Birder’s carbon footprint

I have for some time been concerned about the carbon footprint I am leaving behind as a result of my birding. I have noted that Climate Change is not the only malign influence affecting the World. Biodiversity reduction is another affliction with which the world has to deal. Travelling overseas to less developed countries to bird, or engage in other nature based activities tends to result in people in those countries being employed and conservation being supported there. This inflow of funds provides a positive incentive for the local people to protect the natural habitat and the animals and plants contained within it. I have tried to convince myself that my birding will encourage biodiversity maintenance and that is compensation for my carbon footprint. In truth I am still troubled by the carbon footprint I generate while birding..

I am, of course, aware of the various carbon offset schemes promoted by the airlines and others. The reports I have read about them has suggested that they are relatively inefficient in their delivery and provide poor value for money.

On m recent visit to Angola I have come upon a conservation project that supports both biodiversity enhancement and carbon sequestration. Mount Moco is Angola’s highest “mountain” (really a large hill) which, in the past, had a significant forest cover. This forest supported a very diverse avian population. In more recent times the forest area has shrunk dramatically. This has been due in large part to the harvesting of wood from the forest and the effect of grass fires encroaching into the edges of the forest and killing emerging saplings.

The Mount Moco Conservation project was started in 2002 by Michael Mills, a South African conservationist and bird guide and colleagues. They engaged with the local village to develop support for the preservation of the remaining forest and the planting of new trees to extend the forest back towards its earlier size. In addition the project works with the local villagers to create fire breaks in the natural grasslands to prevent the fires encroaching onto the forest. A very large amount of the work of gathering local seeds and propagating seedlings, planting and caring for the saplings and creating the firebreaks is done by the villagers who are paid by the project. The project has been underway for in excess of a decade. The positive results can be seen in the plethora of healthy young trees stretching out of the gullies onto the broader hillsides. The small pockets of remnant forest are beginning to be joined. There is a thriving bird population which has vastly better prospects with an expanding forest.

For me this project ticks all the boxes. It is planting trees and thereby sequestering carbon. The area is a birding hotspot and the regeneration of the forest can but support the biodiversity inherent in the forest. The project is being run in conjunction with the local villagers who can earn an income from their involvement. They see the economic benefit to their community. The project seems to be run with very low overheads meaning that it offers “high value” in both carbon sequestration and biodiversity enhancement.

I am donating to the project and encourage other birders to do likewise. This can be done through the African Bird Club at