Photo by Alex Arsenic De Castro

Rosie the Rosewood Tree

Written by Amanda Mackey, Emily Botta, Amy Vanbarneveld, and Albert Kim, and photo by Alex Arsenic De Castro, 2016 Southeast Asia: Animal Conservation

We recently had the opportunity to work alongside Freeland, an anti-wildlife trafficking organization in a National Park in eastern Thailand. Upon meeting the park rangers there, we learned that not just the wildlife in the park is at stake, but also their home: the forest itself. Specifically, the rangers told us about the illegal poaching of the rosewood tree. Coveted in China and abroad for its hardwood and auspicious red hue, rosewood trees are near extinction in Thailand and much of Southeast Asia.  What struck us most about the struggle of this species was how hard the rangers there are working – oftentimes through long hours, dangerous conditions, and little pay – in order to protect the forests that they love.

“Rosie the Rosewood Tree” is a story that grew out of this learning experience.

It is written as a children’s story based on the idea that, sometimes, big ideas are best communicated it simple ways.  Perhaps too often when it comes to ideas of social justice, we can get carried away with inaccessible or overly intellectualised language (I know, I’m guilty), but simplifying the concepts through accessible language and different mediums is a powerful way to spread these messages.

When our participants first read this story out loud to the group, some of us were close to tears – that’s powerful, and it didn’t need big words or concepts for us to understand the weight and importance of Rosie’s story.

Rosie the Rosewood Tree

Once upon a time, in a beautiful and lush forest, there lived a happy little rosewood tree named Rosie. She loved when the warm sun shined on her branches and the fresh breeze rustled through her leaves.

Rosie loved to play with her forest friends. The birds came to sing to her, the squirrels played around her, and the bears scratched their backs on her trunk. She stood proudly with all of the other rosewood trees in the forest. Of all of her pals, her very best friend was a park ranger named Rick. Rick loved the trees and the trees loved him too. He came to check on them every day. Although Ranger Rick wore the same outfit as all the other rangers, Rosie always knew it was him because of the way he whistled through the woods on his way to see her.

One night, Rosie woke from her sleep to an unfamiliar face staring at her. She was startled, but thought, “Oh, I wonder if this is one of Ranger Rick’s friends.” However, this man looked mean and dressed differently than Ranger Rick. Certainly this new man was no friend of her beloved pal.

Before Rosie knew it, she was strapped to the mean man’s back and was being taken from her home, family, and all of her forest friends. She was scared and wondered what was going to happen next. The journey was long, and eventually Rosie fell asleep.  When she awoke, she was in a strange room and felt very different. She was no longer tall and strong. In place of the warm sun, she felt the air was stuffy and cold, and there was no wind to rustle through her leaves. Her animal friends weren’t there and her family was gone too. She was completely alone in the strange room. She was bent in new ways and cried out in pain as someone sat on her. “Lovely chair,” said the fat, smelly man now on top of her.

Rosie remained there, sad and alone, as the days passed. She missed being a tree, tall and strong, in the beautiful forest. She thought of her friends and family, but she especially thought about her dear pal, Ranger Rick.

One day, she awoke to a big commotion happening in the other room. She became scared until she heard a familiar whistle and saw Ranger Rick rushing to her rescue with tears in his eyes. “Rosie! What have they done to you?” he exclaimed. Rosie cried at the sight of him and told him how much she missed her home.

Ranger Rick took her as fast as he could and brought her back to her forest.

She now sits with her family and friends. She misses being a tree though. She misses the sun on her long branches and the feeling of wind through her leaves. She misses the bears scratching themselves on her and birds flying around her high in the air. But she is with her family and friends at last, and that means more to her than anything.

She will never forger the day that Ranger Rick came to her rescue, or the sound of his familiar whistle. She will always appreciate all the hard work the rangers put in to find her and return her to her home. Ranger Rick works hard every day to keep the rest of Rosie’s family safe and sound in the forest where they all belong. He tries his best to make sure no other strange men will ever come to take any of Rosie’s family away.  All trees deserve to stand tall in the forest, under the loving protection of their own “Ranger Ricks”.