Tuesday, 20 December 2005

goats, goats, goats

Further to my earlier blog, does any one know how much money has been raised in the past two years for buying goats, and how many goats have actually been bought? And does anyone know what the impact on the environment of all these extra goats will be? I saw somewhere that last year (2004) Oxfam raised enough money for 30,000 extra goats. A scary thought.

Blog takes off

For the first year or so, I wrote my blog on a fairly regular basis, but got little or no feed back. However, recently this has all changed. There appear to be real, live readers out there. YOU must be one. Several have emailed me at the World Land Trust, while a few have actually posted responses to my blogs. This is great. I don't write just to make a point, I also write to try and stimulate discussion. It is all too easy to assume that the way conservation has been carried out in the past is the right way, and to get stuck in ruts. But situations change, and so must we.

As an example, I grew up in an era when it was always assumed that the 'noble savage' lived in harmony with his natural environment. I was one of the first wildlife specialists to work for Friends of the Earth, back in the 1960s. FoE quoted the famous speech by Chief Seattle, on how nature and men are brothers, or something along those lines. It doesn't matter what was quoted, because the whole speech was a fake. Written in the 1950s, by an ex-Disney script-writer. And so is the 'Noble Savage' a fake. Humans have a nasty habit of living at the limits of their technology. Give a Stone Age tribe guns, and they will extirminate wildlife with zeal (and probably the nearby tribes as well). But the concept of the 'Noble Savage' living in harmony with nature is what underpins many peoples' views of the indigenes living in the rainforests. To me 'native rights' are not what we should be concerned with. We, as conservationists, should be concerned with the rights of local people, regardless of how long they have been there. What does it matter if an area was colonised by your grandfather, or colonised 2000 years ago? Why on earth should the fact that your great-great-great-great grandfather moved in and squatted on land give you greater rights than somone who only arrived three generations ago? In the UK we have abolished the hereditary rights of peers of the realm to govern. Because someone's ancestor was mates with William the Conqueror, it no long gives him or her the right to govern England. So why should some one who's ancestors arrived in the tropical forests a few generations back, have rights to exploit them in an uncontrolled manner?

Just a thought. I am not sure. But some views, from either side would be useful. So far the land acquired with WLT funding has never had to confront these issues; and it is always owned by a local organisation. But in the future it may need consider the rights of indigenes, so the views of supporters and readers would be most welcome. In fact I am considering designing a questionnaire -- so suggestions for the questions that need to be addressed would also be useful.

Paraguay -- the Gran Chaco -- a Legacy for the Future

I have just returned from a highly successful visit to the Chaco and Pantanal of Paraguay. I was there to take the representatives of Sid Templer's family to look at an estancia that was available to be bought as a permanent memorial to Sid ( a Halesworth resident who sadly died two years ago), and turned into Paraguay's first Pantanal Nature Reserve. It was an incredible journey, that involved nine hours in the pouring rain, in an open boat, mostly after darkness had fallen, navigating by the reflection of Caimans' eyes along the banks. When the rains stopped and the sun came out temperatures soared to over 30 degrees celcius, and mosquitos the size of a jumbo jet descended (that's a slight exaggeration). But what a place. Teeming with wildlife.

Capybaras abounded on the river banks, and as well as Yacare Caiman we saw anaconda, myriads of birds, including the massive Jabiru storks. We didn't see Jaguars, Giant Armadillos, Giant Anteaters, or Giant Otters -- all of which occur there. But we did see South American River Otters, which are far more difficult to see than the Giant species.

The World Land Trust's Partner, Guyra Paraguay has a first rate track record, and with the funds provided through the WLT, we feel confident they will establish a world class nature reserve. It not only protects a sample of the Pantanal habitat, which is rare in Paraguay, but also a mosaic of palm savvanah and chaco.

This now one of several major reserves created as memorials and funded through the WLT -- what better way of remembering someone, than with a nature reserve? And we know there are more to come because many of our supporters have already told us that they have made a legacy to the WLT in their will. And if you want to know more about creating your 'own' reserve do contact me. If you have £5000 or more to spare there are many parts of the world where this will create a reserve of real significance -- either by adding critaical pieces to an existing reserve, or starting a completely new one

UK Government funding for projects

Over the years we (the WLT, that is) have made a number of applications to various grant giving departments of the UK Government. It is always very soul-destroying as making the application takes a huge amount of work, with many hurdles to be jumped, masses of background information required, and the net result is invariably the same -- refusal; rejection. I have no objections to applications being turned down, but in two of the cases I am referring to it is quite clear from the reasons given that the applications were not read thoroughly -- because if they had been read, then they could only have been rejected for different reasons, as those given did not apply. The problem is that in most cases the final decision is in the hands of unpaid "experts" who may only spend a few minutes glancing over the application. Very depressing for the applicants who have probably spent a week or more writing it. I know more than a ittle about the processing of grants, having been on the other side in the past, but Government funding actually seems more arbitrary than almost all other forms. The experiences of others would be interesting.