Tuesday, 23 August 2005

British Birdwatching Fair 2005

For the second year, the World Land Trust had a stand at the British Birdwatching Fair, a three day event at Rutland Water. Rutland Water is about as central as you can get in England -- which makes it pretty well as inconvenient for everyone attending. Inaccessible by public transport and despite a close connection with wildlife and conservation, not a particularly 'green' event.

However, despite some obvious criticisms, it is an event attended by thousands of keen birders, and it is a chance to meet with colleagues and businesses.

The Birdwatching Fair has been in existence for the same period as the World Land Trust. And in that time has raised £1.2million (not counting this year). Last year it raised £164,000, and was attended by 17,500 visitors, and there were 300 exhibitors. All the gate money (£10 entry fee) goes to BirdLife projects, but what is depressing is how tight-fisted the average birder is. They will spend hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds on binoculars and telescopes and other equipment, and they will spend vast amounts on holidays to see birds, but only a tiny fraction of all that on conserving the birds.

While on the WLT stand I came up with a radical new idea for admission charges for birdwatchers visiting reserves: they should be charged 5% of the cost of their optical equipment. That would soon raise some funds for conservation, particularly in places like Ecuador or Brazil. If you can afford to spend £1000 on optianotherther £1000 or so travelling to exotic locations, £50 entry fees seem reasonable to me.

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