A local organisation can have a global impact. That is the case with Bath-based Charity Rainforest Concern, which protects threatened natural habits, their biodiversity and those who depend on them for their survival. Words by Megan Witty.
Last year, the world lost 3.75 million hectares of tropical primary rainforests – areas of critical importance for carbon storage and biodiversity – equivalent to a rate of 10 football pitches a minute. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, over half of the world’s tropical forests have been destroyed since the 1960s and more than one hectare of tropical forests is destroyed or drastically degraded every second. At the current rate, rainforests could disappear within our lifetime. Collapsing ecosystems, forest fires, pandemics, increasingly severe weather events and the ever expanding human population are showing us that the destruction of the natural world is catastrophically impacting our planet and every aspect of our lives.
Compared to temperate forests, which may be dominated by half a dozen tree species, tropical rainforests can contain 480 tree species in a single hectare, attracting a greater diversity of wildlife. Some 1,300 species of butterfly have been documented in a single park in Peru, while the entire European continent is home to fewer than 400 species.
Rainforest Concern was established in 1993 to protect threatened natural habitats, their biodiversity, and the people who depend on them for survival. The Bath-based charity currently has 13 projects in nine countries and has helped to protect over 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of native forests.
Rainforest Concern manages conservation projects in Central and South America, India and Romania and for the last 25 years has protected threatened cloud forests in the Tropical Andes – one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and home to one-sixth of all plant life on the planet.
Rainforest Concern protects threatened natural habitats by direct conservation on the ground, including working with local NGOs and communities, securing registration of ancestral indigenous territories and occasional land purchase. They have an environmental education programme in the UK and overseas and facilitate research in its many project areas.
Current Rainforest Concern projects include the expansion of the Neblina Cloud Forest Reserve in NW Ecuador to create protected ecological corridors for threatened species, including spectacled bears, ocelot, and the endangered black-and-chestnut eagle, of which as few as 250 eagles remain globally. Other projects include conserving ancient araucaria (monkey puzzle tree) forest in Chile (home to the pudu – the world’s smallest deer), protecting threatened leatherback turtles in Costa Rica and training rural women to protect and propagate over 2,000 rare plant species in the Western Ghats in India.
People need to make changes to their daily lives and support conservation projects to help protect and restore precious natural habitats before they are gone forever. To support Rainforest Concern you could become an individual or corporate member or sponsor acres of rainforest, perhaps as a Christmas or birthday present.
Another idea is to organise some fundraising, make Rainforest Concern your charity of the year, become a corporate partner, run the Bath Half or London Marathon, or take part in the charity’s new ‘Forest Twinning’ project, launched at last month’s New Scientist Live Show, which invites landowners, including schools, sports clubs and businesses, to match their acreage with the sponsorship of an equivalent area of threatened rainforest.
For further details see rainforestconcern.org and the How Can I Help webpage or email email@example.com. Rainforest Concern also has a number of corporate sponsors in Bath and would love to welcome new businesses | rainforestconcern.org
Featured image: Two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus)