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BirdLife SA raises R100 000 for stranded community guides

By Sheree Bega Time of article published Apr 17, 2020

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An appeal by BirdLife South Africa to help its community bird guides left stranded by the national lockdown has raised R100 000.

Last week, it launched its Community Bird Guide Relief Fund, appealing to supporters and the wider birding community "to help get our bird guides through this extremely difficult period without any income."

The response has been nothing short of phenomenal, it said this week. "BirdLife South Africa and our beloved community bird guides are so grateful for the amazing support."

It has now been able to supply essential funding to nearly 30 guides with the donations."

The messages accompanying these donations have also been extremely heartwarming - it seems that everybody loves our community bird guides and we are happy to help make a difference for them."

BirdLife South Africa contributed R20 000 in seed funding to the initiative "in solidarity with our community bird guides". 

In its appeal, BirdLife SA said it had trained upwards of 200 community bird guides, with those still actively guiding being denied all work by the national lockdown.

"Local and international tourism is expected to slump for several months even after the lockdown is lifted. This is a devastating blow to our community bird guides who rely on local and international eco-tourism (non-essential travel) to support themselves."

In a video, Junior Gabela, one of BirdLife SA's senior guides, thanked BirdLIfe SA for its support and "for this great initiative" and the donors. "We are facing a difficult time. We want to say we are so thankful for what you did for us."

Andrew de Blocq, BirdLife South Africa's avitourism project manager, explained there are two types of guides that come out of its training programme.

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"When possible, we place guides at a lodge where they will be paid as a nature guide and bird specialist.  Most of the guides enter the ecotourism market as freelancers. A few of the freelance guides rely 90% to100% on guiding income (usually a daily fee calculated based on the size of the group and the hours), but it is difficult during the slow season in winter so most supplement their income doing environmental work (education, monitoring, research assistance) or other jobs," he said.

BirdLife South Africa is appealing for further donations. "While the initial contribution had made a massive difference to its guides, we are aware that the longer term effects on the economy and especially the tourism industry, are going to last for many months to come."

The committee overseeing the fund will continue to disburse funds at intervals to sustain the guides for as long as possible.

"Without the help of our birding community and the various corporates that have contributed, our guides would not be able to support their families and may have to consider other work post-lockdown if travel restrictions persist." - Sheree Bega

To donate:

Account Name: BirdLife South Africa

Bank: First National Bank, Randburg

Branch Code: 254005

Account Number: 62067506281

SWIFT: FIRNZAJJ

The Saturday Star

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