Youth for Our Planet | News

An interview with Birdgirl (aka Mya-Rose Craig)

“I have been lucky enough to have visited eco-tourism projects around the world that financially support local and indigenous communities to be self-sufficient,   without   resorting   to   destroying   the   habitat   around   them.   For example, when I was 10 years old, I visited an indigenous community near Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Amazon who had been pressed to agree to a logging  contract.   However,  one   of   their  community,   Ruth   Alipaz,  who  ran away to La Paz age 12 and became their first person to finish high school, get a degree before returning. That one person persuading them to build a lodge instead. We were the first people to stay there, Sadiri Lodge. Our bird guide,Sandro, had amazing birding skills which he learnt from an early age, growing up as a hunter with a bow and arrow. He was able to help his community and their wildlife through tourism. That was when I realised the direct link between indigenous communities and the protection of wildlife and that one person could make a difference. However, I had not yet realised that the one person could be me.The Spoon-billed Sandpiper project is a great example of projects working with   locals   for   the   benefit   of   both.   They   are   categorised   as   critically endangered and in 2009 they were down to 200 pairs. A task force satellite tagged birds to learn where they migrated, head-started chicks and brought eggs to WWT Slimbridge. I was lucky enough to be able to see them, and it was horrifying to look at 27 chicks knowing they were 10% of the entire world population. They winter in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where they had been caught for food and so the project worked with local people for a solution.Bangladesh’s wildlife is precious to me as my mum’s family are from there. I talked on Bangladeshi TV news to explain to people about the risk the bird was in, which was shown in the UK and Bangladesh just before I visited in 2015. When I arrived in Cox’s Bazar, a shop assistant recognised me and told me that she knew about the rare bird in danger near her. People do care about issues when they can relate to them. When I went to survey the birds with a camera crew, I interviewed an ex-hunter who told me that he was very proud of the shop that the project had bought him and that hunting birds had not been a respectable job. By understanding the islanders, the project had helped both them and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. I wanted to use my visit to raise as much awareness as possible about the plight of the bird and so gave a talk in Dhaka, which was reported in lots of newspapers, TV and media.Even as a 12 year old girl, I could make a difference.In 2018, the WWF’s “Our Planet” Report found that wildlife populations had gone   down   60%   in   50   years.   The   ICUN   also   announced   that   26,000   of species worldwide were threatened and UN scientists warned that we have 12 years to limit Climate Breakdown. The 2020 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be adopting a post-2020 global biodiversity framework which is planned to be a stepping stone to its 2050 vision “Living in harmony with the nature”. We need urgent and dramatic action to stop catastrophe”