Insta cover_2022_2

The John Stott Birding Day

John Stott was at the forefront of bringing creation care to the attention of the global Church. He cared deeply for the plight of the planet because he was hardwired with a love of nature in general and of birds in particular. He was among the first and most faithful friends A Rocha has had and so last year, in celebration of the centenary of his birth, we launched the John Stott Memorial Birding Day. Participants in 21 countries took part in a bird race, seeing an amazing combined total of 1089 species in 24 hours!  

This year, we have an audacious goal. Will you help us reach John Stott’s life total of 2000 species? We are joining ebird’s Global Big Day, using their platform for record keeping. You can take part as an individual, but we recommend you form a team of three to five.  

Take part in the bird race on 14 or 15 May or go on a John Stott-inspired retreat using our resource. Visit www.johnstottbirdingday.com for more information. 

Here are the winners from last year

Black-breasted_Button-quail_male_inskip

Bringing back the Black-breasted Button-quail

2021-2030 is the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a global call to heal our planet and A Rocha projects around the world are making a significant contribution.

In Australia, A Rocha is working with Friends of the Escarpment Parks (FEP) Toowoomba at Redwood Park – a 243-hectare property on the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range – to tackle invasive weeds that threaten to destroy endangered ecosystems like the semi-evergreen vine thicket by climbing and smothering the trees. On the forest floor, it can become difficult for ground-foraging animals and birds to feed, like the nationally vulnerable Black-breasted Button-quail Turnix melanogaster. This button-quail has a characteristic feeding habit: it turns on alternate legs as it scratches in the leaf litter to make a circular feeding scrape. Fresh scrapes are a good indicator that button-quail are present in the area.

In late 2020, a small team of A Rocha Australia volunteers started working alongside FEP to control major weeds at Redwood Park. Every month, they have been working at the site to weed out the invasives in the vine-thicket. The benefits for button-quail have sometimes been immediate, with fresh feeding scrapes being seen throughout the weeded areas the following day. Remote cameras have also confirmed that the button-quail are breeding in the park!

The challenge now is to complete weeding in a sizeable section of the scrub and establish a longer-term plan to maintain the habitat for button-quail and other animals.

Photo: Black-breasted Button-quail (Aviceda, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Kruparna-pond-Filip-Lastovic

Have an A Rocha adventure!

If you have a hole in your schedule over the next few months and were looking for something worthwhile, fun and potentially life-changing to plug it, we can help! Here are two A Rocha opportunities to explore:

Volunteer week with A Rocha Czech Republic 13-21 August

Spend three days working in the living garden at the educational centre, a haven for flora and fauna with seven ponds, two bird hides and a whole lot of insect houses. You will also have a day in the Josefov Meadows Ornithological Reserve and a day in the Orlické Záhoří (Eagle Mountains).

Each day will start with a short Bible reflection in Czech and English, and in the afternoons there will be activities including catching and ringing birds, walks and shorter trips in the surrounding countryside, Czech traditional mushrooming (plus a simple mycological course), and monitoring nesting Kingfishers or Dippers.

The cost is only 10 Euros per night for simple accommodation, food and local travel. There are 30 places available. Please email [email protected] to book.

Volunteer for A Rocha Canada at the Brooksdale Environmental Centre

Whether you’re eager to get your hands dirty in the garden, help remove invasive species with the conservation team, or offer skills in your area of expertise, they would love to hear from you! If you’d like to come for two weeks or more, you’ll be staying in the Brooksdale Guest House an hour south of Vancouver BC. The rate is $40 per day which includes accommodation and breakfast. Lunches and dinners are $6 per meal. You will join along as a volunteer to help as needed in various program areas for about 20 hours a week. Find out more here.

You can find out about other opportunities to volunteer, intern or join as a staff member here.

Photo: Wildlife pond at the Kruparna centre in the Czech Republic (Filip Lastovic)
d3e6d3ce-1924-2c76-da6e-736571ebbfcf

When is a woodland not a woodland? When it’s a wetland.

Did you know the Dakatcha Woodland in Kenya is also a seasonal wetland? 2022 is the first year that World Wetlands Day has been observed officially by the United Nations. Wetlands, like forests, can act as ‘carbon sinks’, attracting carbon and sequestering it so that it cannot escape into our atmosphere. Wetlands like Dakatcha are also home to incredible biodiversity.  

