Why bird lists?
Nature organizations are the single most important force driving the conservation movement in North America and Europe, and increasingly in developing countries as well. Nature organizations may differ greatly in their objectives: Some organizations bring people together who love to study and enjoy nature, such as bird organizations, like the Royal Society for the protection of Birds in the UK, Vogelbescherming in the Netherlands, the Sociedad Española de Ornitología, the Naturschutz Bund Deutschland, different Ornithologische Vereinigungen in Deutschland, Audubon Society and the Sierra Club in the USA, lots of botanical societies all over the world, etc. Given the passion of their members, most of these organizations promote nature conservation in a variety of ways, like organizing field trips, promoting love and concern for nature through educational programmes and through political lobbying.
Other organizations promote concern for conservation of nature or of the environment in general. However, the European and North-American conservation experience has taught us, that the larger conservation organizations are those that promote active enjoyment of nature and that help nature friends to go into the field and build friendships among each other. Among the nature friends, we see that birdwatchers often are the most active and enthusiastic people to go out into nature. Birders keep their own lifetime lists of birds and jointly they maintain bird lists for regions and countries. That is why I started thinking about catering to the interest of birdwatchers when I wanted to design a conservation website in 1997.
Birdwatchers in the developed world are also some of the most active travelers to developing countries to expand their own bird list and to get to know completely different avifaunas of countries far away from their homes. When traveling to another country to go birding, these birdwatchers love to have access to the birds list of the country of their visit. In many cases, it also is very difficult for them to find the national parks and nature reserves where they can go on a birding. Travel to developing countries requires proper preparation and it is difficult to find the really good places, like birding hotspots, great areas for trekking, backpacking, rafting, canoeing, biking and other forms of ecotourism.
In developing countries, we see a dramatic problem that there are many national parks and nature reserves that are under appreciated. Many of them hardly ever are visited, because there is little information about them, even less information on how to get to them and where to stay once you know that they exist. This leads to the situation that local populations see little benefit in the conservation coming from those protected areas. In Africa, the protected areas are the few places left with abundant wildlife and poachers like to go in and hunt the protected animals. In many countries, landless farmers settle in protected areas and cut themselves a little farm field from the forest. Worldwide, we have seen that visitation of protected areas - ecotourism - is one of the most effective ways to promote acceptance of and respect for protected areas among local inhabitants, as ecotourism creates employment.
Based on its decades of work in developing countries, WICE has come to the conclusion that visitation of protected areas is indispensable for their conservation. Areas with little or no visitation are under far greater pressure than those that enjoy significant visitation. Over the years it has sought for ways of promoting interest in protected areas in developing and transition countries. In 1997, I was attending a training course in software use and web site development, and one of my instructors showed a website that - at the time - had some of the heaviest traffic on the internet. So he thought, how I can I put that knowledge to use for promoting visitation to protected areas. So I though how I could get the attention of the most enthusiastic nature travelers, the birdwatchers, then he could help them find those areas and thus contribute to their conservation by having bird watchers visit protected areas in developing countries. Knowing that birders want the national checklist of the birds of the country they are going to visit, I figured that I could get your attention by providing the national bird list of every country of the world in one website. Once having your attention, the website could then show information on the protected areas of the country of your interest and eventually ways on how to visit them. That was the idea behing Birdlist and Nature Worldwide and the reason why I created the website.
As at the time, no site on the internet provided such information, the information on the distribution of birds would have to be entered from different sources of information, particularly bird guides of different regions of the world. WICE started hiring a team of students and young graduates in different parts of the world, and the first avibase or birdbase in the world was born. That is why WICE acquired the domain names http://www.birdlist.org and http://www.birdlist.com, http://avibase.org. Since then in many countries and states birding commissions have come on line and started publishing the official bird list for their region. WICE has incorporated those new data and harmonized them to its own presence / abundance format.
Although, some countries are still missing, we can proudly say that we currently cover about 80% of the countries of the world and 90% of the world's land mass. We know that our lists are not yet complete and often based on potential distribution rather than confirmed observations, but we continuously get emails with corrections and official up-to-date bird lists. In fact those emails are very important in motivating us and that is why we continue providing more information about birds, national parks and nature in general.
