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

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

Attenborough digs Jubilee pond to battle climate change

Sir David Attenborough at the launch of Jubilee Pond.

Photo credit: Liz Coleman

Sir David Attenborough returned to Richmond Park twelve years after it was named a National Nature Reserve to launch the new Jubilee Garden Pond on 15 May 2012.

The wildlife presenter dug the ceremonial first hole in preparation for the commemorative pond, which is being created in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee.

The pond is part of a Ponds and Streams Conservation programme, funded by environmental charity Healthy Planet, which promises to create new fresh water habitats for wildlife, restoring many of the park’s ponds and streams over the next 2-3 years.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the Wild London event at Richmond Park in celebration of the capital’s woodlands, parks and gardens and watched a performance of Swan Lake performed by students of The Royal Ballet School based in Richmond Park.

The parks, ponds and streams are important as they sustain a variety of wildlife but are threatened by erosion and disturbance.

“When you are older you will see all sorts of creatures in this pond… newts…frogs,” Sir David Attenborough, Patron of the local charity Friends of Richmond Park told some sea cadets at the event.

“Thank you to Healthy Planet for funding the Jubilee Pond in Richmond Park. This new habitat will sustain a vast array of wildlife and help combat climate change by retaining more water within the park.”

Shaylesh Patel, founder, Healthy Planet said:

“Healthy Planet is proud to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by providing core funding for the new Jubilee Pond.

“The aims of the pond – to improve biodiversity by creating a new freshwater habitat and to retain more water in the Park to counteract the effects of climate change – are similar to projects we support around the world.

“We are delighted that our award winning and unique web technology is being harnessed to not only raise awareness, but also raise money, for grassroots projects like the Jubilee Pond.”

Friends of Richmond Park Chairman Ron Crompton and Park Manager Simon Richards also spoke at the event. The Friends of Richmond Park have launched a public appeal to fund the programme and Healthy Planet will match all public donations pound-for-pound.  More information on adopting a part of the pond through satellite images can be found at www.healthyplanet.org/jubileepond

Healthy Planet’s New Video!

From saving Penguins in North Georgia to protecting Richmond Park’s 130,000 trees, here at Healthy Planet we are engaged in protecting national parks worldwide; through our Adopt a Plot campaign.

So please check out our new video, or visit the Healthy Planet website and find out what else were up to here at Healthy Planet!

Richmond Park needs our help!

Formed in 1637 by Charles I for hunting deer, Richmond Park is now a National Nature Reserve and London’s largest site of Special Scientific Interest. This is because the park is home to many ancient trees, which are of great importance to wildlife; as the trees and their decaying wood supports many endangered species of insect and fungi.

The park is still recognised for its deer. Unfortunately many of the park’s 130,000 trees, including those that provide food for the deer populations, are now under threat from disease and climate change. Both native and climate-resistant tree species are desperately needed to encourage regrowth and biodiversity.

That’s why Healthy Planet is working in association with Friends of Richmond Park to protect this historic area, and we need your help!

As well as our supporting the work of our conservation partners around the world, you can adopt a plot online to support conservation on our doorstep in London. Find out more and adopt a plot in Richmond Park on the Healthy Planet website.

Or you could come and find out more about our award winning Adopt a Plot Project by visiting Healthy Planet at the Ideal Home Show. We are located on Princes Avenue, at Stand 1H93 and will be there until 1 April. To find out what we are up to and how you can get a 10% discount for the show please read our previous blog. It would be great to see you there!