Sadly, wetlands are under threat. Mining and agricultural activities have destroyed nearly half of Kenya’s wetlands over the past 50 years. A report by the National Environmental Complaints Committee found that the area of wetlands had shrunk by around 40% between 1970 and 2021.   

The seasonal wetlands of Dakatcha Forest are the known breeding grounds of Clarke’s Weaver, an endangered bird found only in Kilifi County. They are particularly at risk because they appear dry for much of the year, which means the forest is converted into agricultural land. 

One of the problems A Rocha Kenya is facing is selective logging for charcoal production and pineapple farming. With easy access to chainsaws and motorbikes to transport charcoal, forest clearing has intensified in recent months, and the indigenous forest is being burnt down at an alarming rate. In turn, the price of land is also increasing as local landowners then sell their land to speculative buyers and companies interested in pineapple farming in the rich red magarini soil. 

A Rocha Kenya continues to work to secure this land before it is lost. Scouts govern the forest to make sure the area is well protected and to resolve any conflicts that may arise. The science team also go for a one-week camping trip in Dakatcha each month to record the biodiversity and set the foundation for future research and conservation decisions.

Wild-and-Wonderful

Wild and Wonderful

Wild and Wonderful is a website with free Eco resources for schools, churches and families. The school resources were initially created for A Rocha Netherlands by long time A Rocha friend Petra Crofton.  

The Explore Creation pack for churches links Bible, ecology and creation care and consists of six sessions about life in different places such as the dark, the sky, and the water. Each session offers outdoor and indoor activities.  

There is an Explore Creation workshop for schools too, with ‘Life’ stations and mini-activities. The resources have been tried and tested for nearly ten years and are meant to inspire and encourage children as well as parents and leaders/teachers. As the school materials were initially created for A Rocha Netherlands, they link in with national primary school curriculums and follow the wild adventures of four 11-year olds (Science Geek Christy and her Eco-Logbook – A Rocha International 

On the website, you’ll also find Extra Resources with crafts, trails, quizzes, recipes and a book club manual. The project supports A Rocha and Climate Stewards, and was funded by Scientists in Congregations with the aim of offering free materials to churches, schools and families using story and adventure as starting points. 

www.wildandwonderful.uk  

FN_mockup

Standing up for nature

Our latest issue of Field Notes explores ways we can stand up for nature. One way is to engage with the next Convention on Biodiversity (CBD COP15). If you have no idea what that is all about, never fear: read our beginners’ introduction and all will become clear! There are also lots of stories of A Rocha’s conservation work around the world to inspire you. 


Heather and Bob Sluka nurdle hunting

Life as an A Rocha volunteer

Heather, you recently spent three months volunteering with A Rocha Portugal at their centre, Cruzinha. Can you tell us about what you got up to?

I did a mix of jobs around the centre and in the garden, but one of my main long-term projects was helping another research intern who was studying the flow of plastics in the nearby Alvor estuary.

What did you enjoy most about your time there?

The people! Everyone was so welcoming and I learned a lot from each person I met. I learned about birds from watching the ringers and about moths from Paula. And I learned about Portuguese food and traditions from the local team. We had fun all together and I made friends I never would have met if I had not gone. That is the coolest!

Sounds like you had a great time! Do you have any advice for those considering volunteering with A Rocha?

For me, the best part about volunteering with A Rocha is the community that you become a part of and getting to know all the people you are there with. One thing I did while at Cruzinha was to ask the most weird and far-fetched questions I could think of during our mealtimes. It was a way to start conversations you might not otherwise think of, and the absurdity of some of my questions gave everyone a good laugh!

 

Mekse-ploughing

From Lebanon with love

Joy Mallouh has been chair of A Rocha Lebanon since 2010 and is now stepping down in to make way for new leadership. We asked him to tell us about some of the highs and lows of his time on the board and his hopes for A Rocha Lebanon’s future. 

In 1996 when Chris Naylor began the process of founding A Rocha Lebanon he asked if I would join. I caught the dream and since then I have dedicated my time and effort working on the by-laws, joining the founding board and working alongside Chris in bringing the dream to fulfillment. Ever since I had spent time living in Germany I had been interested in creation care and wanted to do something for the Lord in my own country. A Rocha was the answer. 

