Friday, 23 October 2015

David Cameron take a stand, no more IVORY in this land!

On the 3rd of October I joined thousands on the streets on London for a rally concerning the relentless ivory trade. Marches were taking place all over the globe, in a total of 140 counties. In London 96 people were dressed in elephant costumes, representing the number of elephants killed each and every day in Africa by poachers, fuelling terrorist and criminal gangs. This saddening statistic reveals that if this massacre continues, the African elephant species will be extinct in just 11 years - with the last individual falling at the bloody hands of humanity on the 12th of August 2016.

Photograph not mine.

We wanted to show David Cameron that we want the legal trade in Ivory in the UK banned. We're fed up of seeing it on antiques roadshow! The legal ivory trade, especially in China, has been concealing the illegal ivory trade for decades. Some may argue that banning the legal trade in ivory may not reduce poaching but with such a drastic decline, drastic actions need to be taken. In my opinion having any form of ivory product on display - legal or illegal - makes it seem desirable and acceptable; two words I would not associate with the massacre of gentle giants. It is also very hard to accurately age a piece of ivory, resulting in a complete reliance on it's easily faked paperwork, allowing illegal ivory to slip through the net.

The rally was also concerning the use of rhino horn for medicines, especially in Asia. Similar to elephants, rhinos are in serious trouble from poachers. Using the information available to me it appears that governments in Asia aren't pulling their weight to crack down on and punish ivory and rhino horn users and dealers - hopefully Prince William's recent correspondence with President XI and the people of China will have a positive impact.

Wildlife photographer or the year image

The rally began in Cavendish square, continued through Regents Street (past Hamley's where they had elephants on display in support!) and finished on Downing Street where the speeches began. The chants for the march were all prescribed on chant sheets, with my personal favourite being 'David Cameron take a stand. No more ivory in this land!' Dominic Dyer and Nicky Campbell both gave very powerful speachers, and even Ricky Gervais gave some words of support through twitter. To finish off the day a letter was delivered by four representatives from the rally to David Cameron regarding all the issues which we had addressed during the day. I don't know whether to feel optimistic or pessimistic. Part of me thinks that things are heading in the right direction, with lots of recent media and news coverage about the problems elephants and rhinos are facing, mainly due to Prince William's involvement. But is this really enough? Nearly every day the internet reveals yet another story of sadness...40 elephants poisoned with cyanide within two weeks, national park rangers killed by poachers, Asian elephant population declining because of calve kidnapping for the tourism trade...the list is endless.

Photograph not mine.

The thing that probably upsets me most is that elephants are incredibly intelligent and social creatures. I know it shouldn't matter how intelligent an animal is, but it does make you sympathise more with the victims. If you're interested in the intelligence of elephants watch episode one of 'Animals in love' - a series investigating not just love, but the extent to which other species experience emotions previously thought to be only present in humans.

Things you can do to help
- Most importantly, never buy a ivory or rhino horn product, regardless of the credibility of the seller.
- Spread the word to your friends and family, urging them to go ivory (and rhino horn) free!
- Donate to organisations such as 'Save the Elephants' and the 'Born free foundation'.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Is there hope for the future?

 On the 11th of October five young wildlife enthusiasts, including myself, joined in union to deliver a very important message - one of both hope and pessimism, joy and sadness, but most importantly the younger generations connectivity (or lack of) with our natural world. We were there, at the Wildlife Trust's Brandon marsh reserve, to record a podcast with Talking Naturally's Charlie Moores, which would form part of the Every Child Wild campaign. After the huge success of the 30 Days Wild campaign, achieving thousands of supporters, lots of media coverage and even mentions on Springwatch, I was very much looking forward to being part of this new campaign.

Left to right: Sorrel Lyall, Alex White, Nathan Bach, May Rose-craig and myself.
I was extremely excited for the day, if a little nervous too.  I'm sure that the other four naturalists, including Sorrel Lyall, Mya Rose-Craig, Alex White and Nathan Bach were feeling just as positive as myself. On arrival to the reserve we were greeted by Emma and Adam from the Wildlife Trusts, both of who were incredibly welcoming and put our nerves at ease effortlessly. The weather outside was lovely and we all wanted to get out on the reserve, but first we had to get cracking on the task in hand! Charlie Moores, the co-founder of the Birders Against Wildlife Crime organisation and host of the Talking Naturally series, was going to be leading the discussion, asking questions and throwing new ideas into the mix. He began by giving each of us microphones and running through the style of questions he would be asking. We had a very informal discussion for about 10 minutes to settle our nerves, and get us into the right mindset for discussion. Right then - introductions made, water drank, nerves settled...and so we began!

And with the "camera rolling" the discussion commenced. The range of topics covered was immense, but all fell back to the same fundamental message regarding the disconnection between today's younger generation and nature. I don't want to disclose too much about the content of the podcast as you'll find out when you listen to it in a few weeks time, but questions ranged from 'what is nature?' to 'do you think politicians should be more active in the fight to get young people interested in wildlife?' - the questions were challenging, but not in a ''I don't know what to say' way, but more of a 'I have too much to say!' way, which I suppose is a good thing! There were lots of good points made during the recording sessions, including the idea of an annual podcast by different young naturalists each year. I thought that this was a really great idea, as it would not only connect those that are interested in nature already, it would also louden the volume of young, inspiring voices around the UK – enthusing others and building up confidence. We recorded for a total of around 1 hour 30 minutes with two breaks, allowing us to indulge in the delicious lunch we had provided. All was vegetarian, making Emma and I (the two veggies) very pleased. To finish I had the chocolate cake, which was amazing! (So if you’re heading to Brandon Marsh anytime soon I would strongly recommend it)

After all the hard work by everyone we took the last half hour or so to explore the surrounding nature trails and take a group photo allowing us to remember what an amazing day we had. I'd like to speak on behalf of all five of us to thank Charlie, Adam, Emma and all the staff at Brandon Marsh for their contributions to the day. I hope that you all enjoy the podcast, which is due to be published at the beginning of November so keep your eyes (and ears) out!