Why national parks and protected areas?
Once WICE had the bird lists of most countries of the world, we did not stop there. We started collecting national checklists of mammals, thus creation the world's first mammalbase, for which we acquired the domain name http://www.mammalbase.org. The lists of protected areas by country already existed from the World Commission on protected Areas, (WCMC) of the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP), and we started publishing those lists on http://www.nationalparks-worldwide.info/ in combination with our bird lists and mammal lists. Other lists were the lists of Man and Biosphere Reserves, and the World Heritage Sites and wetlands of RAMSAR SITES. This information has been entered in the WICE databases and is currently updated to be made available in easily accessible format so that people worldwide can get convenient access to that information to properly prepare themselves for their intended nature travel. WICE has not yet started to work on Amphibians, Reptiles, fishes and butterflies, or coral reefs, for lack of funding.
Often, ecotourism operators limit their standard packages which often exclude important parks and nature reserves, and we hope that by providing information on national parks, that an informed group of ecotravelers and ecotourism operators, gradually move towards a better use of the crown-jewels of conservation, the national parks, Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites. Still, we also list large numbers of links to ecotourism operators and other nature-oriented websites, which you can check on http://www.nature-worldwide.info . One country at the time, WICE will provide you more and better information on national parks and protected areas anywhere in the world, so that YOU may enjoy the miracles of this planet and through your responsible visit, help conserve them.
This is why......
As you have seen, Nature Worldwide at www.birdlist.org is not only about birding. It is about conservation. We are working at checklist of many other critters that have passionate groups of watchers: mammals, butterflies and corals. But all those animals need a home. We believe that protected areas and particularly National Parks are the only places where we can offer nature some shelter from ultimate destruction. We provide information about them, because we feel that when national parks are visited, they will be more appreciated and thereby become better protected. They may also generate income for local people, which may release their need to cut down forests.
As the experience in national park management in developing countries grew, WICE became increasingly concerned about the lack of field staff in parks and reserves. The Western world had asked the developing countries to set aside 10% of their territories and no more than about a decade later, during the World Parks Congress in 2003 in South Africa, we had learned that they actually did it! But the western world never participated in the consequences of that request: the need for financing for staff and management.
The single greatest immediate threat to loss of species of plants and animals in the world is the lack of field staff in national parks and nature reserves in developing countries. Without field staff protected areas get invaded and transformed into agricultural land and wildlife gets hunted to extinction. The immediate threat of shortage of field staff to species conservation is probably 10 times greater than that of climate change. But also climate change is at stake. Without sufficient field staff, most of the forests in developing countries will be cut down in the course of the coming decades. As those usually are the best forests still available in those countries, this would cause a tremendous CO2 release!
No development agency, nation or conservation organization in the world addresses this problem systematically and almost no financial assistance is provided to protected areas agencies to directly finance the salaries of field staff. That is why in 2006, the Adopt A Ranger Foundation was incorporated, to both finance rangers in the field and to lobby for increasing the number of rangers both in the wealthy nations and in the countries where they are needed. Since then, we have increasingly used the WICE websites to draw the attention to the problem, so that our half a million visitors per year can visit the Adopt A Ranger websites and learn about the problem. Increasing field staff in protected areas has become yet another reason why I created Nature Worldwide.
So, enjoy our websites, Happy birding and hiking and canoeing and whatever you like to do to enjoy nature, and don't forget to go to the Adopt A Ranger Foundation site! Join us in our effort to protect the national parks and nature reserves of the world. To us, nature is the ultimate expression of beauty. Nowhere else can one experience the power of being, of feelings of friendship, and love as one can when being surround by trees in a forest, by the open skies of a plain, when hiking in the mountains, when floating on water or diving to a coral reef. To contribute to the conservation of the most powerful and beautiful places on earth, is why we created Nature Worldwide. Click here to see how you can join us in our battle for conservation.
Keywords: birds, why