What do Joensuu residents and newts have in common? Well, on Finnish scale, Joensuu has the biggest number of both. It is commonly known that newts spend their winter in hibernation. That is precisely what Joensuu residents do: spend time at home and enjoy their hygge over the cold winter months. Joensuu takes care of its own – and so does its city animal, newt.

Northern crested newt, or warty newt (Triturus cristatus) is a newt in the family Salamandridae. Is it ugly, beautiful or both? At least the daughter of a certain landowner regards her father as very sympathetic, because he is so interested in newts. Who wouldn’t remember Tove Jansson’s Moomin Papa – the wise, loyal, loving and bold man?

– Landowners are the most important target group in the protection of newts. I experienced a sense of success when one landowner felt proud to have such a rare species living on his land. The daughter named his father Moomin Papa, as her father cherished and protected newts, former newt researcher Ville Vuorio says.

Worth a dissertation

Vuorio studied geography and biology in Joensuu, and he came into closer contact with newts when he was in charge of a newt project at North Karelia Environment Institute.

– Too little was known about the rare and very endangered newt. We had to study how forestry and climate change affect this little sharp-toothed carnivore.

The topic took over Vuorio’s life, and in 2016, he completed a doctorate in the conservation biology of the great crested newt. The end result was that newts require more ponds for reproductive purposes and that clear-felling should be restricted in the vicinity of such ponds.

More ponds

The great crested newt can be found in the Turku archipelago, Ahvenanmaa, and, in particular, in Joensuu. It has been calculated that the city has the biggest number of ponds with newts in the entire country. Vuorio refuses to reveal the exact location of these ponds. Newts need peace and quiet, and do not like to be disturbed by curious people.

Joensuu takes care of its own – including the city animal newt

2013 was a year of celebration! As many as 18 new ponds were dug for newts. Voluntary work is a joy in Eastern Finland – the work was completed by private landowners, North Karelia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, forestry company UPM, Joensuun Popmuusikot (Joensuu pop musicians) and the city of Joensuu.

From a newt man to a brewery doc

The newts were grateful for the hospitality of Joensuu and spread to the new ponds to breed. Newt man Vuorio also changed to a completely new career, and became a brewery doc. In 2014, Vuorio set up a microbrewery with his business partner, Doctor Jani O. Honkanen who has completed a dissertation in environmental toxicology. Honkavuori Brewery’s beers are created like art and brewed like science, using Finnish malts and groundwater filtered by Jaamankangas. Last year, over 50 000 litres were sold of the award winning beer. The beer is sold nationwide, and since March 2018, the brewery has also had its own shop.