Armenia: community expedition postponed

As you have probably read in the news, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has flared up again with a vengeance. As our study site is close to this area, all project work there has been suspended and there will be no community expedition as planned for late October / early November.

Please watch this space for further updates.

Status update September 2020 – Arabia and Kenya expeditions shifted to 2022

Arabia and Kenya expeditions shifted to 2022

The virus is biting back hard and most experts think that a vaccine is unlikely to become widely available before mid-2021. Our Arabia and Kenya expeditions were planned for early 2021, but with the situation what it is, we have decided to postpone them for a year to January and February 2022 respectively.

Other, later expeditions may follow suit and we will be keeping you all up to date on here.

Community expeditions update September 2020

  • In the Azores (whales & dolphins) our scientist has been out on and off the water since April and has a written a detailed blog
  • In Germany (wolf), a small community expedition took place in July and there is also a blog
  • In the Tien Shan (snow leopard), our community camera trapping team have done very well to capture more snow leopard photos; the community expedition heads into the field tomorrow, after we had to postpone things earlier when the virus hit Kyrgyzstan hard during the summer – watch this space for more updates
  • In Costa Rica (sea turtles), work to save turtle nests from poachers continues successfully with a skeleton crew
  • In Thailand (elephant), we are working hard to get our study herd through the crisis
  • In the Maldives (coral reefs), our local partner has instigated a new coral reef conservation project
  • In Kenya (African biodiversity), we have empowered local communities with technology with great success during the last international expedition that ran just before the pandemic hit and have published the report of this already.
  • In Armenia (leopard, bear, wolf), the community expedition is planned for November

Enonkishu conservancy rangers, Kenya. (c) Chris Taylor

Here is how our signup process works under the current circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic

Our original terms & conditions under “Terms & conditions of Biosphere Expeditions Ltd. (Ireland)” still apply. The relevant sections are under the headings ” 4. Withdrawal by you” and “5. Change to expedition or cancellation by us”. In particular, and under pandemic conditions, this means that if we cannot run the expedition if the coronavirus situation does not allow us to do so at the time, then we will offer an alternative date to those signed up already and apply deposits paid to this new date, which will usually be around the same time the year after. The same applies if we do not have enough people signed up to an expedition to be able to run it. In addition, next to the offer of deferring to the same expedition at a later date, we will also offer those already signed up the chance to sign up to any other expedition on our portfolio for the next 15 months. Deferment terms will be handled very flexibly so that you can take whatever time you need to tell us which expedition you would like to defer to. If we do need to defer, we will tell everyone in good time, which means two months or more in advance. We also strongly recommend cancellation insurance for everyone, as we have always done. We do not offer this insurance ourselves, as we are not an insurance company, but there are many commercial options out there.

“Life-changing conservation break for when we can travel again”

This is not our usual scene, but an article in the Daily Mail says that “post-coronavirus, we will think about holidays differently, so volunteering definitely has a chance of rebirth” and cites our Tien Shan snow leopard expedition as a “life-changing conservation break” for “when we can travel again”.

See the article here

Rampant destruction of forests ‘will unleash more pandemics’

Rampant destruction of forests ‘will unleash more pandemics’

Cost of preventing next pandemic ‘equal to just 2% of Covid-19 economic damage’


Status update August 2020 – We’re still here, hanging on

Biosphere Expeditions is still here, albeit with all hatches battened down in an effort to survive the storm. Here’s a short interview with our founder and executive director, Dr. Matthias Hammer, about the situation at the moment.

Q: Will Biosphere Expeditions survive this pandemic?

A: The honest answer is that I do not know for certain, but probably. We’ve made contingency plans A, B, C, D etc. But even the best plans are pointless if we run out of money. The contributions that our citizen scientists make constitute the lion’s share of our income. Of course this has collapsed to almost zero since March and it does not look like it will be coming back anytime soon. Even if there was to be a genuine vaccine by the end of 2020, then I doubt many people will have the inclination or funds to travel in 2021. Of course there are some grant and other support schemes that we have applied for, and a portion of our coronavirus appeal was for our running costs, but if the pandemic continues into and over 2021, as we now expect it to do, with no or very few expeditions happening in 2021, then survival will start to become a tough struggle indeed. But we are optimists by default, backed by good planning, and we are also fighters. Watch this space for updates as 2020 continues and turns into 2021.

