Status update December 2020 – First we helped our local conservation partners. Now it’s time to think about our own survival.

After the coronavirus appeal to support our local partners, please also now consider the Biosphere Expeditions survival appeal to help us make it through the crisis too

Our coronavirus appeal from 1 April to 1 December 2020 was all about getting our local conservation partners through this crisis. This appeal raised close to €50,000 and enabled community expeditions and projects in 2020.

Although there is now light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with several vaccines about to be rolled out, restrictions are likely to be with us well into 2021 and beyond, mainly because vaccine rollout across the world is going to take well over a year, perhaps even two or three.

This means that on top of the near total loss of income in 2020, it will still take some significant time until expeditions are up and running again, let alone back to something approaching normal. In fact, we do not expect operations to approach anything near normal until well into 2022, perhaps even later.

All this means that after the coronavirus appeal for our local conservation partners, it is now time to think about Biosphere Expeditions’ survival in these very testing times. So please help us survive the crisis, whilst also avoiding redundancies, by giving to our survival appeal. All donations, large or small, are very welcome and highly appreciated.

There is light appearing over the horizon, but for Biosphere Expeditions it is still far away

Community expeditions update December 2020

The coronavirus crisis affects us all. All citizen science for 2020 had to be deferred from March onwards and only two out of a dozen expeditions had a citizen science element to them. Therefore, our partners were and are hard hit by lack of funding and citizen scientist helpers. Yet we were determined that conservation efforts continued despite, and even because of, the very difficult circumstances. This is why we ran a coronavirus appeal from 1 April to 1 December 2020 – to help get our local conservation partners through this crisis. The appeal raised close to €50,000 from 162 donors.

Here is a summary of what the funding has achieved so far:

In the Azores (whales & dolphins) our scientist Lisa Steiner was able to be out on and off the water from April to the end of the season in November. She has a written a detailed blog of what she saw and the data she could collect through the support of the coronavirus appeal.

“The funding from Biosphere Expeditions allowed me to get to sea and document that, for a second year in a row, the number of baleen whales passing by in the spring was lower than it had previously been. I only documented a few blue whales, one humpback and one fin whale, during April/May. There were also fewer Risso’s dolphins, one of the resident species. Sei whales, however, were regularly present throughout July, August, September and even into October. 2020 was a very good year for sperm whales. I was able to document several of the ‘regular’ groups of sperm whales and take over 100 different sperm whale ID photos. I also logged the resident bottlenose dolphins several times – in September with a couple of new calves – as well as false killer whales. Finally there were lots of spotted, common and striped dolphin, sometimes displaying incredible aerial activity. It’s all in the blog. My sincerest thanks to Biosphere Expeditions and those who supported their coronavirus appeal!”
Lisa Steiner
Expedition scientist, Azores

Lisa Steiner

 

In Germany (wolf), a small community expedition took place in July and there is also a blog. The community expedition walked about 250 km, covering 15 cells of the pan-European 10 x 10 km grid and collecting 163 wolf signs. From this they were able to glean evidence of seven wolves, amongst them one known breeding female. Three individuals were new to science, which is exciting.

“Thank you so much to Biosphere Expeditions, its coronavirus appeal and all donors towards our community expedition in Germany. Without the funding provided by the appeal, and in the absence of a citizen science expedition in the summer of 2020, there would have been no data collection and we would have had a big gap in our knowledge about wolves in our study area. Instead we were able to get out into the field, producing some exciting results. Thank you for making this possible despite the challenging circumstances.”
Peter Schütte
Expedition scientist, Germany

Scientist Peter Schütte (left) with a Germany community expeditioner

 

In the Tien Shan (snow leopard), our community camera trapping team have done very well to capture more snow leopard photos and to run a community expedition in September, collecting valuable data in the absence of our annual citizen science expedition. This meant we could produce a combined 2019/2020 research report showing snow leopard presence and making conservation recommendations.

