Posts filed under ‘Conservation’

Learning from nature

Working with large, charismatic animals is surely one of the most rewarding things you can do, and I’ve long known that we have so much to learn from them.  Indeed humans have been learning from other species for millenia.  It is so sad, then, that we continue to persecute the Earth’s large mammals to such an extent that population numbers are now drastically reduced to dangerously low levels.

The proud beasts of the forests and plains survive in pockets of wild habitat that are also shrinking as a result of human encroachment.

The link to the article below in today’s Independent touches on the importance of trophic cascade (the importance of apex predators in the web of life), and also the parallels that can be drawn between our species and others.  For example, the importance of family groups and social structures.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/could-big-cats-be-facing-extinction-2308722.html

Big cats are on the brink.  This article is a plea for us to take heed and to really learn the lessons, not just for the sake of the big cats, but for our own as well.  The world will be much diminished if these wonderful creatures disappear from the landscape once and for all.  With fewer than 900 tigers left in India time is running out….

July 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

Bialowieza – Europe’s last primeval forest

Bialowieza - the last primeval forest

Bialowieza forest in Poland is an untouched wilderness that is home to myriad species including wolves and bison, both charismatic species that now only co-exist in the wild in a handful of places in the world. 

A battle is currently being waged over this ancient forest, which began life 8,000 years ago.  On one side are those who believe nature has to be managed and controlled, and on the other those who think we should leave well alone and let nature do her own thing.  

The Bialowieza national park is just one fragment of the vast forest, and only 10 sq km is fully protected.  The battle is over the forest that lies outside the national park. 

Read the full article published in the Guardian on 6 April 2011: 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/06/poland-environmentalists-foresters-primeval-forest

April 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment

Natural heritage should NOT be for sale

Save our Forests

Not content with standing by and allowing much of our industrial heritage to be sold off, the present Government is now pushing forward plans to sell off our national heritage too.

This is being done in the name of reducing the budget deficits that were created by the banks and financial institutions, and which threaten to leave our children and grandchildren with no access to large tracts of England’s natural assets.  More worryingly is the potential impact this will have on the forests themselves, the habitats they support, and the wildlife living in them.  How can we be sure that in private hands the forests will actually enjoy legal protection?  How would this even be policed?  The assurances the Government are giving us do not ring true, and would be difficult to uphold.

Selling off England’s forests is not the answer, and indeed should be an unthinkable option.  It seems that this government cares little about anything other than the economics of the current national debt.  Everything is measured by the “bottom line”.   But a country is not great because it is rich in financial wealth.  A great country comprises many different facets and elements – many of which simply cannot be measured on a balance sheet.  Education, health, the environment, and our natural assets all have tremendous value, but none of it is something that can be priced.  We should be looking at the true “cost” of our assets, and not just the price!

Below are some reasons we should not be selling off our forests.  These statements are taken from the Forestry Commission website, and were posted there in 2009.

The Public Forest Estate is:

* A world leader in sustainable forest management for multiple objectives.
* A significant contributor to mitigating climate change through sequestration, substitution and adaptation.
* A major land manager in National Parks and AONBs.
* One of the largest managers of SSSIs with 96% in favourable or recovering condition.
* The most extensive and popular resource for recreation in the countryside with over 40 million visits a year.
* A major provider of new greenspace around our cities and regeneration areas.
* The largest producer of timber in England producing about 1.4 million m3 per year.

38 Degrees is campaigning vigorously to Save Our Forests.  Join the campaign and let your voice be heard.  Once our forests are gone, and sold into private hands, they will be gone forever.

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/save-our-forests

Celebrities join the protest:

http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2011/01/23/celebrities-line-up-to-condemn-government-forest-sell-off

January 23, 2011 at 10:29 pm Leave a comment

Bats and Bowls

Tibetan Singing Bowl

During the summer a friend introduced me to the wonderful properties of Tibetan singing bowls.

