The beginnings of naturalist Helena Arroyo

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This is a little story that I like to tell and that, honestly, moves me a lot…

It’s the beginning of my greatest love, my greatest passion, my calling. Since I was 9 years old, not a day went by that I didn’t stick close to my main interest: nature, animals and thinking about what I can do to better the environment.

Finding a way to do so has been a blessing and a curse:

A blessing because it has given my life a real sense, and a curse because it’s not an easy task. I see so many crimes against nature and at so many levels: from people abusing pets to companies that keep building yet another major work, and governments ignoring the most urgent issues.

There’s also, my feeling of endless searching –what to do, where to work, is what I’m doing enough, what more can I do – and the moments when I distance myself a little bit, this constant nostalgia, this need to be near animals, to travel… But it cannot always be possible. I also have to travel, go through more stable stages. They are the steps in which, in any case, I’m thinking about all the previous, reading about, going to conferences and of course, working in environmental education, and so on… but to me, it will never be enough, and that’s my curse.

Well then, let’s get to the story, to how it all started. My mother, who is a writer and a professor of literature, always told me stories, and since I was a child, she would sit on my bed in the morning and tell me some story. Most of them would be about the crazy lady who helped children to steal animals from the zoo in order to set them free (if only she knew that her stories would turn to reality years later!).

But one day, she sat on my bed and starting telling the story about people who loved trees and forests so much that if a company would try to cut them down, they would chain themselves to the trees to keep those companies from doing so.

My life changed instantly at that moment: that was my calling, no only was I ready to chain myself to a tree but I was also ready to dedicate my life to protect nature. So I got out of my bed and started writing information and observations I made about my Australian parrots and my turtles, and looking for articles on animals in my library. And that’s how my vocation was born.

Let me say that that was the official day, but I’ve been fascinated by animals long before that.

There’s a story my parents tell, and I was practically a baby in it, I was looking for a book about a crying little lion, and I just sat and cried as well because of his story too, even though my parents hid the book to avoid me that exact outcome!

And of course, since the age of 6, I’ve kept my land turtles: Marylen, Dama and Pompon, that I adore, take care of and that I have a great relationship with – especially with the biggest, Marylen, who follows me and recognizes her name.

Moreover, my mother always supported my interest; my birthday presents were books and magazines about nature, she let me volunteer in different places since I was young, she let me go on last minutes trips without saying no and never complained about the thousands of animal refugees I brought back home, from spiders, chicks to monkeys and sick dogs, parrots and more… But that’s another story.

Author: Helena Arroyo

Translation: Noëlla Moussa

Amelie Delobel

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