Future development of Raet national park discussed and secr​et of tree sculptures uncovered

At an LT&C workshop, this week in Arendal members of Linking Tourism & Conservation and other interested participants discussed “How can Raet National Park be developed towards international standards?” Ideas and visions reached from more educative involvement of visitors, employing rangers, boat traffic regulations including “silent zones”, banning specific fishing gear such as gillnets, increasing no-fishing zones til facing out any waterfowl and marine mammal hunting. Controversial views were exchanged on hunting and fishing, in Norway traditionally also practised in national parks. It may take much more time and discussions in the future to reach common understanding about how the national park should be further developed. Nevertheless, it was clear that we all work towards a common goal, that is making the Raet National Park the finest in Norway, which can certainly be reached with continued conversation and collaboration of the many different interest groups involved in the development.

Gall of pine shoot moth, May 2010, Fenn’s Moss, North Wales. Photo: Janet Graham

Two botanists from Germany, Dr. Lebrecht Jeschke and Prof. Hans-Dieter Knapp, participated in the workshop. They had visited and studied Raet national park for three days. During their excursion to Tromøy they uncovered the secret behind the sculpture-formed pine trees in the Hove part of the national park. They believe that these unusually formes of the trees are caused by a butterfly, called in German Posthornwickler (Rhyacionia buoliana), in Norwegian Rød furuskuddvikler, English pine shoot moth. These forms of the trees may have been caused already about 100 years ago, when the moths laid eggs on or near buds at the end of terminal buds. That time the trees were still quite young and small. The two botanists, which are famous experts for establishing national parks, had seen themselves such forms of trees in a Russian protected area at the Baltic coast, where this phenomenon was part of education for visitors. Maybe this attraction of Hove could be in the future also part of the information activities of Raet national park and teach visitors not to destroy these sculptures, but learn how creative and fascinating undisturbed nature can be.

Maybe local tourism business could play a positive role that Raet national park can be developed towards international standards and therefore be profiled as LT&C-Example.

IPBES Global Assessment: 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) this month came out with an alarming report on the status of our global ecosystems, habitats and species. IPBES, which is the UN-pendant to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), thereby contributes to the increasing understanding that the protection of nature is at least as crucial for the survival of life on our planet, as the protection of climate.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide”, said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. And he also interprets the report “that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global. Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

The Report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. 

The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century.

Despite progress to conserve nature and implement policies, the Report also finds that global goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors. With good progress on components of only four of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, it is likely that most will be missed by the 2020 deadline. Loss of biodiversity is shown to be not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well.

What does that mean for Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C)?

Spatial distribution of the world’s protected areas. March 2015: 217,300 protected areas from 238 countries and territories. Source: UNEP-WCMC 2014.

LT&C is basically a support organisation of the Aichi Target 11 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to achieve by 2020 a globally representative and well-managed network of protected areas, one of the key measures of sustaining the biodiversity on earth. Tourism, which thrives on using and marketing nature, national parks and other types of protected areas, should have an intrinsic interest to protect these main assets of their business. And, as there are many initiatives in sustainable, responsible and/or ecotourism in the world that support the establishment, management or the further development of (a) protected area(s), or a conservation initiative in a natural area, it is important that such examples are getting accelerated.

The mission of LT&C to promote such good examples (LT&C-Examples) and find ways how others can learn from and replicate them, is a better not underestimated hot topic. However, it will be important that much stronger post-2020 targets of the UN for protecting the biodiversity of the planet will be agreed next year. And the tourism industry then needs to be encouraged to play a much bigger role to achieve them.

