Thousands help EOCA choose conservation projects to receive €180,000

Release date: 01 June 2015

Many thousands of outdoor enthusiasts have joined European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) members to choose six vital conservation projects for EOCA to fund this spring. In total, nearly €180,000 has been pledged to projects in six different countries, with all funds coming from membership fees and fundraising monies raised from the European outdoor industry. EOCA holds two funding rounds per year, with the second one taking place in the autumn.
CAT Walkers credit Harrison Ooi, MyCAT
CAT Walkers credit Harrison Ooi, MyCAT

During March, EOCA held its annual spring public vote. A shortlist of around 20 projects were showcased by National Geographic Germany, The Great Outdoors (UK), NORR (Germany), Alpin (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), and Hike & Trekking, Bike & Trekking, and Sport Partner (Netherlands). Readers of the magazines, outdoor enthusiasts and supporters of the projects were all invited to vote for their favourite project in three categories and the project with the most votes in each category is now being funded. In April, a private vote for members only was held, with three more projects being chosen for funding.

Staggeringly, during the public vote, over 31.5 million people were reached through online, print and social media, radio, TV and other means. The vote featured in national newspapers in Madagascar and Ecuador, on various university websites, and was promoted by the the Head of BBC Nepal and two former Miss Nepals! The reach of this process not only raises awareness of what EOCA is doing on behalf of the European outdoor industry, more importantly, it raises awareness of the conservation issues and work that the projects are involved with. All of the shortlisted projects involve some educational element as well as working with local communities and they report back that the voting process is hugely beneficial to them, regardless of whether or not they are successful in winning funding.

The signups to the quarterly “Friends of EOCA’ newsletter doubled during the vote which means that over 9000 people now receive regular news about what EOCA, its members and its supported projects are achieving.

The projects chosen by the public to receive funding from EOCA are:
Conserving Red Pandas through Community Stewardship, Nepal.
Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT), Malaysia.
Community Action for Protecting the Endangered Sangai Deer, India.
The projects chosen by EOCA Members to receive funding are:
Wildfjords Restoration, Iceland.
AgroS.O.S.tainable Phase II, Spain.
Reducing threats to Cross River Gorillas through alternative livelihoods, Nigeria.

Catherine Savidge, Joint General Manager of EOCA said “Yet again, we have been staggered at the reach of the public vote. This time around, we have reached more than three times the number of people we have in the past. All of the projects involved in the votes have been selected by EOCA as they address real threats to species or habitats and have a link to the outdoor enthusiast. Each one of them is vital and delivering much needed conservation work. We look forward to seeing how the chosen projects progress and hearing of their successes over the next 12 to 24 months. And we invite outdoor companies going to OutDoor in Friedrichshafen next month to visit us and find out how they can get involved in EOCA, to help us fund more vital projects in the future.”

Stone Curlew in Spain. credit Javier Alonso
Stone Curlew in Spain. credit Javier Alonso

Details of all six projects chosen to receive funding from EOCA this spring can be seen below.

Conserving Red Pandas through Community Stewardship, Nepal. Nominated by: Sherpa Adventure Gear. The red panda is an important species of the Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf Forest ecosystem. The Kanchenjunga Singhalila Complex (KMC) in eastern Nepal and the Panchthar-llam-Taplejung (PIT) corridor support 25% of the red panda population of Nepal. However, the PIT corridor is not protected, and pressure from livestock grazing, fuel wood collection, forest fires, and encroachment by locals has led to habitat loss and fragmentation, resulting in the decline of panda populations. This project will assess red panda numbers and habitat quality, develop a species management plan for the area and train Community Forest User Groups in forest fire management. Households will receive training on red panda monitoring, organic farming methods, nature guiding, ecotourism hospitality and resources for stall feeding cattle. Finally, a local education campaign will increase awareness of the importance of conserving red pandas and local forests.

Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT), Malaysia Nominated by: Chrissy Dorn Business Development Outdoor & Sports.
Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is an alliance of 4 NGOs working to save Malaysia’s tigers. CAT enables the public to get involved in tiger conservation via CAT Walks (anti-poaching wilderness watches). These walks bring small groups trekking or camping in the rainforests of the Yu River Wildlife Corridor, part of the world’s fifth-largest tiger landscape (35,000 sq. km). Volunteers look out for signs of poachers, snares, as well as tigers, elephants, sambar deer and other wildlife, recording, deactivating and reporting snares to the authorities. CAT Walkers also check camera traps to monitor wildlife. As a continual presence in the area is required to deter poaching, this project will run 2 scheduled weekend walks every month, led by experienced guides, including some indigenous Batek people. CAT walks will help increase tiger and sambar populations, the Batek’s chance of preserving their traditional hunter-gatherer culture, local ecotourism opportunities and will provide a unique experience for outdoor enthusiasts.

Community Action for Protecting the Endangered Sangai Deer, India Nominated by: Salt Magazine
Sangai deer are listed as endangered by the IUCN. They are found in the state of Manipur in the marshy wetlands of the threatened Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water lake in Eastern India. The deer are threatened by poaching, fishing activities, reduction in food, inbreeding, disease, flooding of habitat and drowning. Through this project, Community Development Organisation (CDO) will prevent destruction of Sangai habitat by encroachment, overexploitation of habitat resources and poaching through environmental education programmes. Food shortages and drowning caused by flooding in rainy seasons will be addressed by planting 50,000 Sangai food plants and constructing dry shelters in elevated locations. Vaccination will be given to the deer for communicable diseases as well as treatment for sick animals. Finally, 4 watch towers will be constructed to enable volunteers to identify any dangers and poaching activities, and for tourists to view the Sangai and the surrounding habitats.

Wildfjords Restoration, Iceland Nominated by: Goal Zero
The project is located in Iceland’s wild and mountainous West Fjords region, a landscape of rugged rock and steep sided fjords. Though retaining its wild character, land use has dramatically altered the ecology, with approximately 95% of the original forest cover removed, wetlands drained for farmland and non-native tree species planted. Increasing tourism also threatens the region’s sensitive flora. Working with local partners, the project will restore native boreal birch forests via propagating and planting 10,000 native tree seedlings, which will support lichen, insect and fungi populations. Internationally important waterfowl wetlands will also be restored by filling in ditches, and ancient cairns will be mapped and restored in a newly proposed national park, Látrabjarg. Cairn restoration will create a network of walking trails while ensuring impact on fragile habitats is kept to a minimum.

AgroS.O.S.tainable Phase II, Spain Nominated by: Ternua and Lorpen
In recent years, the abandonment of the countryside and the use of intensive crop systems has led to the progressive loss of habitat necessary for the long-term sustainability of populations of many endangered bird species in the project area near Madrid. Many species of Steppe birds including Great Bustard, various owls and harriers and also sand grouse are being lost due to farming practices. Through this project, Brinzal will work with farmers in an area of 1000 hectares to encourage activities to provide beneficial habitats for these birds, such as extensive farming techniques, organic farming, providing nesting sites and perching sites for birds including raptors and tree planting. It will also work with local municipalities and media to promote walking and bird watching in the area to demonstrate the value of these farming practices.

Reducing threats to the Cross River Gorilla through alternative livelihoods, Nigeria
Nominated by: Vaude

The tropical rainforests of Cross River State in Okwangwo, Nigeria, are recognised as a biological hotspot of global significance, supporting over 60% of Nigeria’s endangered plants and animals and numerous endangered primates, most notably the Cross River gorilla. The Cross River gorilla is only found along the southern section of the Nigeria-Cameroon border and there are thought to be less than 300 individuals left. Logging, farming, and hunting are the major threats to the gorillas in the area. The Okwangwo Conservation Society aims to reduce threats faced by gorillas by training 40 hunters in snail farming and beekeeping, thereby creating alternative sources of food and income, and reducing fires and habitat destruction which often result from wild honey collection. The project will also facilitate conservation education and establish 40,000 seedlings of bushmango and afang, important non timber forest products currently unsustainably harvested from the forest and important for household income. Ecotourism will strengthen the protection of the habitat, which tourists will pay to see.

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Es Tresidder, EOCA Ambassador and Mountain Equipment Sponsored Athlete