A traditional singing bowl is usually beautifully hand-crafted from bronze and other metals, which resonate or “sing” from the vibrations of being struck or being rubbed by a wooden, plastic or leather-bound mallet. The sound produced is multiphonic, comprising multiple harmonic overtones, depending on the metal composition of the bowl.  Antique bowls often have gold and silver mixed with the bronze.

Of late, I have developed a deep interest in acoustic ecology, and I’m currently spending time researching the nature of sound and silence and what this means from a cultural perspective.  I was so entranced with the Tibetan singing bowl, and immediately my imagination went into overdrive about the possibilities this could open up.

I was delighted when my son bought one for my birthday in September, and eager to experiment, I took the bowl outside to explore how it would sound in an open space.

I live in a rural setting, surrounded by fields and woodland, and one evening as dusk was settling into night, I stood on the farm track by the copse near my house and played my bowl.  The sound resonated beautifully with a deep melodic tone, and it felt good to be playing it outdoors.  The quality of the sound was quite different from playing it indoors.  There was more of a sense of freedom and letting the sound go where it wanted without it being enclosed and echoing back.

After a short while, I noticed I had company.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw something flash by, and quickly it was gone. I recognised the movement.  It was a bat!

Bats flying

It was dusk at the time, and it’s not unusual to see bats on their evening forays to find food, and so I wasn’t surprised to see it.  I often sit and watch the bats in the summer months, flitting in and out of the trees, especially as the sun goes down.

I carried on playing, but this time with an eye on the treeline above me.  The bat came in for another fly-over, but this time swooped in much closer.

I was intrigued.  Was it reacting to the singing bowl?  Or was it just going about its normal business and I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.

I stopped playing, and stood waiting for a while.  No sign of the bat.  I struck the bowl several times lightly, making a gentle resonating sound, and the bat appeared again.  As I continued to play, it made several passes by where I was stood, some of them very close.

This carried on for a while.  When I struck or rubbed the bowl to make it sing, the bat would appear, and swoop over me, sometimes quite low.  When I stopped playing, it was nowhere to be seen.

A few nights later, I told my ten year old daughter and two of her friends, who are also our neighbours, what had happened, and they were curious to see if it would happen again.  So off we went with the bowl and all gathered on the farm track by the trees.  We stood as still and quiet as we could, and then started playing the bowl.  It wasn’t long before a bat appeared, and as on the previous evening, it swooped in low as if investigating the strange noise whenever the bowl was played.  The kids were enthralled, whooping and laughing as we all ducked to avoid the bat as it “buzzed” us.

The whole experience has left me wanting to know more about this response from the bats.  But of course, as a wildlife conservationist, I don’t want to disturb the nightly feeding routines of my local bat population, so clearly I need to do some more research.

I hope to have a second instalment to this story fairly soon, and to be able to link this experience into our bio-acoustic workshop Nocturne.  What better inspiration to continue with our acoustic ecology work than connecting with nature in surprising ways!

November 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Young People learn new skills

Young people in their natural shelter

Eight young people gained new skills and experience that will help them with their next steps in life, whether this is finding a job, a place on a training course, or coping with life in general. 

The Bushcraft and Personal Development Workshop took place over a nine week period, with the young people spending one day a week in the forest, leading to an overnight stay in natural shelters they had built.  This was followed by time in a recording studio mixing and editing their found sounds into music tracks, and editing film footage. 

Click here for the press release distributed about this programme.

July 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

Bushcraft and Personal Development

Education 4 Conservation in partnership with Wild Earth, has just successfully completed the first of three Bushcraft and Personal Development workshops, with funding received from CSWP (Coventry, Solihull, and Warwickshire Partnership), and the Warwickshire Youth Opportunity Fund.

Working with a group of young people aged 16 to 19, the six week programme has included learning bushcraft and forest skills which are a great way of connecting with youngsters, personal development, and CV writing and job search skills. 