LT&C Study Tours for supporting Protected Areas

Linking Tourism & Conservation offers a number of Study-Tours, which take you on a journey to experience and learn from our LT&C-Examples. These tours are meant to raise awareness of the positive contribution tourism can have on nature protection and therefore aim to convey valuable messages among its participants. As increasing numbers of travellers visit national parks and are keen to explore nature, we hope to produce incentives that grow LT&C-Examples worldwide. Our Study-Tours aim to support the visited protected areas, and our partner and member South Pole ensure that your tour related climate footprints are compensated. Tourism has many negative impacts, which most of us are aware of. The more crucial it is to promote such forms of nature-based tourism that contribute to safeguarding their own assets: protected areas of natural importance of our global biodiversity. Tour companies, which share our mission, thus make specific offers to LT&C-Example destinations, available exclusively to our members. You find them here on our new website.

11th World Wilderness Congress (WILD11) in Jaipur, India

A message from our partner, the WILD Foundation:

Dear Wilderness Friends and Family,

The 11th World Wilderness Congress (WILD11) is finally upon us! Between March 19-26, 2020, participants from around the world will gather in Jaipur, India to join this great gathering for the protection of life.

This is your opportunity to influence a global movement for the defense of Earth’s remaining wild places! Throughout 2020, world leaders will meet to decide the fate of biodiversity – never before has wilderness needed the strength, energy, and enthusiasm of its advocates, and WILD11 is how you can be involved! You can sign up here to be notified as soon as registration is available.

WHY 2020?

2020 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change history and take a global step forward towards a new, truly sustainable relationship with nature, one based on respect for wilderness, the future, and ourselves. In October 2020, the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity will convene in China to set new targets for the amount of lands and seas that need protection (currently, 17% terrestrial and 10% marine). Life needs them to think big. Never before have our leaders needed more vision and strength to do what is necessary to protect the future of all life. WILD11 is a powerful stepping stone to the China meeting. It will build vision, strength, and support for them to think big….and to protect half the planet’s land and seas. Read more here.


Indian conservationists have overcome enormous hurdles to achieve one of conservation’s greatest success stories: saving the tiger from near extinction. While half of the world’s nearly 4,000 remaining tigers are in India, they need more natural habitat to thrive and support Indian ecology. That’s why Indians are pioneering effective new solutions to restore wildlands and reintroduce animal and plant species, working hand-in-hand with local communities to rejuvenate human livelihoods as well. Read more here.


Sanctuary Nature Foundation (SNF) – WILD is excited to partner with India’s most established nation-wide network in conservation communications and media. SNF’s flagship publication is Sanctuary Asia, India’s premiere monthly conservation publication. Considered the main “crossroads for conservation” in India, SNF works at the interface of conservation, community, and climate. Of its many programmes, Kids for Tigers is a +1 million network of youth advocating constantly for awareness and protection of the Bengal tiger. Read more about the co-hosts here.


WILD’s wilderness work in China continues and is a central objective of WILD11, which will unveil a global leadership committee for Nature Needs Half based within the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), some of the world’s most populous and biodiverse countries. We continue to work with Chinese officials and opinion leaders to build and strengthen support for wilderness inside and outside of China. Learn more about WILD’s work in China here.

While you discover more about WILD11 here, also consider the following articles to learn more about this important event.

The future of a wild planet depends upon the actions we take now. Be a delegate to WILD11 and propel awareness that wilderness is the ultimate “nature-based solution” to climate change, extinction, human well-being, the future of a healthy and vibrant world.

Let’s do this, now!  I look forward to seeing you there.

For life, livelihoods, and love,

Vance G. Martin
The WILD Foundation

Ecotourism on the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand

Ecotourism on the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand

Yellow Eyed Penguins. Source: Wikimedia

The Otago Peninsula is located on New Zealand’s South Island, near the city of Dunedin. It is a 20 km long, hilly finger of land that extends into the Pacific Ocean and has been, for long, a prime destination for wildlife tourism in New Zealand. The Otago Peninsula is home to some of the most endangered and charismatic species of the country, including, but not limited to: Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), Little Blue Penguin (Eudyptola minor), Northern Royal Albatross (Diomedea sanfordi) and New Zealand Sea Lion (Phocarctos hookeri).

