On 13 October World Land Trust (WLT) welcomed the highly respected and often outspoken conservationist Mark Carwardine to Suffolk, when he gave a talk on his career as an award-winning writer, TV and radio presenter as part of the Halesworth Arts Festival.
Showing footage from the BBC series, "Last Chance to See", which he co-presented with Stephen Fry, Mark entertained the audience with outstanding images of the endangered species they encountered, along with anecdotes from life on the road with Stephen.
"Working with Stephen was a lot of fun and we became great friends", said Mark. "But it was also very challenging; he has a brain the size of a planet, so he’d approach topics from an angle that I'd never thought of before. It kept me on my toes and also made it really interesting for the audience."
Always at the forefront of conservation, Mark shot to fame following the success of the series, which retraced the journey he'd travelled 20 years ago with the late Douglas Adams. They visited Zaire in search of the Northern White Rhino, China to spot the Yangtze River Dolphin and the Amazon to seek out the Manatee. The journey was a heady mix of fun and adventure, along with the sobering experience of coming to terms with the rate of species extinction.
"It was a huge shock", said Mark. "Witnessing it with exactly a 20 year gap made me realise just how huge and how fast this devastation is happening. Out of the 8 species that Douglas and I chose to visit, fairly arbitrarily, two are now extinct in the wild – the Yangtze River Dolphin and the Northern White Rhino – and vast areas of habitat have been destroyed."
Mark has been a supporter of the World Land Trust almost since its inception 21 years ago, first as a trustee during the 1990s and more recently in an advisory position as a council member. "I think the World Land Trust is one of the most effective organisations out there, I genuinely believe that", he said. "The work it's doing to protect habitat is fundamental to everything." Mark actively encourages support for small organisations that are focused on specific conservation areas. "The World Land Trust is a classic example", he said, "it has a small team of dedicated and knowledgeable staff, who are actively working on the ground. This I think is really important." The WLT was pleased to team up with the Halesworth Arts Festival for this charity event where £1,571.00 was raised for its work, and would like to thank everyone for coming along and making this such an exciting and enjoyable event.
A "Last Chance to See" follow-up programme "Return of the Rhino" will be broardcast on BBC2 on 31st October. Mark and Stephen follow the relocation of Northern White Rhinos from a Czech Republic zoo back to the wild in Kenya. You can view Mark's photographs, which document the journey on the Nature Picture Library website. Look out for Mark's new one-off programme with Stephen Fry, "Stephen Fry and the Great American Oil Spill", that revisits the devastation caused by the BP oil disaster. It will be shown on the BBC on 7th November.