Finding common ground between elephants, tigers and far off places on the one hand, and dormice, owls and the Suffolk countryside on the other would be a tricky task for most people. But not for representatives of World Land Trust (WLT) and Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT).
On 8 November 2013, the two conservation charities came together to host an evening event at The Cut in Halesworth. Entitled Alice in Wonderland meets The Jungle Book: the story of the dormouse and the tiger, the event highlighted the common goal of both organisations to safeguard wildlife corridors. Simon Barnes, award winning journalist, WLT Council member and a keen supporter of SWT, was the special guest.
Giving specific instances of wildlife corridors in action in Suffolk, Julian Roughton, Chief Executive of SWT, explained the requirements for dormouse habitats and the importance of connecting hedgerows. Steve Piotrowski, SWT’s Bird Adviser, described Barn Owl population trends and the success of SWT’s nest box programme. Thanks to careful conservation the Barn Owl survives in good numbers in Suffolk, but is always at risk from harsh winters and cold, rainy springs.
In an international context WLT representatives talked about the work of the Trust’s partners to protect corridors vital particularly for rare and long-ranging mammals. Mary McEvoy, WLT Conservation Programmes Manager, explained the importance of securing safe corridors for elephants in India and the positive social impact of initiatives with local communities. John Burton, WLT Chief Executive, described his travels in Brazil, Armenia and Iran. Using camera-trap images of big cats, he illustrated how land purchase for conservation is improving the survival chances of the world’s endangered creatures.
Special guest, Simon Barnes put Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book into context by tracing his childhood dreams of India to his fondness for Rudyard Kipling’s stories and his days as a wolf cub. Giving a performance that quoted extracts from both books, he was masterly and poetic in putting across the importance of the wild world, often using language and style of days gone by, but no less relevant today. Simon ended by recalling his ‘wolf’ days. Akela - the customary name of the adult cub leader, after the lone wolf in Kipling's The Jungle Book - would encourage young members to ‘DYB, DYB, DYB’ (‘do your best’) and the cubs would respond loudly ‘DOB, DOB, DOB’ (we’ll ‘do our best’) - messages that have an enduring relevance in terms of conserving the wild world.
John Burton and Julian Roughton were delighted with the success of the evening and John commented afterwards: “We were able to strengthen the conservation message by putting forward a shared vision. And Simon’s contribution was refreshing and inspirational as always. His support for both organisations is indubitable.”