Help Ensure a Future for South Georgia’s Wildlife

South Georgia is a unique and beautiful place. Along with having a rich human heritage, it is also home to a wide range of marine and terrestrial wildlife from elephant seals to King Penguins! The island is particularly famous for its seabirds and is considered as one of the most important seabird islands in the world. Tragically many of the species which live there face the risk of extinction.

King Penguin - Roy Bishop

King Penguin – Roy Bishop

The main reason for this has been the introduction of Norwegian Brown rats as a result of sealing and whaling activities in the area. Although such practices have been stopped, the island is still suffering from the devastation caused by these destructive little creatures.  The rats developed a taste for the chicks and eggs of ground-nesting bird species such as the Storm Petrel, Prions and Blue Petrels. As a result, many of these lovely birds have fled the island leaving it bare.

Black browed Albatross chick - Ewan Edwards

Black browed Albatross chick – Ewan Edwards

On top of all this, climate change is making things worse. Global warming is causing South Georgia’s glaciers to melt at a rapid rate.  Such glaciers have been acting as barriers, protecting certain areas from this invasion of the rats. If these remaining barriers disappear, the few surviving bird populations are likely to flow suit.

To the rescue!

Healthy Planet’s conservation partners, South Georgian Heritage Trust (SGHT) have been working hard to protect the current wildlife on the island and prevent any further damage. In order to achieve this, the trust has embarked on the largest habitat restoration project ever attempted. The aim of this ground-breaking project is to save the island’s native birds from extinction by eradicating all introduced rodents from South Georgia by 2015. This is a mammoth task and the first phase alone approximately cost a whopping £7million in total! With the support of Healthy Planet, the SGHT has managed to complete the fundraising for Phase 1 (clearance of rodents from trial areas around King Edward Point and Grytviken) is complete!

Image by Deirdre Galbraith

Image by Deirdre Galbraith

Looking to the future…

The SGHT now urgently needs help to raise the funds for Phase 2 of the project – eradicating rodents form the remainder of South Georgia. This will cost another £5.5 million.

Healthy Planet has recently received a Project update from, Tony Martin, the Project Director, in which he beautifully depicted the splendor of South Georgia as well as the trials and tribulations they face in such a challenging environment.

Helicopter flying over icecap with bait bucket - Tony Martin

Helicopter flying over icecap with bait bucket – Tony Martin

In February 2013 ‘Team Rat’, as Tony describes them, embarked on the exciting journey known as Phase 2. Before first light people were up and about on deck and within the 24 hours the team had pulled enough supplies to clear rats from 77 square km of the island (25 tons of bait and 108 drums of fuel). After having unloaded the most precious cargo, the helicopters, Team Rat was ready to start the difficult task of depositing the supplies to 14 different sites around the island.

Despite severe weather conditions, including blizzards and gale force winds, the team have already successfully managed to set up bases around the south coast and western end of the island.  They are now coming to the end of this labour intensive process, with only a few days to go before they begin the all-important bating work.

Helicopter flying over icecap with bait bucket - Tony Martin

Helicopter flying over icecap with bait bucket – Tony Martin

‘Team Rat’ needs your support! By donating today you are can help the South Georgia Heritage Trust to preserve the island and its natural heritage.

For more information about the Habitat Restoration Project visit http://www.sght.org/

By Nicole Costantini

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African Astronaut Ants? BBC Africa with Sir David Attenborough

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Image from BBC.co.uk, Felicity Egerton

Just when you think you’re grown up, worldly-wise and pretty confident you know what an ant looks like- probably black, maybe red… But gleaming silver?

If you have been watching the most recent cinematic masterpiece on the box, ‘Africa’, you will know what I’m talking about- the Saharan silver ant (or Cataglyphis bombycina to the science buffs among us). Seemingly iron-clad armies of beasties that can withstand the scorching temperatures of the midday Saharan sun (easily reaching over 50 degrees celcius) by reflecting a high proportion of incoming solar radiation with their silver colouring- likened by Sir David Attenborough to astronomical space-suits. This evolutionary adaptation allows them to scurry out of their burrows when the heat is simply too much for any potential predators to cope with- leaving them free to scavenge for food. But even these hardy fellows can only cope with the temperatures for a maximum of about 10 minutes.

It’s not all about ants. The six part documentary has been giving us all an insight into the spectacular and astounding inventions that our ancestral continental home has conjured up over millennia. Black rhinoceri grunting and snuffling by a twilit lake, conversing and socialising in secret; African elephants parading along a tropical sandy beach; rolling dunes of the sandseas moving in super-quick time like ocean waves.

