Andy Langley is a wildlife enthusiast and supporter of World Land Trust (WLT), who will be doing a sponsored birdwatch this October to raise money for WLT’s Guardians of Nimla Ha’ appeal, saving rainforest all around a network of near-pristine lagoons, wetlands and mangroves in Caribbean Guatemala.
For a fourth year my employer Ecclesiastical Insurance will be providing matched funding up to £5,000 for sponsorship I receive for completing an all-day birdwatch around Gloucestershire. By combining this with WLT’s Big Match Fortnight, if donations are made between 6 and 19 October through my JustGiving page, these donations will be doubled again.
So for every £1 donated, Ecclesiastical will double it to £2 and WLT will double again to £4!
WLT’s Guardians of Nimla Ha’ appeal
I am always excited to hear what part of the world is going to be supported by WLT’s Big Match Fortnight as it’s such a good opportunity to make sure my donations go further. This year money raised will go towards a £1.2m appeal which will fund the three-fold expansion of the Laguna Grande Reserve in Guatemala, from 1,668 to nearly 5,000 acres. This is a reserve that was established with the support of WLT in 2009.
This is a massive target for a very special place – an area of lagoons, mangroves and tropical rainforest. The appeal name – Guardians of Nimla Ha’ – is inspired in the Mayan Q’eqchi’ words for great waters, and that is key feature of the area being saved. This area of Guatemala is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor which is vital for migratory birds making their biannual journey up and down the coast of Central America, providing a safe stopping-off point. The area contains an estimated 359 species of birds, 90 of which are migrants and winter residents. It also supports over 126 species of mammals, including 20 species endemic to Mesoamerica, along with larger scarce species including Jaguar, Baird’s Tapir, American Manatee and Neotropical Otter.
As in many places there are threats to its future. Deforestation for cattle ranching and the unsustainable growth of banana, oil palm and rubber plantations has already resulted in 80% of the region’s lowland forests being deforested. Poverty, rapid population increase and the expansion of the agriculture frontier are the main drivers of deforestation across the region. WLT always chooses amazing places for their appeals, where donations can make the biggest difference. WLT already have a working relationship with the local partner FUNDAECO who will purchase and protect the land so this stunning place can be saved forever.
This year’s appeal is to raise a record amount, at a time when it has never been so important to save endangered habitats. A separate initiative Operation Ocelot, promoted by Steve Backshall, is also raising funds for this cause. If you know of any kids that would like to get involved in fundraising, this is a brilliant scheme. The idea is to measure out an area of land e.g. their playground, school field, or football pitch and then fundraise to save an equivalent area of rainforest. This link gives more details.
This Year’s Challenge
As in previous years, I am sticking to the challenge of spending from dawn to dusk birdwatching in Gloucestershire to see as many species as possible. Over the last three years I have managed to increase my species count each year from 72 to 74 and last year to 82 species. Every year I have received a soaking at some point, but last year’s record was helped by good birdwatching conditions for most of the day, with good numbers of birds migrating overhead. I think I’ll be lucky to see that many this year, but you never know – over the last three birdwatches I have seen 95 different species so there is still hope. My lists have included a few species of dubious origins which I’m never too embarrassed to include, so I was pleased to hear that a Black Swan had recently flown into Slimbridge WWT – I’ll be hoping that it hangs around as a new species for the list!
I am aiming to complete the birdwatch on 15 October unless I need to move it due to the weather. One of my main objectives this year is to avoid being accosted by the police. The picture below shows an unfortunate encounter in a Cotswold village from last year’s birdwatch, where I was told I looked very suspicious huddling under a tree in the rain. Luckily the policeman was just about satisfied with my explanation that I was trying to keep my phone dry while tweeting an update on my progress.
If you are able to spare any money for this great cause, please click on this link to see my JustGiving page. Please also share details on social media to help turn £5,000 of donations into £20,000!