Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wild Days Out – a Model for Redbridge?

While Eco-Tourism is a big thing abroad it is not as well developed here in the UK. However, according to the report below it is now beginning to take off and, apparently, there is already a huge appetite for wildlife watching holidays in Britain with eco holidays going a step further by engaging with wildlife and natural areas that are under threat and directly contributing to their conservation.

Here in Redbridge we have some wonderful open spaces, Hainault Forest, Claybury Park, Roding Valley, Fairlop Waters and the surrounding countryside. Our very own Ranger team organise hands-on events (wild days out), which are usually free and you can go home afterwards. However, there does seem to be a market opportunity here to flag Redbridge as an attractive Eco-Tourism destination with the consequential benefits to the local economy.


Wild Days Proves A Sustainable Model For Successful Ecotourism In The UK

An exemplary programme of UK wildlife conservation holidays, designed by Wild Days to support the work of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, the National Trust and the RSPB, proves that there is a sustainable model for successful ecotourism in the UK.

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, yet conservation through tourism is not something that has been developed to its full potential in Britain to date, despite ecotourism being increasingly popular overseas.

Last year, Wild Days’ hands-on wildlife conservation and research holidays made a positive contribution to conservation in Suffolk and their resounding success serves to demonstrate how the approach can now be scaled-up across a national network of organisations. These results are especially pertinent considering that 2017 is the UN’s international year of sustainable development through tourism.

Wild Days founder, Andy Jefferies, says: “Development of high quality ecotourism in the UK is long-overdue; the need is greater than ever and conditions are ripe right now. Ecotourism in Britain is ready to move from niche to mainstream and in the process make a real difference to our environment.”

Internationally, there has been a huge evolution in volunteering and conservation holidays, with organisations such as Earthwatch, Biosphere Expeditions and Blue Ventures building wildlife research trips with a strong focus on benefiting nature. At home, however, there is nowhere near as much opportunity for Brits to get involved. Jefferies suggests it may be because wildlife is deemed more exciting elsewhere in the world.

“I would hope that TV programmes like Springwatch and BBC Earth 2 are changing that view,” he says, “you only need to spend a night surveying small mammals in the UK to know that a pygmy shrew in the hand is worth two tigers in the bush!”

The 2016 State of Nature report shows that now, more than ever, there’s a need for active nature conservation in the UK on a large scale and that everyone can get involved. Citizen science has burgeoned in Britain, with volunteers contributing to scientific understanding and generating a staggering 4.5 million wildlife observations annually.

Jeffries says: “It’s very clear that the Springwatch generation want to do something useful to help nature but are struggling to find UK holidays that make a positive contribution to conservation. ‘This is exactly what I’ve been looking for’ is typical feedback we get from the people taking part in our eco holidays.

The few organisations that are doing eco tourism well in the UK include: National Trust working holidays, Trees for Life in Scotland and Waterways Canal Camps. Having developed a sustainable model, Wild Days is now actively working to build a national partnership and use the success of its approach to mainstream the concept of eco tourism in the UK.

It's about time we focused on the fascinating wildlife on our doorstep. Animals in Britain can be just as enigmatic as Africa's 'Big Five' - great creatures can also be small! Jefferies suggests that Britain's 'Small Five' could be: the wood mouse, bank vole, pygmy shrew, dormouse and harvest mouse.

The Small Five’s tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to environmental unpredictability such as loss of habitat and the use of pesticides - all the more reason for us to preserve Britain’s countryside and keep them safe.

Visit this report on eco holidays and wildlife conservation for more information.

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