Guest blog – World Land Trust Big Match Fortnight by Andrew Langley

World Land Trust’s Big Match Fortnight

3 October is the start of World Land Trust’s Big Match Fortnight, ending on 17 October, which this year is raising funds for their Scorched Earth to Forest Haven appeal.  This appeal is aiming to raise £575,000 to begin transforming 246 acres of barren slopes in an area of Vietnam that borders an existing 20,000 hectare nature reserve at Khe Nouc Trong. 

WLT are working with their local conservation partner Viet Nature to restore forest by rejuvenating the depleted soils, clearing invasive grasses, nurturing native tree seedlings and caring for them until they are well established.  As this forest regrows, it will reconnect with and enlarge existing forest reserves, allowing wildlife to colonise new areas.  Examples of some of the many endangered animals that this will benefit are primates including the Red-shanked Douc, which is threatened by hunting and habitat loss. 

It will also provide more habitat for the critically endangered Sunda Pangolin, which is a victim of the illegal trade in wildlife.  

This project is also playing a crucial role in tackling climate change, helping to establish forests that will stabilise soils and lock away carbon dioxide.

How to quadruple your donation to the Scorched Earth to Forest Haven appeal

Last year, with the help of lots of very generous people, including many readers of Mark’s blog, I managed to raise £5,000 by doing an all-day sponsored birdwatch for World Land Trust’s Jungle for Jaguar’s appeal, which was quadrupled to £20,000.  

This year I am aiming to do the same again – my employer, Ecclesiastical Insurance, will match the first £5,000 of sponsorship, which if raised before 17 October will be doubled again as part of WLT’s Big Match Fortnight.

So for every £1 raised, Ecclesiastical will double it to £2 and WLT will double it again to £4!

If you would like to support World Land Trust, please feel free to sponsor me via my JustGiving page.  I would be very grateful for any donations.

My Challenge

Last year I managed to see 72 species, which I thought wasn’t too bad considering the time of year, when most summer and passage migrants had already passed through.  This year I will be doing my birdwatch on 12 October and seeing whether I can beat last year’s total.  On the positive side, I missed a few common birds last year which will make it easier this time.  I’ve no idea how I didn’t spot a Goldfinch all day – if only I had included my back garden on my list of destinations!  On the other hand I will need to replace some of the more unusual species that I was lucky to spot last year – last year’s bonuses included a Spotted Redshank and Jack Snipe.

Why I think this appeal is so important

This year’s appeal is a bit different to other Big Match appeals in recent years, as rather than protecting existing forest, they are working to return barren hills to the condition they once were.  I have always been particularly drawn to appeals that protect at-risk habitat, so I was interested to understand WLT’s reasons for focusing on restoration on this occasion. 

I had a look on WLT’s website and found this explanation in the FAQs section, which compares the merits of preserving mature habitat and planting trees.  The explanation was actually provided in the context of their approach to running their Carbon Offsetting scheme, but still provided a good insight:

Both avoided deforestation and planting techniques are equally important. The destruction of mature forest is responsible for 20% of the global carbon dioxide emissions, more than the cumulative global emissions of cars, boats and planes. It is better for biodiversity to preserve existing habitat rather than trying to recreate it, which is why the Carbon Balanced programme strongly promotes avoided deforestation as part of its projects. However, in some parts of the world, the land is so degraded that restoration through tree planting is critical. In practice we combine all the techniques needed to protect and restore a given parcel of forest – this obviously means restoring what has already been cleared through planting supplementing natural regeneration as well as protecting what forest still remains.

Although protecting existing habitat is obviously key, in this area of Vietnam restoration of habitat that borders an existing protected area is clearly of great benefit.  The adjoining 20,000 hectare reserve best remaining examples of Annamite Lowland Forest in the world is already protected and is supported by WLTs Carbon Balanced Programme.  The reserve itself is one of the best remaining examples of Animate Lowland Forest in the world and is of huge ecological value.  In addition to the species mentioned earlier, this includes being home to the critically endangered Saola (a large animal that looks like antelope, but it is more closely related to the bovine family), which was only discovered in 1992.  The area also has one of the highest levels of amphibian and reptile diversity in Vietnam.  It is great to know that money raised will help extend this forest over time, providing new habitat for so many endangered species.

The approach to conservation in this area of Vietnam is a perfect example of all aspects of WLT’s work coming together – mature forest has been protected, new habitat is being restored to extend that forest and WLT also funds a team of rangers to carry out joint law enforcement activities with the local authorities to protect the forest as part of their Keepers of the Wild programme.  For further details of this appeal and all WLT’s work, please see their website. If you are able to spare any money for this great cause, please sponsor me though my JustGiving page.  Please also share the details of my JustGiving page on social media and see how close we can get to turning £5,000 of donations into £20,000!

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