Tag Archives: DESMAN

Plant a Tree & Sow a Seed for Conservation

Happy New Year.

Bookings now being taken for all my talks and workshops in 2023 – see Talks and Services section of the website for a range of options. (Available across the UK and abroad).

Another year has passed and we look forward to the next. 2022 was one of many contrasts, from heat wave to big freeze, the passing of the Queen, and prime minister to prime minister (and again). Of course the dreadful invasion of Ukraine by Putin will scar the year’s memory.

Thankfully there were some good things in 2022 – some reported in previous blogs. I was very happy to return to Durrell Conservation Academy, Jersey, in November to work with a new group of Diploma in Endangered Species Management (DESMAN) students from around the world. Participants this time were from Brazil, Montserrat, St Lucia, Indonesia, Colombia, South Africa, Costa Rica, Seychelles, Philippines, Tanzania and Papua New Guinea.

The 2nd DESMAN group in Jersey this year

The enthusiasm and commitment of these students is always great and we had fun exploring theory and practice of conservation education. The weather (for me) was good, some rain showers, but generally mild, whereas the DESMAN group said it was too cold 🙂 Back in their home countries they will make a difference in a wide diversity of projects and conservation initiatives.

PKCT Patron Cameron McNeish & Discovery, Learning & Engagement Officer, Catherine Leatherland demonstrate the ground prep for tree-planting with Kinloch Rannoch Primary pupils

In December I had the honour of becoming the Chair of the Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust and was delighted to take part in a tree-planting with pupils from Kinloch Rannoch Primary School. The young trees (whips) donated by the Woodland Trust and also marking the celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee and now in her memory as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy, are part of our ‘Tree for Every Child in Perthshire‘ project. It was great to see the pupils enthusiasm as they all planted a tree in their local park. Great to think these trees will be there for their children to play around in years to come.

We are often faced with ‘negative’ and bad news stories, so the simple act of planting a tree is a positive conservation action that can make a difference, help in mitigation of climate change, encourage biodiversity and wildlife, as well as contribute to the community. Sowing wildflower meadows, having areas set aside in gardens etc are also to be encouraged.

With PKCT we are particularly focused upon people’s access and enjoyment of trees and the countryside, and Perthshire is a great area to get out and explore. I look forward to many days out and about across the county, the rest of Scotland and further afield in 2023.

Optimism in the face of adversity?

The world has a virus. Normal life is suspended… but nature continues.

These are very difficult times for many people. The efforts to control the spread of covid-19 ‘locking-down’ communities and countries has meant physical isolation and separation, not just from each other but also from nature. In some respects, nature is pleased with this – the levels of air pollution are down, spring breeding is less disturbed etc.

ZooStephen, like most self-employed service providers has almost shut down with huge loss of business and income – hopefully temporary; I have been able to continue some remote/online activity. One of my favourite training events, teaching on the Durrell Endangered Species Management Graduate Certificate (DESMAN) at the Durrell Academy in Jersey at the start of April was not possible. However, I was pleased to create a suite of online material, resources and video to enable the participants to undertake the ‘Education Theory & Practice’ module without my physical presence.

DESMAN 2020 Participants, Jersey

It was lovely to receive some feedback that even in this modified version, it was “amazing” “enjoyed” and a “favourite” part of the 12 week DESMAN course. The participants represent projects and activity from across the world including Madagascar, Indonesia, St Lucia and Brazil. Although I didn’t get to interact with them, I always feel more optimistic for the future of conservation when I work with these amazing people, who will make a real difference for nature, the environment and their communities in the years to come.

Back home, in Scotland, I am missing going out into the wider countryside and walking in the trees, mountains, coasts… at least I live in a semi-rural area and can enjoy the immediate surroundings of my village. It has in some ways been good to see local people also discovering the local environment for their occasional exercise – obviously maintaining social/physical distancing. Perhaps, once this crisis is abated there will be a new ‘normal’ and people will appreciate each other and the environment more.

Hermitage Waterfall, Big Tree Country near Dunkeld, Perthshire

At this time I am also really pleased to have just become a Trustee of the Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust www.pkct.org . I hope to help encourage and promote engagement in the countryside across my home county, from Big Tree Country to the Cateran Trail and more. I am optimistic that in Scotland, we will value our environment more and improve our relationship to nature & recognise its importance for health and well being. I also hope we will be supportive of a more sustainable and ecological lifestyle – that may be a challenge, but this is a great opportunity to try.

At the Birnham Oak, at least 600 years old, the last remnant of the ancient forest featured by Shakespeare in ‘Macbeth’

Doing a DESMAN – Durrell 2019

Conservation depends on people to succeed in the long term. Some of the people that can make a real difference are the attendees of the Durrell Endangered Species Management course [DESMAN] at the Durrell Academy, Jersey.

It was an honour and privilege to be invited to Jersey again this year to run my workshop on Conservation Education Principles and Practice for the 2019 DESMAN students.

The participants came from across the globe: Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Indonesia (Sumatra), Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, Rodrigues, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, St.Lucia, & Tanzania; and were a great group to work with. Full of energy, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and engage.

Conservation education is FUN and is also fundamental to our understanding of nature and for enabling real connection and action for conservation. There are global, regional, national and local issues and contexts to consider, and so its great when participants can reflect upon what works/will be appropriate for their own setting and context. Whilst it is also great to be able to conduct my workshop in English for all these nationalities – although some aspects don’t require verbal language to understand 🙂

The ‘acting’ skills of the group were used to good effect in non-verbal communication exercises. It was also good to look at how Durrell currently communicate to their visitors at Jersey Zoo and for the students to examine and evaluate this. For example, the public talks and education service.

looking at “education resources” and teaching methods

Communicating conservation, engaging with all audiences, and instilling a wonder and enjoyment of nature all contribute to successful conservation activity the world over, and I was delighted with the feedback from the group, and hope they will make a difference in their future work.

The teaching method was very good, I appreciate it and it inspired me a lot.”
“… your way of teaching involving small activities is really good and I can use some of those activities with school children visiting my place of work back home”
“This is the most enjoyable and memorable workshop ever”


Inspiration & Optimism – DESMAN 2018

There is hope for the future. Conservation is often depicted as a battle and struggle, full of responding to ‘bad news’ and events – which undoubtedly it is. However, we should also be optimistic and celebrate the good news and success stories too. No conservation project, no matter how well conceived, planned and intentioned, will fully succeed unless it has the support of the people. Thankfully there are some amazing, inspiring and dedicated people around the world, working to conserve, protect and develop our understanding of nature. Some of these people are the participants in the Durrell Conservation Academy DESMAN course.

It was an honour and privilege to be invited to speak and lead a few days workshops for the DESMAN in Jersey once again; the third year I have done this. My education and communication ‘course’ was well received and I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with this year’s students who came from: Armenia, Brazil, Canada, China (Hong Kong), India, Nigeria, Samoa, St. Lucia, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, & UAE.

Whilst, I was able to inspire and enthuse the participants and demonstrate a diversity of communication and education techniques, I was also inspired and enthused by them too. It’s always good to meet people who are committed to, are doing and will do, great work and to be a small part of their development and conservation activity. Their feedback was also very much appreciated, with some great comments, such as:
“thank you for making it so fun, informative and inspiring”; “I got many new experiences about new techniques of education and awareness programmes – very useful”; and “inspired me to do more in the field of conservation education and community conservation”.

It was of course also great to return to Jersey Zoo, HQ of Durrell and enjoy time in the Zoo – not least the brilliant bat flight enclosure – which in itself has a great community and recycling story in its construction.  We also enjoyed reviewing and critiquing the education for visitors, by observing talks, signs and discussing education programmes. One of the great aspects of the DESMAN is that the diversity of participants may have specific field projects and focus, but they get to understand endangered species management in general and the multi-faceted approach needed for conservation to succeed – including through education and communication.

I am optimistic that this year’s DESMAN participants, along with previous students, WILL go MAD and Make A Difference!

Thanks to Durrell Conservation Academy and to the participants and staff. (Links on social media twitter: @ZooStephen and featured on @Durrell_Academy and on facebook.)

Durrell’s Army and Academy Workshop

I was delighted to be involved in delivery of a conservation education short course and DESMAN at the wonderful Durrell Academy based at Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey last weekend.

With participants from India, Brazil, Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania, Nigeria, Congo Republic, Seychelles, St. Lucia, and the UK, the course benefited enormously from the wealth of experiences and backgrounds each person brought with them and it made my job of facilitating learning and sharing of educational practice very enjoyable.
durrellparticipants
Utilising a mix of lecture with discussion, and diversity of activities from role play to storytelling, we covered a wealth of techniques and tips for educational engagement in a diversity of contexts and for a variety of audiences from children to adults.

The Durrell Academy and the Durrell Wildlife Hostel at Les Noyers, right next to the zoo, is a great facility and one that is world-leading, showing what a good zoo can do to make a real and lasting commitment to the conservation of species and habitats on a global scale. I was especially pleased to be ‘teaching’ here as I attended the opening of this centre back in 1984 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the zoo, and it’s so good to see how Gerald Durrell’s vision has come to life.les noyers

durrell academyWith the 12 week DESMAN – Durrell Endangered Species Management Graduate Certificate – the participants achieve academic recognition, validated by the University of Kent. The course has a high reputation and it is brilliant that scholarships are available.

The wonderful participants are now part of the growing Durrell’s Army of conservationists – most of whom work in the field across the world.

I enjoyed returning on ‘pilgrimage’ again to the zoo, now known as Durrell Wildlife Park and seeing species such as Livingstone’s fruit bat, giant jumping rat, aye aye, Round Island skink, orang utan, and gorilla. It was great to see the wonderful ‘Gerald Durrell Story’ exhibition too which opened last year. I was also lucky to see the red-billed chough not only in the zoo but at the release site on the Jersey coast – part of a cooperative project to restore Jersey’s natural habitat. Conservation at home as well as globally.

durrellstory

durrellchoughzoochoughwild
durrell gorilla