EWCL (“yoo-cull”) IN YULEE
About two months ago, I participated in the first part of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) program at the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida. EWCL is a two-year training program that brings together promising young leaders from conservation NGOs, state and federal agencies and international organizations for intensive training on media relations, conservation planning, strategic communications, fundraising and basically everything that you need to know to be a successful conservationist. Participants get to test these skills by working on teams to develop full-fledged campaigns for the conservation of specific species.
After a very LONG day of project research and negotiation, our class decided to focus our campaign projects to protect lions, slow lorises, bats, and radiated tortoises. Each of these species faces unique conservation threats ranging from poaching to illegal trade to habitat disturbance and destruction. How each of our EWCL project teams chooses to address these threats will depend on local conditions, the partnerships we’re able to develop over the next year and ultimately, all of the leadership skills that we learn as part of our EWCL training.
THE POWER OF POOP
I am part of the team working with Bat Conservation International (BCI) on developing international standards for the sustainable harvest of bat guano. Bat guano has been harvested from caves for centuries and has been put to a variety of uses, including for gunpowder during the U.S. Civil War. Today bat guano is primarily used for fertilizer, both in commercial production in places like Texas and for subsistence farming purposes in places throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America. Guano harvesting can have huge impacts on bat colonies. Bats are extremely sensitive to disturbance, and harvesting guano while bats are roosting can cause pup loss and abandonment of caves. Lack of understanding of these impacts, together with unclear property rights and lack of any rules to enforce have led to unsustainable guano harvesting practices.
Over the course of the next year and a half, our EWCL team will work with BCI and other partners to develop international standards for guano harvesting. We will work with up to two communities to develop pilot projects for the application of these standards to help bat conservation professionals work with all relevant stakeholders to create effective management regimes at the local, national and regional level. In just the short amount of time that we’ve been working on this project the need for these standards is clear. The entire EWCL bat team is looking forward to working on this issue.
Stay tuned for periodic updates on bats and our project in general!