'Target: Zero Extinction' is reaching its target

01 Oct 2006

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The number of flora and fauna species on the brink of extinction is increasing every year, but fortunately the number of people who dedicate themselves to the preservation of nature is also increasing day by day.

New Horizons - Less than 100 gazelles now survive in the steppes of Urfa. Hundreds of fauna and flora species in the world survive only in the shrubberies of Antalya. The 11 remaining Demoiselle cranes live in the grassy plains of Bulanık in Muş, and two of the last 200 orchid species in the world are found only on Western Taurus Mountains. The İzmir-Karaburun Peninsula is the main habitat of the last 100 Mediterranean seals. And more than 90% of Europe’s eagles migrate over Istanbul each year.

Bird Life International’s affiliate in Turkey, Doğa Derneği (Nature Society), UNDP/Turkey and the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry have jointly launched the ‘’Nature Fund” project earlier this year. It was the first of nature preservation projects to be supported by individual donations from the public. We talked about this campaign with Güven Eken, President of the Turkish Nature Society.

Less than 100 gazelles now survive in the steppes of Urfa. Hundreds of fauna and flora species in the world survive only in the shrubberies of Antalya. The 11 remaining Demoiselle cranes live in the grassy plains of Bulanık in Muş, and two of the last 200 orchid species in the world are found only on Western Taurus Mountains. The İzmir-Karaburun Peninsula is the main habitat of the last 100 Mediterranean seals. And more than 90% of Europe’s eagles migrate over Istanbul each year.

Güven Eken, President of Turkish Nature Society

Bird Life International’s affiliate in Turkey, Doğa Derneği (Nature Society), UNDP/Turkey and the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry have jointly launched the ‘’Nature Fund” project earlier this year. It was the first of nature preservation projects to be supported by individual donations from the public. We talked about this campaign with Güven Eken, President of the Turkish Nature Society.

UNDP Turkey: How did the idea of creating a Nature Fund come up?

Güven Eken (G.E.): There is a large number of fauna and flora species that need to be protected in Turkey. Most of these species are found in the 305 Key Biodiversity Areas, covering 29 % of Turkish land. Yet, in very few of these areas any work is being done to make sustainable use of natural resources. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the number of scientific experts capable of carrying out studies in this field is very limited, and secondly, the total budget allocated to making rational use of the country’s natural resources is meagre, to say the least. The Nature Society has been working on projects to compensate for these inconveniences. One of these projects is the ‘’Nature School’’, which aims to solve the human resource problem and the other is the ‘’Nature Fund’’. Presently, the work related to nature preservation is being supported by the Turkish Government, the European Union, various European Governments, GEF (Global Environment Fund) and some private sector establishments. However, we wanted a national solution to this national issue. We wanted the Turkish public, as well public and private sectors which use these natural resources, to get directly involved in the preservation efforts and take action. We believed that the donations should be collected in a national fund which is transparently managed. We shared our goal with UNDP and the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry (now the founders of this Fund). They, too, supported us and thus the ‘Nature Fund’ was born.

UNDP Turkey: What does the ‘Target: Zero Extinction’ campaign involve?

G.E.: ‘Zero Extinction’ is in fact a global concept. The so-called “Alliance for Zero Extinction – AZE” is a joint initiative of over 30 institutions around the world, among which is the Turkish Nature Society. Its aim is almost the same as that of the ‘Nature Fund’: to stop further extinction of rare species that survive only at certain sites in the world. We have slightly broadened this concept in Turkey and applied it to rare species living in all ‘Important Biodiversity Areas’, not only at certain sites. So, “Target: Zero Extinction” became our slogan to preserve the 305 Important Biodiversity Areas in Turkey.

UNDP Turkey: When did the campaign start? How long will it continue? How is the public interest in it?

G.E.: We started to collect funds in June and will continue this until mid 2008. So the duration is two years. The interest is beyond our expectations. We collected most of the funds for the “Gazelle Project”, the first of the 10 planned projects, through donations by SMS cell phone messages and other personal donations. We are very happy that this became the first nature preservation project supported by public donations.

UNDP Turkey: What is the current situation in the campaign efforts? Do you have statistical data?

G.E.: Nearly 20 thousand people have supported the campaign through SMS on cell phones or bank transfers. We received a significant donation from Motorola as well. Presently, we have about 120 thousand YTL in our kitty.

UNDP Turkey: What were your priorities in determining the target species to be included in the Campaign? Will the 10 projects you planned be sufficient to save all the endangered species in Turkey?

G.E.: First of all, we took special care that all projects are carried out in the ‘Important Biodiversity Areas’. Among these areas we chose the ones which have the most varied species, the most unique sites and those habitats which contain at least one “flagship” species (most popularly known species among common people). Then of course, we have our feasibility criteria. We had to make sure that local capacity to support our activities are there. With our 10 projects we will be able to protect only a few of the species that need to be protected in Turkey. But even that will be enough to protect the gazelle, the seal, the endemic orchids, the Demoiselle cranes and the Bald Ibis, species that are largely associated with Turkish life and culture. Another very important point is that these projects set a good model. This will encourage other institutions to work in the protection of other important areas.

UNDP Turkey: Where did you use the funds collected through CNN Turk’s donation campaign?

G.E.: We will start using the funds in October. We have closely worked with the General Directorate of Nature Preservation and National Parks in Urfa and Ankara last summer, and decided on the details of the project. We will shortly sign a protocol with the Ministry and start working in October.

UNDP Turkey: Are more donations still coming in?

G.E.: Yes. Many companies have approached us after the launch in June. We are carrying out negotiations on how to support and implement different projects.

UNDP Turkey: What would you say about your partnership with UNDP?

G.E.: We have established a close cooperation with UNDP. Apparently, UNDP first thought we were looking for a financial source for the Fund. When it was made clear that our aim was to get more corporate support and cooperation for nature protection, our collaboration took on a different course. The GEF funds, in one way or the other, are being used for nature anyway. But the purpose of the ‘’Nature Fund’ is to create a larger budget for nature protection. Therefore,we attach great importance to UNDP’s partnership in the Nature Fund. This partnership is a serious proof that the work we are doing aims a global target – ‘to use nature in a rationalistic way’. I hope we will be getting more and more support, first and foremost from Global Compact companies, as well as from other actors in the private sector.