Q: What is the outlook for expeditions in 2021?

A: Early on during the pandemic we suspended all citizen science elements of our 2020 expeditions and concentrated on continuing our conservation work with local partners and staff, and supporting our local partners in this time of crisis through our coronavirus appeal.

Realistically, we think expeditions are unlikely in 2021, especially those outside Europe. As I have said, even if there was to be a genuine vaccine by the end of 2020, then this would only be the beginning of the end and I doubt many people will have the inclination or funds to travel far and wide in 2021. This means our expeditions in Africa, the Americas and Asia are bound to suffer, and we are doing all we can to support our local partners through this. At the moment, however, all 2021 expedition are online and we will assess how things go as time progresses. If there are enough people to run an expedition and if we decide we can reasonably do so, then we will run expeditions as planned – for conservation, for our local partners, for our citizen scientists and because we strongly believe that conservation work must continue despite, and perhaps even because of this crisis.

Q: How’s the coronavirus appeal going?

A: I was amazed by the generosity of people and would like to say thank you again to all donors here. Today we stand at 113 donors, 52% raised and four projects fully funded. There was a very generous initial surge of support, but things have slowed down now, which is not surprising as almost everyone will be negatively affected by this pandemic by now. We continue to promote the appeal and to fundraise and hope we can find the funding for all our local conservation partners, because it is desperately needed. If anyone reading this can help, please do so.

Q: What can people do to help?

A: The three most helpful things are to join an expedition (European ones are probably the best bet), give to our appeal, or join our Friends.

Q: If someone wants to sign up for a 2021 expedition now, how does that work under pandemic conditions?

A: Good question. Basically things will be handled very flexibly so that nobody misses or loses out. How exactly it all works is described here.

Covid-19 and sustainable tourism: information resources and links

Dr Spenceley, a leading authority in sustainable and responsible tourism, has compiled an excellent resource and information list “Covid-19 and sustainable tourism: information resources and links“.

Dr Spenceley

Dr Spenceley focuses on biodiversity conservation, protected areas and transfrontier conservation areas, certification, indicators, concessions and public-private partnerships, triple bottom line assessments (i.e. economic, social and environmental), value and supply chains, small enterprise development and poverty reduction.

Germany: Community expedition without international citizen scientists

We were looking forward to continuing our active wolf monitoring for the fourth year in a row. But then corona came.

Still, thanks to the Biosphere Expedition’s coronavirus appeal and the generosity of the donors, we can still run a small field campaign this year (there are still €451 missing to our target, so if there is anyone out there feeling generous, there is still time to make up the shortfall; we can run the community project as is, but with the extra funds, we would not have to compromise on a few things).

Preparations are underway and we have found an alternative base, because our usual ‘Herrenhaus’ base will not reopen until August. We are in contact with our friends from the state wolf bureau, the State Forests and are ready to get going soon. The team will comprise myself, Lotte Steinberg (who now works in wolf conservation in Thuringia), some wolf commissioners and also some former local citizen scientists who have attended the expedition every year since its start (and therefore are very experienced and do not require any training).

The wolf population in Germany continues to rise and there are some local hotspots where livestock is predated upon. In addition, wolves are pushing into new areas, which never fails to create anxiety within local human populations affected. There is an intense debate going on in Germany about wolves.

This is why baseline data are essential and it’s great that we can continue to collect data this year, in spite of corona, even if it is on a much smaller scale and without the help of international citizen scientists. You will be missed, not just because of the data you collect, but also because of the team spirit you create.

Once again many thanks to all donors who have made this community expedition possible. Without you, we would not get into the field this year.

Watch this space for updates…

Peter Schütte & Lotte Steinberg

Conservation in crisis: ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife

Conservation in crisis: ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife > more

A Galapagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) being photographed by a tourist, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Photograph: Kevin Schafer/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy