Saving threatened habitats worldwide

New species are ten a penny

31 October, 2011 - 15:10 -- John Burton

Well not exactly ten a penny, but there are plenty waiting to be discovered. The lands which have been bought using funds raised by the World Land Trust (WLT) have proven a rich source of new species – with at least 16 new species of orchid alone being discovered in Ecuador. And new species of frog are also being discovered.

The main reason these new species have been discovered is that an orchidologist and a herpetologist have been active. If other experts were to search, there is a very good chance (actually almost certain) that new species of moths, beetles, fish and other wildlife would be discovered. It all sounds very exciting. A beautiful blue-flowered tree was discovered in Ecuador in 2007 and is being named in honour of the WLT’s Patron, Sir David Attenborough. Many more await discovery.

But many more will disappear from the world before they are even recorded. The forests where our partner in Ecuador, EcoMinga, is buying forests to create reserves, might have been cleared and turned into pastures before any of the orchids were named. We are still trying to raise funds to buy the next few valleys and mountainsides, which will almost certainly be home to more endemics (species confined to a limited area). Without the funds to buy these unique habitats, the species will go forever. 

Art vs the real thing

Now I find it bizarre (no not bizarre, nauseating) that governments can find millions of pounds/dollars/euros to buy a painting to save it ‘for the nation’, that millionaires can spend millions filling their galleries with ‘objects d’art’, and so little thought is given to saving these treasures for the world. Add to that, that an extremely large proportion of these art works are forged or fraudulent (one estimate puts the figure at around 20%), and it becomes even more depressing.

Even a painting of wildlife will often sell for more than it costs to save a species – and that is not the real thing, a painting is at best a copy of the species.

Has anyone any suggestions as to how I can persuade wealthy aesthetes and so called art-connoisseurs to put their money into saving real treasure for the world? Instead of having a gallery named after themselves a la Tate, Getty, etc, much better to have a beautiful nature reserve.  We have already helped create a handful, but will happily create more.

The WLT and Art

And as a post script, the WLT has a shop frontage as part of its premises which is not needed for office space. So we are opening a small art gallery – Wildlife Art and conservation on a landscape scale. Perhaps we will be able to use the public’s love of art to save wildlife. Opening on 10th December, so if you are in East Anglia come a see it and buy some Christmas presents.


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