Let them live, they gives us beauty
Talk: Enlightened conservation of nature – a gleam of light from the zoo Nordens Ark.
Speaker: Mats Höggren, CEO Nordens ark
Site: Smögen Seaside Resort
Like everybody else Mats Höggren was charmed by the founder and real enthusiast of the Island of Light Festival, Dulce Ahlberg, when she showed up at his office at the zoo Nordens Ark, situated by the fjord called Åbyfjorden, close to Smögen. Charmed, but also confused. She asked him to hold a speech about the work to save endangered species, and he wondered what on earth that could have to do with a festival of light art.
He probably did not know that to Dulce, art is everything that is beautiful and has quality. And thinking about it, he realized that light is nothing but the very basis for life itself, and that light indeed affects the experience of nature. Having been fortunate enough to visit the zoo, and in the light of sun after rain seen a shy creature take a step out of its hiding-place, one knows what Mats Höggren meant.
Toads and leopards
Natterjacks, markhors, cows and Amur tigers are some of the about 80 species that have taken over from the people that lived by the Åby fjord thousand years ago. Rock carvings and graves from the stone age tells about the everyday life at this spot. Vast pastures and old majestic trees bear witness to the days when the most powerful landlord of all during the 17th century, the severe Margareta Hvitfeldt, lived here.
Those that followed what happened, remember how hard it was to convince current locals of the safety of a zoo like Nordens Ark. They were told that the tigers, the leopards and all the other wild animals should be safely locked up behind fences.
That was 30 years ago. Nowadays Mats Höggren meets nothing but pride of the work that is done at the zoo. Hundreds and hundreds of examples of endangered species have been bred, treated and set out – peregrines, woodpeckers, geese and toads in Sweden, otters in Holland, lynx in Poland and very soon it is time for leopards in Caucasus.
Let them live
A man in the audience reminds Mats Höggren that the Island of Light Festival not only is a festival for light art but also for science and the environment. Noting this, the biologist and doctor of genetics seems to let go of the search for a common thread between nature and culture.
He loosens up and shows examples of all the animals that Andy Warhol painted, of a sculptur of an eagle owl made by the famous Swedish artist Pål Svensson and finally of a portrait of Evert Taube, calling him the first Swedish environmentalist. One of this man´s most beloved poems and songs underlines the beauty of nature, and our duty to let all creatures live – Änglamark in Swedish, maybe Field of Angels will do in English.