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News From the Front Lines: First-Year Adventure Travel Conservation Fund Grant Winners Report on Project Success

Local Weaving

Adventure Travel News, ATN Staff

In its first year of funding since launching in 2016, the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund (ATCF) awarded $76,500 USD in grant funds to three different conservation projects around the globe: the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT)WILDCOAST, and the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program (GPOCP). As a member of the ATCF, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) receives quarterly progress reports and is excited to share those updates from each of the conservation projects nominated and voted upon by fellow ATCF members.

WILDCOAST is involved in a number of projects protecting sea life.

Nominated by ATCF member Eagle Creek, WILDCOAST is a community-based organization committed to conserving and sustaining coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. With its ATCF grant funds, WILDCOAST is supporting the conservation of coral reefs in 687,767 acres of six protected areas in the Mexican Pacific. So far in 2018, the organization has worked on creating a wildlife and dive guide of Huatulco National Park, conducted eight workshops to provide education on coral reef conservation activities to 135 students, began developing the first Mexican Pacific system on mooring infrastructure in coral reef protected areas, and submitted requests to include two coral reef species on Mexico’s list of endangered species.

“WILDCOAST is very excited to receive the generous support of the ATCF to help us protect coral reefs in the Mexican Pacific. Our work in places like Cabo Pulmo and Huatulco has had a significant positive impact on local reefs and surrounding ecosystems. Now we can expand our efforts to conserve a broader area and implement even more effective conservation strategies such as new mooring buoy systems, enhanced outreach, and legal protections for key coral species,” said Zachary Plopper, conservation director for WILDCOAST. The organization is now focused on planning a workshop for tourism outfitters from Huatulco and Cabo Pulmo with the support of the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) to promote best visitation practices and learn how to adapt successful strategies for visitor management.

Since receiving funding, the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust has started constructing homes for the Gahinga community of Batwa pygmies.

Established in 2009, the VSPT is a non-profit organization connecting Volcanoes Safaris’ Rwanda and Uganda luxury lodges to the neighboring communities and conservation activities. The VSTP project, nominated by ATCF member Volcanoes Safaris, centers on providing a permanent settlement for the Gahinga community of Batwa pygmies, a group of about 90 adults and children, who were displaced from their ancestral homeland in Mgahinga 25 years ago and have been living as marginalized landless squatters since then.

Since receiving funding, the project has made considerable progress, acquiring roughly 10 acres of land next to Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and starting home construction for 18 families, including 105 adults and children. The VSTP hoped to move many of the Batwa community members into their new homes by mid-April, with the official opening of the village set for 31 May.

In addition to homes, a community center will be completed soon, and each family will receive a farming plot. The community will spend the next three months preparing these plots to grow local crops such as potatoes, runner beans, maize, and millet.

The Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program has made significant progress in its education efforts.

ATCF member ExOfficio nominated GPOCP, whose mission since its inception in 1994 has been to conserve orangutan populations and forest habitat in and around Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP) in Indonesia. GPOCP has engaged the local community in conservation efforts with more than 15 educational programs that reached a total of 1,274 people. It also facilitated 40 media opportunities designed to improve the local community’s understanding of alternative ways of living that support rather than harm the orangutan population and habitat in the GPNP area. To further engage the community, the GPOCP expanded a youth artisan group selling handicrafts in support of the organization and also created an organic farming cooperative called Meteor Garden.

“The Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program is honored to receive the support of the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund to protect orangutans and their rainforest habitat in West Kalimantan,” said Dr. Cheryl Knott, founder and director of the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project. “We share similar visions of conserving natural resources while creating opportunities for the socioeconomic stability of local communities. This project targets the root of habitat destruction by educating local communities and working with them to provide sustainable livelihood options, such as organic farming, and selling handicrafts made from non-timber forest products. We look forward to this collaboration and the positive impact this project will have throughout this biodiverse landscape.”

The ATCF is a member-driven organization with 100 percent of membership dues going directly toward the funding of these international conservation projects. The non-profit was designed to provide members of the outdoor and travel community with an opportunity to come together and support projects benefiting the future of tourism and destinations. It is important the industry takes a proactive approach to preserving and protecting those cultures and areas adventure travelers enjoy. The ATTA encourages the industry to consider joining the diverse group of more than 70 international leading adventure travel and outdoor recreation businesses that share a common ethos and commitment to protecting the resources on which the adventure tourism industry depends.

The ATCF and ATTA look forward to sharing the progress of these three international conservation efforts throughout the year.

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Safari Activities

Chimpanzee Tracking

Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.

Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.