Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund
Since its formation, Rockjumper Birding Tours has been supporting the conservation of the birds that bring us many delightful hours of sheer bird-watching pleasure. In order to co-ordinate and effectively implement our conservation efforts, we launched the Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund (RBCF) in 2006. A minimum of US$50 from each Rockjumper tour sign-up goes directly into the RBCF. This does not increase the cost of our tours as these projects incur no extra administrative expenses; therefore, the sponsoring of the various conservation projects we endeavour to support, does not make our tours more expensive. Ultimately, just by signing up, you are ensured that your contribution goes directly to bird conservation!
Our ultimate goal is to support bird conservation in multi-faceted ways. By means of carefully managing our available funds, we are able to support numerous bird conservation efforts and activities, including the sponsoring of bird monitoring and research work, hands-on bird conservation (which entails efforts such as captive breeding projects for endangered birds), and habitat protection. We are also actively involved in raising the awareness and knowledge of birdlife, by encouraging local communities to value their birds, by promoting the need for increased awareness and also training enthusiastic community members to become bird guides.
We are either solely responsible for a project’s funding or contribute to larger, more ambitious ventures. Our current Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund projects and contributions are particularly exciting and are spread across the globe, including the following projects:
Creating the Next Generation of Conservationists
Rockjumper Birding Tours is always looking for new ways to support conservation efforts whether this involves working with local communities, donating to preservation-minded organizations, training local guides and giving them binoculars, and most recently, by speaking to students at Lake Travis High School in Texas. David Shackelford recently gave a well received series of presentations outlining the importance of conservation in the Texas Hill Country and how this affects the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and other wildlife. This was coordinated with the school’s outdoor fieldtrips to a preserve where the Golden-cheeked Warbler as well as other endangered species are protected, allowing students to observe the importance of conservation first-hand. Rockjumper hopes by sharing our passion for the outdoors, conservation, and birding that we can help teach the importance of preserving the natural world for the future generations.
Rockjumper Trains Six Community Bird Guides on the South Coast
With spring now in full force and bird activity at an all time high we decided that this would be the perfect time to get involved with some community and conservation work in South Africa. During the 29th and 30th September 2009, Glen Valentine led an extremely successful bird guide training course for 6 local guides on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal. The two day workshop was sponsored and run by Rockjumper Birding Tours through funds created by our conservation fund. Simulated guiding walks, bird identification training along with presentations and lectures on guiding made up the basis of the program. The training was focused around the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve, a lowland forest site on the border of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape that harbors several exciting species of birds and mammals such as endemic Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler and Chorister Robin-Chat and Blue Duiker. Not only was the workshop very informative and educational for the developing guides but it also amounted in a great deal of fun for all involved. We are happy to have been the force behind this project and through our conservation and development efforts we will continue to support, train and fund inspiring local guides throughout the world.
Oriental Bird Club
Under the auspices of the Oriental Bird Club, the RBCF is sponsoring a project that will run awareness campaigns, including birdwatching trips for school children in two districts of west Bengal. An additional outcome of the project will be the publication of a small, local language environmental book. This is truly an ambitious project that we believe will be the beginning of something exciting and a worthy conservation cause.
Middelpunt Wetland Trust
Rockjumper has been actively involved in the cause of the Middelpunt Wetland Trust by donating a generous amount of money towards their very worthy cause.
Established in 1994, the Middelpunt Wetland Trust has done exceptional and groundbreaking work on the critically endangered White-winged Flufftail. The trust’s main objective entails securing and rehabilitating the Middelpunt Wetland between Dullstroom and Belfast in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
The very mysterious White-winged Flufftail’s highly fragmented habitat is severely threatened by continued destruction and it is therefore of utmost importance that their extremely commendable efforts to conserve these specific areas are well supported.
The Middelpunt Wetland Trust is also actively involved in monitoring, conservation and awareness programs in Ethiopia, the only known breeding area for this enigmatic species. The Trust has also decided to proceed with a captive breeding program, and discussions with the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria are far-advanced. Furthermore, a school has already been built for a community that adjoins one of the breeding sites.
By enabling a wider circle of birders to be aware of the plight of the White-winged Flufftail and generating a greater sense of publicity of this secretive bird’s existence, the Middelpunt Wetlands Trust is playing a major role in its conservation. RBCF is proud to assist them in this extraordinary cause.
African Bird Club
Rockjumper Birding Tours is also associated with the well-respected African Bird Club and through our affiliation with them, we are responsible for the funding of a very promising and interesting project in the forests of the Kikuyu Highlands region in Kenya.
The Kikuyu escarpment forest is listed as an important bird area due to its abundant and rich diversity of birds, the presence of range-restricted species and its population of the globally threatened Abbott’s Starling.
The specific project RBCF has sponsored entails designing and implementing a monitoring system, as well as building local capacity for conservation of this spectacular region through training programs. One of the main project goals is to determine the patterns and intensity of human disturbances in the forests, as well as the overall effect thereof on bird communities.