Setting up a camp is an integral part of the course, and involved making fires, shelter-building, collecting water and gathering wild foods.  Everything is back to basics.  Fire is created by friction, so involved a bit of hard work and knowing the right techniques.  Shelters have to be weather-proof (and in snowy and wet conditions this in itself is a challenge), and food and water have to be safe to eat and drink. 

As well the camp basics, the young people also learn about nature, but more importantly, they learn a lot about themselves.  Many courses use the hackneyed phrase “confidence building”, but in this case it is great to see young people’s confidence in their abilities really develop. 

The group has to work as a team in order to get everything done.  If a fire is not built, there is no heat to keep warm and to cook food and heat water.  Everyone has to pull their weight to collect wood and kindling, and keep the fire tended.  The shelter keeps everyone dry, especially in wet and cold conditions, and is an essential part of the camp.   Collecting and purifying water is another important task. 

In this country, we are never very far from civilisation, but some basic orienteering skills are essential as it is still possible to become lost when you’re in a forest or woodland.  Map reading and orienteering skills are also valuable skills to learn. 

Although it is hard work, and for many young people bushcraft is something completely new and unusual for them, everyone has fun and really enjoys this part of the programme. 

The other essential part of this course for this age group was to learn CV writing and interview skills.   The woodland experiences were used to focus on key transferable skills that are necessary in finding a job and adapting to a workplace or education setting.   Communication, teamwork, perseverance, project management, using initiative, are all skills that employers like to see. 

Some fun indoor activities using visualisation techniques and role play highlighted the connection between the lessons learning in the camp and woodland, and how these could be used to make a CV more interesting, and also give the young people good experiences to talk about at interview stage. 

The group spent time developing their personal profiles for their CV, and practising interview techniques in a simulated job interview setting. 

The next six week programme is due to start in March 2010, followed by work on the larger Nocturne acoustic ecology programme. 

If you would like further information about our courses and workshops, please contact us.

February 28, 2010 at 10:19 am Leave a comment

A New Era for Wolves and People

A New Era for Wolves and People

Cover of new book

A New Era for Wolves and People was first conceptualised by Professor Marco Musiani following a wolf conference in Banff Canada in 2003.  The project did not get off the ground initially, but Marco never dropped the idea and at a another wolf conference in Colorado Springs in 2006 Marco asked if I would help him to produce the book, both as a contributor on conservation education and as project manager.

Marco recruited two other editors: Professors Luigi Boitani and Paul Paquet, both of whom are highly respected in the wolf conservation community and beyond, and who have been working in this field for a number of decades.

At that time we had no funding and no publisher, and it was my job to help with this part of the process.  In the meantime, Marco set about contacting wolf and conservation experts through the world to contribute to the book. 
Marco’s vision was to produce a book that was academically robust, a little controversial and which explored the various facets of what is now known as “human dimensions”, which is primarily concerned with dealing with the various human-wolf and human-human conflicts that arise as a result of both species living side by side. 

Wolf Drawing - by Su Shimeld

Wolf Drawing by Su Shimeld

Marco wanted the book to appeal to a wider audience and so we commissioned wildlife artist, Su Shimeld, to produce a series of beautiful and evocative pencil drawings which depict wolves in various settings and situations. 

Chapters for the book were soon written, edited and peer reviewed, and Marco then had the task of presenting to prospective publishers.  The University of Calgary Press were quick to realise the importance of this book, and immediately agreed to publish it.  However, the book had now become too large for one volume and the decision was taken to split it into two separate books which can be read individually, but which also have very strong links.  (The second book will be published in February 2010).

A New Era for Wolves and People has finally been published and will be launched here in the UK on Saturday 9th November at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust Autumn Open Day (www.ukwolf.org).  The UKWCT also supported the production of the book and it is fitting that the UK launch be held among our eight ambassador wolves at the UKWCT Centre in Reading. 

Copies of A New Era for Wolves and People can be purchased directly from the UKWCT and profits from the book will go towards supporting wild wolf conservation projects.  www.ukwolf.org

November 6, 2009 at 10:25 am 1 comment

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