“On behalf of Ilbirs Foundation and myself, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Biosphere Expeditions for providing financial support for wildlife monitoring and environmental protection in collaboration with local communities, despite the fact that the pandemic is growing worldwide and the world is facing a very difficult situation. I express my solidarity with the fact that Biosphere Expeditions is continuing its work this way, providing opportunities to all worldwide conservationists in protecting wildlife around the globe.”
Askat Dabyrovich
Ilbirs Foundation, Kyrgyzstan

The Tien Shan community expedition team (with Askat Dabyrovich on the left)

 

In Costa Rica (sea turtles), the project continued with just the local leaders, one research assistant and the biologist. The nesting season finished in October and the research station is closed until next year, when our partners are hoping to reopen it again in time for next season, pandemic permitting. The green turtle season in 2020 was slow (just 34 nests), for reasons that are not known, but not because of the pandemic. Because of this, the success rate of saving nests from poachers was almost 100%! For leatherbacks, there were 150 nests with hatchling numbers similar to previous seasons. There were also five hawksbill nests. The eventual poaching rate was around 40-50%, depending on the month. The percentage of nests saved at the end of the season and across three species was 59%. The poaching rate was of course higher than in years with citizen science support and therefore the percentage of nests saved was lower. But is still very good, given the very difficult circumstances.

In another positive development, a reusable hatchery was constructed for the first time in 2020. Hatcheries are built each season to translocate and protect nests to ensure maximum hatchling survival. We now have reusable fence and other structures that should last many years and make for a much better hatchery.

The 2020 hatchery with its reusable fence and other structures

 

In Thailand (elephant), our partners are working hard, and are succeeding, to get their local study herd of elephants through the crisis, plus those animals that are returning to the forest with their mahouts because they cannot make a living during lockdown. There are now 50+ elephants around the mountain villages or deep in the forest with their mahouts and food is running low, but fundraising has helped to buy extra fodder to sustain the animals through the crisis.

“Your tireless efforts for fundraising have helped us to continue to provide for our elephants. Our community has also assisted us to care for the many elephants that have had to return to our area for the crisis period. Every donation has contributed to this and has ensured our survival over these difficult times. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.”
Kerri McCrea
Expedition scientist, Thailand

Elephants in Thailand

 

In the Maldives (coral reefs), our local partner has instigated a new coral reef conservation project using coral nurseries to grow baby corals.

Coral nursery table

 

In Kenya (African biodiversity), we empowered local communities through technology with great success during the last international expedition that ran just before the pandemic hit and have published the report of this already. “Enonkishu is thriving as far as the wildlife goes. There were eleven lions, four wild dogs, and Kisaru, the cheetah, just on one walk last Sunday. It looks like Kisaru is pregnant again and sticking around to have her cubs in Enonkishu for a second year in a row,  which will be fantastic”, says conservancy manager Rebekah Karimi.

Kisaru cubs (c) C Flechtner

 

In Armenia (leopard, bear, wolf), the community expedition was planned for November, but had to be cancelled when the war in Nagorno-Karabagh, which is too close for comfort to our study site, broke out. With winter approaching, plans have been postponed to 2021.

Autumn in the Armenia study site

Status update November 2020 – Will there be expeditions in 2021?

Since our last status update and interview with our founder in October and his interview with “natur” magazine, light has appeared at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are in sight and our community expeditions and coronavirus appeal to support our local partners are going well.

But what does that mean for expeditions in 2021 and will Biosphere Expeditions survive this crisis?

With no expeditions since February 2020 and therefore the almost total loss of income, survival still hangs by a thread, but we are fighting hard and are rising to the challenge. In a few months, we will be able to see whether we can pull through. Chances are looking increasingly positive and we will soon start another campaign to get us over the line.

As to expeditions, we are now hopeful that at least some European expeditions will run in 2021. The first one, the Azores, is scheduled for March/April 2021. This may be too soon. The next few weeks will reveal this and we will keep you updated on here. Thereafter it’s Sweden in June and Germany in June/July. For those, things are definitely looking up, especially because experts think we may be able to get back to some sort of normal by late spring / early summer.

As to other expeditions around the world, it’s too early to make predictions now. Much will depend on vaccine rollout across the planet, as well as on how confident people will be to travel again to remote, far-flung places, and of course whether they will have the funds to do so. We expect to be able to make some more confident predictions by January, so watch this space. in any case, the expeditions to Arabia and Kenya, scheduled for January and February respectively, were deferred to 2022 quite a few weeks ago.

