AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for July, 2016
Ria Winters is an accomplished artist, writer and photographer from the Netherlands who is passionate about nature and its study through multiple study trips around the world. "My motivation and inspiration comes from the natural world, at places close by and far away." She has conducted study trips to: Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Mexico, U.S.A., China, Svalbard (Spitsbergen), Ireland, Reunion and Mauritius.
Ria undertook an AFC Flag Expedition to the latter which resulted in initiatives supporting nature in that island nation. Her book 'A treasury of endemic fauna of Mauritius and Rodrigues' (Port Louis, 2011) contributed to the nation's efforts to conserve en preserve the countries endangered plants and animals, which was a great result of the expedition. At the moment she is working on second book. This time exclusively about the Dodo, the extinct flightless giant pigeon that was endemic to Mauritius. It will be another contribution to raising awareness on the fragility of island biospheres. “My authorship is a direct result of the AFC Flag Expedition”.
Books are not Ria’s only writings. She wrote and co-authored four articles about the historic fauna of Mauritius that were (and one is going to be) published in scientific peer reviewed magazines. One featured the journey of a Dodo from Mauritius to Japan. The bird was a gift from the government of the Dutch East India Company to the Shogun of Japan (‘The dodo, the deer and a 1647 voyage to Japan’. R. Winters and J.P. Hume, in the Journal of Historical Biology, 2014) The paper got much attention of the press in the Netherlands as well as in Japan where Ria, the Dodo and the archives that served as a source for the paper, were featured in May 2016 in the Japanese television program Sekai no fushigi hakken, which means as much as ‘Mysteries of the world’. The crew that executed the work for the documentary also visited Mauritius to film there. The result is that Mauritius and it’s unique nature are now known throughout Japan.
Another article described the origins and contents of a report, written in 1669 by an employee of the Dutch East India Company about the nature of Mauritius. Ria illustrated this article 'Captive birds on Dutch Mauritius: bad tempered parrots, warty pigeons and notes on other native animals' (J.P. Hume and R. Winters, in the Journal of Historical Biology, 28:6, 812-822, 2015) with a new, brightly coloured version of the formidable extinct Mauritian Broad-billed parrot.
Parrots are her favourite subject. "Parrots have always been an interest because of their colors and characters. Many people share their lives and home with parrots, so parrots in art are loved by many people too. Another great thing about parrots is that there are so many species and they live on all continents. You never get bored with painting them because they are so diverse." In the wild she studied the endangered Echo parakeet during her AFC Flag Expedition. “More parrot trips to other countries are in the making, but Mauritius and its fauna remain a weak spot. All a result of that fortunate flag expedition and that’s how the AFC made a difference.”