Two months ago, I was approached by the Shuswap Naturalist Club to give a presentation on the birds and the conservation issues of South Korea. On Tuesday, March 2nd, I presented to a group of 35 individuals who are key conservationists’ in the Salmon Arm, British Columbia area. As it was my first presentation on my experiences in South Korea as well as Birds Korea and conservation issues, I was interested to see not only how it would all go, but what the reaction would be from people who had never stepped foot in East Asia, let alone South Korea.
I began with a short introduction to a variety of birds of the country, focusing mainly on Threatened species who stand to lose the most from continued habitat destruction (Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Oriental White Stork, Great Knot, etc.), but also added some colour such as Daurian Redstart and Blue-and-White Flycatcher. As these species were unknown to the listeners, their interest was certainly heightened! I moved from there to a short description of some of the conservation issues such as Saemangeum, Song Do and the Four Rivers project. Here in Salmon Arm, we just finished a long round of negotiations and public hearings in relation to a 22-acre development down near the water front of Salmon Arm Bay, which itself is a protect area. Therefore, the sheer magnitude of the conservation issues in South Korea absolutely shocked them. Many of the members wondered how they could never have heard of the 40,000 hectare reclamation of Saemangeum, and could hardly fathom the size of such a project. Showing photos from my time inside the walls of Saemangeum during the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program helped bring the reality of the situation to life for us here in Salmon Arm.
I moved from that introduction into talking about Birds Korea, and how we work as an organization through research, education and public awareness and planning and design in an attempt to conserve ecosystems in and around South Korea. Many of the listeners were relieved to hear that an organization was trying to do something about the large numbers of environmental concerns, and they were very interested in hearing about the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program and the Birds Korea Blueprint for the Protection of Avian Biodiversity of the Korean part of the Yellow Sea, the latter of which was published by Birds Korea in October 2010.
I finished with a short discussion about where to go from here both inside and outside the country in terms of continuing to work towards conservation and sustainable development. I introduced Birds Korea – Canada and talked about how we are trying to create a node of support for Birds Korea and the work we do. This type of presentation is certainly one way we will work in Canada, to provide information to interested parties here who otherwise would never know what was happening on such a large scale in South Korea. There were certainly many questions about what was in my presentation, and I have had subsequent discussions with a few of the members since I gave the talk, and they were still blown away by what was discussed. Bringing South Korea closer to home through presentations such as this will certainly help people here feel as though they have some way to help the conservation efforts, because for most people, East Asia feels like a long ways away.
Other than presentations such as these, we are also working towards incorporating Birds Korea – Canada into a charitable organization, which will give us greater leverage in our area as we try to raise the issues that need to be raised in order to continue to work on conservation efforts in South Korea. If you have other ideas about how we could further the profile of Birds Korea – Canada, we’d love to hear them!