What you can do to help in all this and make sure it comes true is give to our appeal, join the Friends, join an expedition (Germany and Sweden are your best bet), get vaccinated and make sure people around you get vaccinated too.

See you on the other side!

Community expeditions update November 2020

In the Azores (whales & dolphins) our scientist Lisa Steiner has been out on and off the water all the way back since April and has a written a detailed blog.

Lisa Steiner

In Germany (wolf), a small community expedition took place in July and there is also a blog.

Scientist Peter Schütte with a Germany community expeditioner

In the Tien Shan (snow leopard), our community camera trapping team have done very well to capture more snow leopard photos and to run a community expedition in September, collecting valuable data in the absence of our annual citizen science expedition. This means we can produce a combined 2019/2020 research report, the publication of which is imminent. Check the Tien Shan research output page for details soon.

The Tien Shan community expedition team

In Costa Rica (sea turtles), work to save turtle nests from poachers continued successfully, despite the pandemic, with a skeleton crew. The nesting season is now over and the research station closed.

The hatchery in Costa Rica

In Thailand (elephant), we are working hard to get our study herd through the crisis.

Elephants in Thailand

In the Maldives (coral reefs), our local partner has instigated a new coral reef conservation project.

Coral nursery table

In Kenya (African biodiversity), we 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. “Enonkishu is thriving as far as the wildlife goes. There were eleven lions, four wild dogs, and Kisaru, the cheetah, just on one walk last Sunday. It looks like Kisaru is pregnant again and sticking around to have her cubs in Enonkishu for a second year in a row,  which will be fantastic”, says conservancy manager Rebekah Karimi.

Kisaru cubs (c) C Flechtner

In Armenia (leopard, bear, wolf), the community expedition was planned for November, but had to be cancelled when the war in Nagorno-Karabagh, which is too close for comfort to our study site, broke out. With winter approaching, plans have been postponed to 2021.

Autumn in the Armenia study site

Status update October 2020 – Our expeditions and fight for survival

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

Q: Our last interview was on 18 August 2020. What has changed since then? What’s the new situation and thinking?

A: When we last spoke, there were hopes for a vaccine by the end of 2020. Now most expert think mid-2021 is more realistic and even this will not be a “silver bullet” that will bring a swift end to the pandemic and a return to normal. We should expect masks and social distancing to be in place for 2-3 years.

Of course this presents a huge challenge to what we do. We are not expecting there to be many expeditions with citizen scientists in 2021. In fact, we recently postponed our Arabia and Kenya expeditions, planned for January and February 2021, for a year to 2022. I expect many other expeditions to follow suit. If conditions are favourable, we may be able to run the odd expedition in Europe later in 2021, but our honest assessment is that not much else will be possible in 2021. It may even not be possible to run any expeditions at all in 2021.

Q: What does that mean for the survival of Biosphere Expeditions?

A: To be honest, it will be very tough. We can probably weather the storm until the end of 2021. Getting there will be hard and we have to be very careful and plan well, which we are doing, of course, but beyond that it will become very difficult indeed to survive without expeditions running.

Q: What can people do to help?

A: First and foremost support our coronavirus appeal. The focus of the appeal is on our local partners and enabling them to continue with their critical conservation work despite the crisis. They too face a tough struggle and the more we can support them, the better for them and their conservation initiatives around the world. The appeal will finish on 30 November and we’re going for a final push over the next few weeks. We’re 80% there (from 124 donors) and hope to raise the last 20% (just under €10,000) too as we reach the home straight. Please give generously! Thereafter we will run a Biosphere Expeditions survival appeal to help us come out the other end.

Continue reading “Status update October 2020 – Our expeditions and fight for survival”

Two interesting articles, on the pandemic and conservation

Protecting nature is vital to escape ‘era of pandemics’. Halting destruction of wild places could slow frequency of deadly outbreaks, say scientists > more

Amazon botanist Sir Ghillean Prance: ‘The environmental crisis is a moral one’ > more

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.