Under the auspices of the African Bird Club, Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund is also responsible for funding an extremely interesting, and also important, survey of the spectacular Nahan’s Francolin in Uganda. The survey will mainly be conducted in the Kibale National Park, as well as in the Semliki Valley in western Uganda. Nahan’s Francolin is a locally distributed endemic in the Congo, and west and south central Uganda; the survey will be headed by Eric Sande, of Makerere University in Kampala.
Birds of Korea
Elsewhere in Asia, the RBCF is contributing to Birds Korea, an organisation which is actively involved in monitoring the impact of the development of a 33km long seawall on the shores of the Yellow Sea.
This highly controversial Saemangeum project will take 15 years to complete and is one of the biggest land reclamation projects in history, covering 400 square km, an area six times the size of Manhattan. The development affects vast tidal mudflats and is a looming potential environmental disaster that may dramatically affect migratory birds. Some of these species, including Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank, are already endangered.
By contributing to a diverse range of conservation projects, Rockjumper strives to mitigate the heavy ecological footprint of Man. Our commitment to conservation in the developing world is incredibly strong, and we are proud of the positive impact that we have made in the world of bird conservation. Through birding we can all make a difference!
Birds and Climate Change Awareness Cycle
Rockjumper is supporting Dr Alan Lee on his 3 month bicycle survey. Most Fynbos endemic birds are reported considerably less now compared to previous atlas periods. Surprisingly, we know very little about 4 of the 6 species found only in the Fynbos. This survey is a first step to addressing the shortcomings in our knowledge of some of the birds that make our country so very special. From February to April 2012, Alan Lee will cycle through the Fynbos to study how well our Fynbos endemic birds will adapt to a drier climate. Over 3 months he will survey Fynbos bird communities in relation to various environmental variables. Sleeping in a tent in the wild or in guesthouses along the road, he will travel over 2300 km all around the Fynbos Biome by foot and bike to complete this intensive survey. Using the technique of Distance Sampling, Alan will travel along planned survey lines and stop every 500m. Then, using solar panel computer, GPS, binoculars and rangefinder he will record birds and collect specific information at each point: altitude, vegetation type, topographical situation, plant groups, wind and temperature…. Using this information Alan will be able to evaluate the number of birds of each species. So, in few words, this project aims to learn more in order to protect more! Fynbos is a fantastically rich environment not only for birds but also for plants and mammals. However, it needs to be protected. Follow the survey progress on www.bluehillescape.blogspot.com
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” – Gary Snyder
Rockjumper Birding Tours echoes this sentiment. In the depths of nature and in earth’s great bounty is where we find our livelihoods and life’s passion. This has led us to becoming a corporate sponsor of the Mtunzini Conservancy Project found in KZN. This natural beauty, Mtunzini, has always been a popular birding destination boasting a pristine environment and the notable presence of Palmnut Vultures, Mangrove Kingfishers and African Finfoot as well as its easy access to Ngoye Forest which hosts several other special birds. It is now faced with a serious threat from a massive open cast heavy metal sand mine on its southern boundary which will affect the delicate and intricate ecosystems found in Mtunzini.
The mine in question intends on mining titanium bearing ore bodies in the dunes south of Mtunzini for ilmenite, rutile and leucoxene to produce titanium (TiO2) feedstock. The proposed mine will be approximately 100m in proximity to the south boundary of Mtunzini. The mine’s process is to hydraulically shatter the soil, then turn the soil into a slurry (A slurry is a semiliquid mixture, typically of fine particles of manure, cement, soil, or coal, and water). This is then passed through a processing plant where the mineral ore is taken out, and the fine waste material goes to a waste storage facility and the coarse tailings material back into the mine void. The effect of which is suspected to result in the south of Mtunzini to be turned into a Mars-like wasteland. The mining process will generate approximately 600 hectares of permanent waste! In a nutshell, the mine will generate substantial waste matter to be housed in a waste facility and rehabilitation, if any, will only take place up to 6 years after the initial mining process.
The Mtunzini Conservancy has engaged in a lengthy process of trying to impede the entire mining operation, failing to do so, they at least hope to have the operation moved further away from their community. The conservancy has challenged the right of the mine to start with early work construction; sadly, they lost this on a technicality. The process is both lengthy and costly, and funding is crucial to saving this stunning environment. Funds are utilised to solicit the best legal and expert opinions on mining rights and environmental law. The Mtunzini Conservancy says: “We think that this kind of unsustainable open cast mineral sand mining operation should not be allowed on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. We cannot afford to replace sustainable agriculture and tourism for unsustainable short-term gains for the few beneficiaries of the mining operation.”
Indeed, mining, of any magnitude or nature, has an incredibly devastating impact on the environment and communities that surround the mine. Rockjumper Birding Tours stands in solidarity with the Mtunzini Conservancy to protect the natural fauna and flora found in this town.
Natal Crane Foundation
It goes without saying that Rockjumper Birding Tours is passionate about birds. Part of our journey with birds is to ensure that the correct measures are taken now so that future birders have the same opportunities we do, which is why we are so passionate and dedicated to bird conservation. One such project, quite close to home, is the Kwa-Zulu Natal Crane Foundation. Rockjumper Birding Tours recently became a proud corporate sponsor of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Crane foundation.
