fixed in a permanent smirk, the axolotl salamander has long been a symbol in Mexican culture — representing the Aztec god of fire and lightning. 

But water pollution and habitat loss are putting these little amphibians at risk in Mexico City, where only a thousand axolotls are left in the wild. 

To raise awareness of the threats facing axolotls, a Mexico City brewery — Monstruo de Agua — has made these salamanders its mascot.  Every bottle of the brewery’s craft beer features a colorful label with an image of the axolotl.

“If our product is good, it can act as a good ambassador to the animal,” Matías Vera-Cruz Dutrenit, the brewery’s founder, told National Geographic

Monstruo de Agua is already working to reduce its impact on the axolotl’s habitats by using bikes to transport its ingredients and rainwater to brew its beers. The brewery now serves about 300 direct vendors, providing them each with press kits that include basic information about axolotls and how to protect them. 

According to National Geographic, this brewery is not the only one using axolotl imagery to try to save this salamander in the wild; axolotls are now characters in video game platforms such as Minecraft and Roblox, and featured on Mexico’s new 50-peso bill. 


Kiley Price is the staff writer and news editor at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: Imperial pigeon, Australia (© Bruce M Beehler)

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