Monday, 23 February 2004

Arabian Nights

Out of the blue last week, I was asked if I could go to Sharja in the United Arab Emirates to a workshop on the Endangered Wildlife of the Arabian Peninsula. This was not in my World Land Trust capacity, but as someone who had a lot of first hand knowledge of European Brown Hares -- I was being asked to participate in a workshop about the Desert Hare in Arabia. So less than a week later, there I was, at the Arabian Wildlife Breeding Centre. Probably the best managed collection of captive animals I have ever visited. Huge paddocks, with herds of Arabian Oryx, Sand Gazelles, and Mountain gazelles. Magnificent displays of local reptiles, rodents fish and other wildlife. And not on public display are the extensive breeding areas for the rare wildlife of the region. In particular the cats -- there were Arabian Leopards, Sand Cats, Gordon's Cat and Cheetahs.

It was a fascinating meeting, with the workshop conducted in tents in the desert. And one evening I was driven to Abu Dhabi for a spotlighting session in the desert where we saw Desert Hares as well as a Desert Eagle Owl at close range. It was a very encouraging meeting -- to find representatives of the various Arabian states all not only knowledgable about their indigenous willdife, but also keen to conserve it. Undoubtedly there are still many problems, with many negative attitudes to predators, for example. But, there is certainly a growing conciousness of the need to protect and conserve wildlife in the region.

The results of the meeting were very wide ranging, but of particular interest to the group I was working with was the report on the Desert Hare. It emerged that no one really knew what species occurs in Arabia. Hare classification is fairly confusing -- at one time all the Hares from Europe to the tip of South Africa were classified as one species -- Lepus capensis. More recently they have been divided into several species, with Lepus capensis occurring in Arabia and Africa. But the Desert Hares I saw were very different to any others I have seen -- most like some of the Jack Rabbits of North America.

To start with the Desert Hare is very small -- often less than a kilogramme -- whereas the European Brown Hare (now Lepus europaeus can be over 4kgs. And the Desert Hare has huge ears, as well as different patterning and colouring. Where it is protected, it is often very abundant, but elsewhere it appears to be very scarce. One of the reasons for this is almost certainly hunting. It is a popular prey for falconers, and also probably for hunting with Salukis. But our workshop was hampered by a lack of knowledge, not only on the taxonomic identity of the species -- a problem that can be solved by DNA sampling -- but also by lack of knowledge of its ditribution. Consequently we decided to appeal to ornithologists for information. Since it is a relatively visible mammal, it is very likely that visiting birdwatchers willl have seen them, and kept records in their notebooks -- so if any readers of this blog have seen Desert Hare (or Rock Hyrax) anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula, please let me have the details and I will pass them on.

Friday, 13 February 2004

It's a competetive world in the media

Just as orders for Valentine Acres -- which flooded in as a result of our advertisement in The Independent last Saturday, were dying down, a phone call from The Times. As is often the case, the advertising departments monitor their competitors' advertising, and then track down the advertisers and try to sell to them. But The Times salesperson suggested we repeat our advert for this Saturday, obviously not even having bothered to read our advert -- or worked out that this Saturday was St Valentines day, February 14..... Pause.... oh yes...

Thursday, 12 February 2004

Rainforest proves popular gift

WLT Success continues in 2004

After a bumper Christmas, with more people than ever giving 'gift acres', the New Year has continued to bring more and more visitors to the WLT website. And right now, we are deluged with requests for 'Valentine Acres'. But we are not complaining. It shows that the public is keen on using the land purchase of WLT to solve its gift problems, and at the same time do something really positive to help save wildlife.

While most people want to save rainforests -- and quite right too, since there is so much species diversity in the rainforests, a significant number of our supporters also back our efforst in the steppes of Patagonia -- where there is still an on-going need. Our Elephant Corridor Project is innovative, and we have just made the first transfer of funds, allowing our partners, the Wildlife Trust of India, to make a start.

Other recent news:

A consignment of wool products -- woven from the Merino wool of the sheep on Estancia La Esperanza -- arrived in the UK, and a local shop in Halesworth Focus Organics is putting on a display in their window, in order to gauge interest. Later, we hope to assist the local community in marketting their knitware and weaving. This is all part of our programme to demonstrate that wildlife and sheep can be compatible, and that it is possible for the local community to make a living without destroying wildlife -- even predators such as pumas.

Post grad's for Belize

Two Master's degree students from University of East Anglia are now completing their plans to go to Belize, where they will carry out research in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, under the auspices of Programme for Belize. With financial support from Jaguar cars, this project is part of the WLT's ongoing programme of training and research being developed with UEA (Norwich University). The WLT's intern programme has received widespread acclaim, and we are hoping that in the near future it will attract sponsorship. By training the conservationists of the future, the WLT is making best use of the years of experience of its staff, Trustees and associates.