The KZNCF aims to conserve Cranes in South Africa, as Cranes are the ambassadors for two of South Africa’s most important ecosystems, that is: the wetlands and the grasslands which make up our water catchment. We are dependent on the careful management of these biodiversity “hotspots” as are our Cranes! The Crane’s reliance on these delicate ecosystems is a reflection of our own survival needs.
The KZNCF is a non-profit conservation organisation that engages in numerous activities to conserve South Africa’s cranes from their inception in 1989 as the Southern African Crane Foundation. The foundation has successfully fostered awareness of, and interest in cranes, wetlands and grasslands in Natal through educational outreach, biological monitoring, research, captive breeding and close liaison with farmers and landowners to adopt crane-friendly farming practices. The aim of the KZNCF is to promote the conservation of southern Africa’s three species and preservation of their wetland and grassland habitats. It also hopes to foster and encourage the awareness of and interest in cranes and their habitat. To become involved or learn more about these amazing birds, please click the link above.
Remain at Sangha
The Dzanga Sangha Reserve is located in the rainforest in the south-western part of the Central African Republic. It comprises a total area of more than 4 000 square kilometres (more than 400 000 hectares). The two central parts of the Reserve, the Dzanga and Ndoki Sectors, constitute the Dzanga Ndoki National Park, covering 495 km2 and 725 km2 respectively. A multitude of large mammals such as Forest Elephants, giant forest hogs, Gorillas and Bangos. At the Dzanga saline (a forest clearing), more than 4000 elephants have been counted and identified over the last years. From a platform at the edge of this saline, visitors frequently get the chance to observe between 30 and 100 elephants feeding on the mineral-rich soil, allowing at the same time observations of their social behaviour.
Rod Cassidy is an experienced Eco-tour leader. He has led tours for nearly 30 years and has travelled many places from the Antarctic to the tropical forests of the Congo. He is committed to conservation in all its forms and gives his all for community conservation areas. After years of travel, he has committed himself to living in the wildest places. The Central African Republic remains the least developed Wilderness and he is committed to help maintain this status, and help the local population adapt and thrive through the initiatives he implements at the Sangha Lodge.
Due to the political unrest experienced in the Central African Republic (CAR), Sangha Lodge has been victim to crimes perpetrated by the rebels such as looting and destruction of property. This unrest sadly forced the owners, Rod and Tamar, and staff to flee from their beloved lodge. It was not long before they sought their way back to Sangha after a cruel massacre of elephants. At least 26 elephants were massacred in the Dzangha-Sangha National Park after 17 people armed with Kalashnikov rifles entered this sacred elephant habitat – known affectionately as “The Village of Elephants.” Of the estimated 26 elephants four were calves, it was reported that the locals had begun to harvest the flesh from the carcases.
Sangha Lodge and its staff are constantly hard at work in an effort to protect and conserve the beauty that surrounds it. They have aided a drive against malaria and continue to fight against it. They distribute free medicines where they are able to in cases of malaria and some infections.
Their future remains uncertain, a year without any earnings, have depleted all their reserves and resources and they rely solely on the kindness and generosity of clients, friends, family and strangers which keep them alive. Ideally the worst may be over and CAR will soon return to normal, however, to bridge the gap from now until then Sangha requires urgent funding. Rockjumper is proud to aid these admirable causes and salutes the brave men and women who are ardently involved in the conservation and protection of the life that is found in Sangha. Rockjumper Birding made a generous contribution to this worthy cause and implores you to do the same.
World Migratory Bird Day
Rockjumper Birding Tours is proud to be one of the sponsors for this year’s World Migratory Bird Day, sponsoring a prize for the 3rd best Photo in the Photo Competition. With the theme “Destination Flyways: Migratory Birds and Tourism”, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) 2014 will highlight the links between migratory bird conservation, local community development and wildlife watching tourism around the world.
For the 2014 Campaign, WMBD is partnering with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to highlight the Destination Flyways project. Led by UNWTO and implemented together with several partners with sound experience in the field of conservation and tourism, Destination Flyways will develop sustainable tourism in destinations along the world’s major migratory bird routes, also known as flyways.
By channelling tourism revenue back into conservation of the sites, the project aims to safeguard the birds’ habitats, while creating resilient and green job opportunities for local communities.
Rockjumper Birding Tours is a proud sponsor of Born Free USA. Born Free USA is a non-profit wildlife conservation organisation. Their mission is to end the suffering of wild animals in captivity, rescue individual animals in need, protect wildlife (including endangered species) in their natural habitats, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. They aim to keep Wild in the Wild where wildlife rightfully belongs. Born Free was initiated in England in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna; the stars of the legendary film Born Free, along with their son Will. In the subsequent decades, Born Free has become an international force in wildlife conservation and animal protection that upholds a dynamic presence in international animal rescues, saving animals from miserable conditions, rehabilitating them, and providing for their lifetime care in a sanctuary or whenever possible, rehoming them to the wild. A companion organisation was established in the United States in 2002, Born Free USA, to carry on the work of the organisation, involving the American public in our compassionate conservation campaigns.