The Asa Wright Nature Centre is raising funds to keep it running during the covid19 period. The aim is to raise US$50,000, which will then be matched by an anonymous patron.
Board member Dr Judith Gobin said the centre’s mandate is conservation of the environment through sustainable multiple-use strategies, including: protection of valued ecosystems, habitats and species; rehabilitation of degraded areas; promotion of compatible economic opportunities; and research, education and recreational activities for the benefit of humanity.
The centre, one of the first nature centres in the Caribbean, was established through a not-for-profit trust by naturalists and birdwatchers in 1967 to protect part of the Arima Valley in a natural state, and to create a conservation and study area for the protection of wildlife and for the enjoyment of all.
“AWNC has been acknowledged as the birthplace of eco-tourism nationally and globally even before such terminology was coined. Since 2003, our operations have generated the equivalent of approximately $100 million, mostly as foreign currency and which has been directly reinjected into the economy of the country, as employment especially for the local community and to fulfil our conservation, education and agricultural objectives."
It manages 495 hectares of land as a wildlife sanctuary in the Arima, Aripo and Guanapo valleys, a field research station and a lodge, and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Some of the objectives of Asa Wright are: the protection of Spring Hill Estate as a wildlife sanctuary and nature centre; the continued operation and improved efficiency of the centre’s agricultural potential to provide an ecologically sound relationship between the natural habitat and its agriculturally developed portions; continuing and extending its scientific and educational potential through encouraging use of its facilities by amateur, student and professional naturalists, with special emphasis on maintaining a wide international interest in the centre; and furthering the preservation of the natural flora and fauna of TT by encouraging the study of natural history by residents and visitors.
Gobin said some of the projects carried out by the centre are bird monitoring, with over 170 species of birds recorded there; oilbird monitoring, as the only known accessible colony of the oilbird (Steatornis caripensis), one of the most evolutionarily distinct species of birds in the world, is at the Dunston’s Cave on the property; school outreach and public education programmes; scientific research; and sustainable agriculture.
"Then came covid19," said Gobin. "Unfortunately, the aid announced by government for tourism has only been afforded to Tobago. With no visitors, no endowment, and no direct governmental assistance, the AWNC needs to continue to adhere to its mandate. In effect we are cross-subsidising conservation by tourism.”
Gobin said so far the fundraising effort has gone well, but more is needed.
“We are extremely happy to say that we have received a number of contributions to date from both individual persons, as well as some members of corporate TT. Our non-local board members have been doing an amazing job with foreign fundraising efforts.
Now the centre is appealing to the public and will be "eternally grateful" for any contribution
"Please help us to continue our efforts at conservation of the environment through sustainable multiple-use strategies.”
In a notice on its website, the centre said it had ceased operations during the covid19 crisis in compliance with guidelines from the Health Ministry, and after considering the health and well-being of visitors, guests, staff, and local communities. It said it would remain closed to the public until further notice pending additional advice and guidance from the ministry.
But Gobin said there are approximately 46 members of staff, who have stayed with the centre
“While we are closed during this crisis our staff is making every effort to continue to provide food for our resident birds in order that they still be there for our visitors when we can reopen! Our staff members are also volunteering to come in and sustain our on-going research and conservation projects as well as to provide needed maintenance for the trails and grounds of the centre. As we have no revenue to sustain this important activity your assistance is critical – please help support our work now with your donation.”
For information on how to donate to the centre’s fundraising efforts, visit its website at https://asawright.org/