The best times I experienced on the board were with Chris. He taught me a lot from his experience, knowledge and enthusiasm and we witnessed the restoration of the Ammiq marsh and the building of the eco-restaurant. Best of all was working with Christians of different traditions, with Jesus at the centre of our faith. I thank the Lord for the trust that was put in me and his support when A Rocha Lebanon was going through difficult experiences. I have attended several A Rocha forums [a gathering of A Rocha leaders from around the world every three years] and experienced the best fellowship. A Rocha is a family of faith – very humble Christians leading transparent and sincere lives in relationship with the Lord Jesus.  

My hope is that A Rocha Lebanon would influence churches and individuals to stay firm in faith and that God would show his glory through our work in nature, teaching a new generation to love God and his creation in practical ways. I hope more people will join A Rocha Lebanon to support the work and help with our scientific research.  

It was quite a difficult decision to distance myself from my A Rocha Lebanon responsibilities but I will stay dedicated to its cause and vision and give as much support as I can. I suffered a stroke on 17 March 2021. Please pray I will be healed and able to walk again in nature, loving God in the silence and beauty of this planet he has given us as a home. Thank you and may the Lord bless you all. 

Plastic-free Feb beach clean up - ARP

Tackling the ‘Age of Plastic’

Plastic – that useful, resistant and inexpensive material that also ends up in the sea, in our food and in our guts – is hard to avoid. When we read predictions that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, we are galvanized to act![2] A Rocha teams took up the challenge of ‘Plastic-Free February’ and tackled reducing single-use plastic in their homes, workplaces and churches.

The French team at Les Courmettes committed to reducing the plastic they use as a community and started by making yoghurt to avoid the individual plastic pots that are the norm. The Dutch team shared ideas and encouragements with participants across the country via weekly emails and an online platform. In Portugal, the team is on their second year of the challenge, having reduced their centre’s plastic waste by almost half in their first February. This year they are building on that success plus sharing tips and getting people out on a beach clean to get plastic physically off the coast.  

Queen, A Rocha Kenya’s Marine Environmental Educator, made it personal. After reading about a Cattle Egret that died from getting tangled in plastic hair, Queen switched from her trademark coloured plastic braids to natural hair. She says she needed to set a good example for the students and community members with whom she discusses the challenges of plastic dependence!

Join with us in reducing our dependence on plastic, whatever the month.  

[1] https://news.un.org/en/story/2017/04/556132-feature-uns-mission-keep-plastics-out-oceans-and-marine-life

Elephants on farmland - ARIn

The risk of mortality for elephants and humans

The Bannerghatta-Hosur Landscape in southern India, a region stretching from Bannerghatta National Park to the North Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and Hosur scrublands, is a critical zone for elephant migration. Urbanization and habitat loss here forces many elephants to travel through human settlements and agricultural lands, which inevitably increases human-elephant conflicts. Sometimes, that means death.

A recent study by A Rocha India concluded that there were 153 human and 69 elephant mortalities reported in the region between 1980 and 2020. Using records on elephant deaths and deaths of humans by elephants collected from Forest Department records, newspapers and scientific publications, they have examined the reasons behind variations in casualties.

For instance, the majority of human-elephant conflicts took place in September when crops are close to harvesting and elephants are more likely to venture onto farmlands in search of food.

Human deaths occurred when farmers attempted to protect their crops. For example, many farmers set illegal electric fences around their land to deliver a lethal voltage to raiding elephants. As a result, electrocution was the main cause of elephant mortality.

In this part of India, many villagers do not have access to a toilet. The majority of the human casualties recorded in the study took place early in the day or after dark in accidental encounters between elephants and people relieving themselves in the forest or collecting firewood.

A Rocha India has been working for many years to protect elephants and educate farmers living around Bannerghatta National Park. The study not only demonstrates just how complex an issue this is, but also the significance of A Rocha’s work here.

Read the paper: Ranganathan, Ekadh & Krishnan, Avinash. (2021). Elephant and Human Mortality in the Bannerghatta-Hosur Landscape, Southern India. Gajah 54. 30-33.

Photo: © A Rocha India