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Image provided by BBC Africa

It’s fantastic to see all of these natural phenomena on film. We’re going to see on Wednesday evening the final installment of the series, which is focused on the future of Africa. Because the continent spans across so many latitudes, it is home to the greatest range of biomes on Earth. Conserving these spectacular habitats is a priority for hundreds and thousands of conservationists across the world. If you want to be a part of conserving the future of Africa and some of the amazing creatures and habitats it is home to from the comfort of your home, Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community may be just the ticket.

The new online platform, which is launching very soon, allows you to pick a project and tailor your donations to fit you. That’s not all- you can then keep up to date with exactly what your donation is doing, who or what it is helping, and the progress your chosen progress is making with regular updates. So if you decide you want to help a project which specialises in ridding the Kenyan desert of illegal elephant traps set by ivory hunters, you could do just that. Or perhaps you’d like to help a small rural community on the banks of Lake Victoria harvest timber sustainably, in a way that will see them supplied for generations. Healthy Planet are continually growing their list of projects and you can get involved with the global conservation community.

Enjoy the final installment of Africa tomorrow- and let us know what you thought!

Useful Links

Learn about our conservation work at Richmond Park alongside Sir David Attenborough and our conservation partners Friends of Richmond Park here…

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Sir David Attenborough and the Healthy Planet Team at Richmond Park

Take a sneak peak at our Conservation Community online platform here…

Or if you fancy learning more about BBC Africa head to their homepage…

This blog was written by Admin & Comms intern Fiona King

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper – Review

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’ by Tony Juniper – a leading environmental campaigner and sustainability advisor – is a remarkable book which highlights the true value of the natural world, and the true economic cost of human ignorance in modern day development. 

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

After getting thoroughly engorged into the first few chapters, I was fortunate enough to attend a book club hosted by Friends of the Earth with my manager Dawn Newton, where we had the opportunity to meet Tony Juniper himself (and get my book signed – eeeek!) and learn first-hand about his motivations for writing ‘What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’. He passionately spoke how science is basically communicated to the general public in Swahili, with poor communication methods effectively building great walls and further separating environmentalists, and everyone else.

Juniper’s key aim therefore was to communicate the science to all audiences, which he fulfilled by explaining the complexity and interdependency of nature in a story-like fashion. He produced an engaging and highly readable account of how we as a population are literally liquidating the capital of the Earth.

Tony Juniper - Executive Director

Image provided by Friends of the Earth

To introduce the complex web of interactions and relationships occurring within the Earth’s system, the prologue tells the story of Biosphere 2, the first man-made version of the biosphere which incorporated a variety of the world’s ecosystems in individual biomes. This introduction outlines how a group of eight people embarked on a 2 year experiment in a microcosm of the Earth’s closed systems and the trials, tribulations and complexities they faced.

Juniper then continues to address the importance of the different components of the Earth’s system and their vital interactions. He explains to the reader the full importance of nature’s processes; constantly moving from a cold statistic to a vivid anecdote about the economic failures we have already faced as a consequence of our need to fund our exploding population and consumption habits.

A favourite example of mine concerned the Indian vultures – a scavenger which typically doesn’t pluck at the heart strings of conservationists – who suffered a population decline of 40 million birds following the introduction of a painkiller into cattle, the carcasses of which were a key source of food for the vultures. The original aim was to increase the farmer’s revenue by increasing the productivity of the cattle; however the painkiller proved poisonous to the vultures instigating a population crash and left mountains scattered with ‘putrefying fly-ridden corpses’. The consequence was more wild dogs, more dog bites, and a rabies epidemic which cost the Indian economy $30 billion.

Indian Vulture

Junipers key message is that we must put a price on nature if we are to ensure the long term preservation of our natural assets, and in turn maintain the long-term benefits the natural world provides. Nature’s services are not free and are not limitless. To capitalize on this goal we need to move away from our ‘green economy’ dominated by engineers and politicians, and move to a ‘bio economy’ where like during the construction of Biosphere 2, ecologists, climatologists, engineers, politicians, and businesses all work together to maximise our understanding and achieve our common goal.

Overall this book has provided the opportunity for readers from all walks of life to understand the difficulties faced by the natural world and our interwoven fate.

If you aren’t eager enough to buy the book already here are links to other reviews from the Guardian, by Designs On Earth, and by Friends of the Earth! 

And if your still not convinced visit Tony Juniper’s website…

Finally if any of you are interested in attending future Friends of the Earth book clubs visit their webpage with video of Tony (which also has the link to buy the book) contact: foebookclub@foe.co.uk

tumblr_m04d7lhXKL1qc6j5yo1_500Want to do something to help?

Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community allows you to directly impact the difficulties faced by the natural world. It is a fun and engaging way for anyone, anywhere to support real conservation projects that are helping make a healthier planet.

Visit the community and get on the map. www.conservationcommunity.org

Blog post written by Rhiannon Downer: Marketing & Communications intern at Healthy Planet

Roar of the Tiger

The Healthy Planet conservation team were very excited to hear the latest developments from our Phoenix fund partner project in Russia last month, where the Tiger team are busy protecting the last strong hold of the endangered Amur Tiger’s habitat.

Camera trap-1, (c) ZSL, Zov Tigra National Park_small

Camera trap-1, (c) ZSL, Zov Tigra National Park_small

The Zov Tigra National Park (“Roar of the Tiger”) is the first protected area of its kind in Russia’s Far East. The 200,000-acre park, established in 2008, protects the tiger’s habitat while simultaneously allowing for nature tourism.

The Park can boast about rich biodiversity: as many as 57 rare and endangered plant species and six mammals, listed in the Red Book, inhabit the protected area. According to the census conducted in 2011, there are 4 resident Amur tigers in the national park. Also, 4 more tigers visit the protected area on a regular basis. Stable numbers of tigers and their prey species are one of the main accomplishments of the project. The monitoring data showed that besides 8 Amur tigers, there are 1,201 Manchurian deer, 99 sika deer, 800 roe deer and 189 wild boars in the Park.

Conservation in action

Due to the mountainous terrain to the north and south of the Park and a few surfaced roads, vehicular access is extremely limited and particularly so during winter and spring, when roads become impassable. In June 2012, thanks to financial support from Healthy Planet, the Phoenix Fund provided the Park’s anti-poaching teams with a quad bike (ATV). Since July the ATV has been used intensively by the guards and showed great performance.

 tigercc

A GPS Fleet Tracking equipment was installed on the ATV. The Vehicle Tracking System allows to create an electronic record of the movements of the vehicle and constantly keep track of the whereabouts of the vehicle through its communication with various local satellites, and then periodically sends a signal to a database, where the information is stored and analysed. A map below shows the ATV movements and routes.

sergei“The Grizzly ATV became a truly irreplaceable transport for our everyday work,” comments the law-enforcement officer of the Zov Tigra National Park Sergei Marchenko. “It can take up to two people with 80 kg of the equipment to the patrol.

 In the first months of work we already were able to get to the arduous areas with no roads, cross the Milogradovka river fords. Now, poachers who are very well equipped these days have no advantage, and it is especially important in the autumn season when hunters go to forest to harvest wild game. ”

Success

From July 1st through December 31st 2012 the inspectors of Zov Tigra National Park achieved the following results:

– 164 anti-poaching patrols were conducted
– 17 administrative citations were issued during the ATV patrols
– 13 violations of protection regime were revealed
– 1,101 km patrolled on foot
– 539 km patrolled by ATV
– 4,591 km covered by cars and motorcycles

Educational classes supported

‘Thanks to support from the Healthy Planet, we continued to implement the project aimed at conserving Amur tigers by focusing on environmental education of local people through holding ecological lessons at Lazovsky Ecological Centre, schools and kindergartens of Lazovsky district, attracting local people towards tiger conservation issues and involving them in nature conservation events.’

The Lazovsky Ecological Centre’s mission is to design and facilitate programs and opportunities that promote responsible relationship with the natural world, demonstrate and promote world sustainability, encourage experiential learning, creativity and playfulness, and cooperate with other organizations. The Centre’s target groups are school and kindergarten children, their families, local educators, tourists and other conservation-oriented public groups. Staff members fulfil the Centre’s educational mission by interpreting studies of conservation and environmental protection in both field and classroom environments.

The eco-centre held 89 ecological events such as lectures and seminars, public educational excursions and a variety of environmentally oriented actions for 1,927 children in age between 4 and 17; produced and distributed informational materials devoted to big cats of Primorye, local fauna, Amur tiger and its habitat, food chains, and tiger monitoring methods.

In August, the educators organized annual celebration of Tiger Day holiday twice. First celebration was held on August 8 on the sea shore of Petrov Bay. The specialists of the Educational Department of the Lazovsky Nature Reserve together with young activists entertained the holidaymakers with various contests, quizzes and interactive games. As many as 140 children and adults became active participants of the Tiger Day Festival and demonstrated their good knowledge of tiger conservation issues. On August 21, the Tiger Day Festival was celebrated by residents of Preobrazhenye village. Over 350 people dressed up in tiger costumes participated in a festive procession and competed in numerous contests. As always, the holiday drew much attention by people in Lazovsky district and proved to be success.

Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community allows you to support grass root conservation projects around the world. It is a fun and engaging way for anyone, anywhere to support real conservation projects that are helping to make a healthier planet.

Get involved

www.conservationcommunity.org
www.twitter.com/conservationhp
http://www.facebook.com/ConservationCommunity

Get On the Map!

Conservation Community launch event_Nov 12On Tuesday 27th November I attended my first event as part of the Healthy Planet team at the launch of the Conservation Community and the Get on the Map initiative, which attracted a full crowd of enthusiastic attendees to Google Campus London.

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Shaylesh Patel – click on image to enlarge

The Talks
The evening kicked off with an inspiring talk from Shaylesh Patel founder of Healthy Planet, with the hard-hitting line “for the first time since records began, our kids are on track to lead a shorter life than their parents’’ – what a way to engage an audience! Shaylesh passionately spoke about the greener and healthier choices that we, as individuals, can make to help create a better planet for future generations, and the wide variety of projects that Healthy Planet has initiated. Being a new intern at the organisation the success of the projects astounded me as much as the audience! The Books for Free initiative for example, has so far saved over 2 million books from being pulped or sent to landfill – that is a whole lot of books!

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Dr Mark Mulligan – click on image to enlarge

Next up on stage was Dr Mark Mulligan – lecturer at King’s College London and chair of the conservation advisory board for the Healthy Planet Foundation. Mark – clearly an avid conservationist – explained the core concepts behind the development of the Conservation Community which aims to combine knowledge, technology and people to actively get involved in conservation through the use of mapping and social networking. The online experience allows the user to choose projects to get involved in, create an online profile, interact with members and spread the word of conservation to the wider community. Amusingly the social media fanatics in the room all looked extremely excited at the prospect of creating a new online profile and being awarded with badges for frantically tweeting!

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Ed Parsons – click on image to enlarge

The final speaker of the evening was Ed Parsons – Google’s Geospatial Technologist – who ended the talks with a surge of optimism. He outlined the major impacts that technological advances have already had on increasing global communication and social interaction, and the positive knock on effects to global conservation. Ed continued to say that as technology continues to spread, we as individuals can build relationships with conservation projects that we care about, we can tackle local and global issues, and we can make a real impact on the natural world.

The Activities
AL0A4192The clearly inspired audience were then given the opportunity to make their own individual conservation hopes and dreams heard. To start, everyone was assigned to a team which reflected a current Conservation Community project – I was team Tiger to reflect the Phoenix Fund mission to conserve the Amur Tigers in the Russia Far East.

After learning about the different approaches Healthy Planet are undertaking to increase the conservation of each species, everyone was asked to think of their own conservation wish and attach the wish to the Healthy Planet Map – note the name of the initiative Get on the Map! Reading some of these wishes was definitely the highlight of my evening, seeing everyone talk about their favourite animals and what they would like to see done to help conserve our world for centuries to come was inspiring! All these wishes are online on flickr for everyone to view.

Conservation wishes

My personal favourite wish has to be “that future generations will be able to enjoy immense biodiversity both overseas and in the UK”.

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The Chat
The final part of the evening ‘networking’ was the part I was most dreading! Typically, when I’m nervous I stumble over my words and end up hiding in a corner, so the idea of approaching a complete stranger and plucking an intellectual conversation from thin air was terrifying! Fortunately for me however, whilst debating whether I was safer hiding in the ladies or under the stage, I was approached by a lovely young gentleman who too admitted to contemplating running to the foyer and texting his entire address book as a tempting solution to his nerves. Surprisingly I was much more at ease after this conversation – safety in numbers and all. Soon the buzz of the evening filled the air, the conversation (and wine) was easily flowing, ideas were bounding, and the growing interest in the Conservation Community was obvious.

Animal themed photo booth

Animal themed photo booth

The Food
The final triumph of the evening was the excellently chosen vegan canapé selection which was provided by Vegan Peasant Catering. The food was delicious, and that is coming from someone who usually shrivels away from a humus pot and anything resembling a vegetable. I can proudly say I tried Tahini Ganoush and Sage Crisp & Candied Lemon Zest on Crostini. In addition for anyone reading this who wants to spark a conversation with a group of powerful looking women –  go armed with a tray of Pink Sea Salted Brownies, women are like putty in your hands. See all the photos from the event on Healthy Planet Flickr.

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Find out more at on the Conservation Community Website our storify from the night or Follow Us on Twitter or Facebook!

You can watch the talks on You Tube Conservation Community launch by Healthy Planet at Google Campus

We are currently editing a short film by potentialproductions.org which will include excerpts from the event and mini interviews with the guests, watch this space.

Blog post written by Rhiannon Downer: Marketing & Communications intern at Healthy Planet