The example of ecotourism on the Otago peninsula provides benefits for both wildlife and people on a number of different levels. First, it creates a source of income for locals and allows them to connect with their natural and cultural heritage. Second, wildlife tourism provides a chance for guests to encounter highly charismatic species (flagship species for conservation) and increases their awareness of conservation challenges in the Pacific region. Finally, the income from tourism is being used to provide funding for conservation projects in both state-owned and private reserves.

The following list includes an overview about some of wildlife tourism experiences on the Otago Peninsula and how these businesses link tourism and conservation.

Otago Peninsula Trust and Royal Albatross Center: The Otago Peninsula Trust is one of the oldest charitable trusts operating on the peninsula. The trust was established for protecting and enhancing the fauna and flora of the peninsula and further, to preserve its cultural heritage as well. The Otago Peninsula Trust operates the Royal Albatross Center, located at Taiaroa Head at the north-eastern tip of the peninsula. Taiaroa Head is the only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross and, as a nature reserve, managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation as the government’s conservation agency. The Royal Albatross Center has a concession to operate within the reserve and provide visitors with the unique experience of encountering albatross at their breeding grounds. Part of the income is being directed to the Department of Conservation.

Nature Guides Otago: Established in 1990, Nature Guides Otago is a tour company committed to sustainable development and wildlife conservation. The owners are members of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin trust and support the charity with both income from their tours and as consultants.

Elm Wildlife Tours: Another tour company, Elm Wildlife Tours offers excursions on the peninsula, enabling visitors to encounter penguins, sea lions and albatross. They are cooperating with other businesses such as the Royal Albatross Center and support habitat restoration measures at Papanui Beach which is a breeding colony of Yellow-Eyed Penguins.

Penguin Place: The Penguin Place is an entirely tourism-funded conservation program. Situated at a privately-owned beach, the Penguin Place offers guided tours, allowing visitors to encounter Yellow-Eyed Penguins in the wild in a privately-owned reserve. While the company is obliged to uphold the New Zealand Wildlife Act and protect wildlife, it is allowed to set up their own agendas and conservation management plans for their property. Income from tours is being directed to a variety of projects, including habitat restoration along the beach, research programs, as well as the operation of a rehabilitation center for injured or sick penguins.

Given the diversity of different ecotourism businesses on the Otago Peninsula, it is difficult to provide a straight answer to this question. As a non-affiliated observer, one of the challenges that I noticed is to improve communications among businesses, as well as with the state-owned Department of Conservation, for enhancing the overall conservation strategy of the Otago Peninsula and to determine how conservation funding is and could be used.

This case offers a variety of possibilities that could be adapted in other places around the world. For instance, the cases of the Royal Albatross Center and other eco-tourism companies provide examples of how the tasks of conservation management and environmental education can be split between different organizations: One which is state owned (the Department of Conservation) and a charity (The Royal Albatross Centre) or ecotourism business (Elm Wildlife Tours or Nature Guides Otago) on the other side. Here, the tourism revenue is being used to maintain a charity-operated visitor or ecotourism-business, to inform guests and to provide conservation managers with funds for habitat management and population monitoring. The Penguin Place on the other hand shows how national conservation law can be maintained in a privately-managed reserve, while at the same time allowing guests to experience unique wildlife and funding both habitat management, wildlife rehabilitation and conservation research.

The examples require limited infrastructural requirements, however a permit system for eco-tourism companies would have to be put in place, as well a memorandum of understanding in which the cooperation/relationship between tourism and state-owned conservation agencies is being outlined.

Otago Peninsula Trust: http://otagopeninsulatrust.co.nz

Royal Albatross Centre: https://albatross.org.nz

Nature Guides Otago: https://www.natureguidesotago.co.nz

Elm Wildlife Tours: https://www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz

Penguin Place: https://penguinplace.co.nz

Department of Conservation: https://www.doc.govt.nz