Philopotamia margaretta
Riverdave's journal
November 1995
This essay appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun Newspaper on November 27, 1995
     In this page of River Dave's Journal, we continue our look at special examples of wildlife that enrich our local community. Considering the events of the past several weeks, it is now timely to add the entry of Philopotamia margaretta to the faunal field guides of our region. The genus, Philopotamia, means ``love of river things.'' The species, margaretta, is self-evident to all who live in the Triangle.

   SPECIES: Philopotamia margaretta.

   FAMILY: Nygardae.

   DESCRIPTION: This animal has been recognized in our region for a long time, but the activity of a certain individual of this species has attracted much attention in the Northeast Piedmont of North Carolina. This alpha female was easily identifiable by her long blond hair, broad smile and bare feet.

   RANGE: This species is commonly seen along the Eno River from Occonneechi Mountain in Orange County to the mouth of the river at Falls Lake in Durham County. The den of the alpha female was located on the south bank of the Eno River just west of Cole Mill Road bridge in Durham. During periods of intense urban development, she often departed the river habitat and was seen at the Capitol and legislative building in Raleigh. It has been reported that she occasionally made seasonal migrations to regions as far-flung as the Amazon River and the south Pacific.

   HABITAT: All types of riverine habitats including surrounding slopes and flood plains.

   NATURAL HISTORY: Often individuals suddenly appear in an area accompanied by rumors of exotic origins. It is said that the above mentioned alpha female residing in Durham County originated in India. They quickly gravitate toward threatened rivers and occupy old historical buildings for their dens. Philopotamia margaretta is best known for its preservationist activities.

   The alpha female of this species in Durham County was frequently seen wading in the Eno River, barefoot, with pant legs rolled up, intently darting from rock to rock searching for various forms of aquatic wildlife. This behavior was usually accompanied by facial expressions ranging from a pure childlike delight to deep thoughtfulness and concern.

   Although she bore four healthy natural offspring from a supportive mate who, himself, was of exotic origin, her most frequently used strategy for insuring the survival of her species was a persuasive conversion to her preservationist cause along the Eno River. Untold thousands who now reside in North Carolina are now considered Philopotamia margaretta.

   STATUS: Special concern. With the passing away of the Eno River's alpha female of Philopotamia margaretta on Nov. 5, 1995, there is no reason to elevate the status of this species to that of threatened or endangered. But a strong element of concern should surround the thousands of individuals of this species remaining in Durham and Orange counties and surrounding regions.

   These are the ones who have benefitted from the establishment of a beautiful river greenway in a fast-growing urban area. They bring their own offspring to wade barefoot in the Eno River and tap their feet to the music heard at the Fourth of July Festival at West Point Park. They paddle, fish, hike and swim in the protected areas along this river corridor. Their number includes those living downstream in Wake County who drink from the watershed protected by the sweat of the alpha female who resided at the Cole Mill Road den.

   This Triangle population of Philopotamia margaretta needs special concern with the following considerations in mind: Will their love of rivers motivate them to complete the master plan for protecting the Eno River and establishing its parklands?

   Will they help protect the other three river corridors in Durham County along the New Hope, Little and Flat rivers? Will they extend their work to cleaning up the Neuse River as far downstream as New Bern? Will they be farsighted enough to secure both clean and vibrant waterways as well as a beautiful and healthy environment for future generations to enjoy?