A new species of screech owl discovered in the Amazon has been named for Sister Dorothy Stang, a Dayton-born nun.
A recently published study in the scientific journal Zootaxa, written by an international team of researchers for the United States, Finland and Brazil, outlined the discovery along with that of a second screech owl found in the Atlantic Forest.
The Xingu screech owl found in the Amazon was given the scientific name, Megascops stangiae, to honor Stang’s work “on behalf of poor farmers and the environment in the Brazilian Amazon region,” according to the study.
Stang was gunned down Feb. 12, 2005, in the Brazilian rainforest she devoted her life to protecting. A Brazilian rancher hired gunmen to assassinate the nun.
The name Xingu refers to the region where the owl species was found between the Tapajós and Xingu rivers, the area where Stang worked and was killed.
John Bates, curator of birds at the Field Museum in Chicago and one of the study’s authors, said the newly discovered owl is five to six inches long, dark brown in color with a lighter shade of streaking underneath.
It is related to the Eastern screech owl that can be found “in any neighborhood in Dayton” and throughout eastern North America.
Bates said his Brazilian colleague, Sidnei Melo Dantas, named the owl for Stang. Dantas is the lead author of the paper and a scientist with the Federal University of Para and the Goeldi Museum, both in Belem, Brazil.
“The screech owl occurs in the area where she was actively trying to preserve forest and help poor people,” Bates said. “From the perspective of my Brazilian colleagues, they have a great love for the forest and someone like Dorothy would absolutely resonate with them because of the contributions that she made.”
Both of the newly discovered screech owls are already critically endangered due to deforestation according to the researchers.
“This new generation of Brazilians are much more conscious about the need to preserve habitat and they are well aware of the people who made a big difference,” Bates said. “In Dorothy’s case —she made a big difference.”
Dorothy’s brother, David Stang, of Palmer Lake, Colo., said his sister would be humbled to know a new species had been named to honor her.
“I think she would say she doesn’t deserve it, that the people of the Amazon deserve the name,” he said. “But Dorothy is a symbol of the Xingu Valley of the Amazon. She’s an enormous symbol of humility, hard work and love for the poor and love for the Amazon.”