Animal lovers everywhere rejoice, you can now add your favourite wild creatures to your El Camino bracelet!
We’re super excited to introduce our newest range: Animal Steps. Choose from giraffe, elephant, tiger, leopard, polar bear and turtle. The new collection offers a great way to bring back memories of amazing wildlife encounters experienced on your travels or simply show some love for endangered species. It’s also a little way to give something back to the natural world, with 10% of sales going to the World Land Trust.
To celebrate the launch, we spoke to Charlotte Beckham, Conservation Programmes Manager for World Land Trust to find out more about their work.
Tell us about the World Land Trust and what you do…
World Land Trust is an international conservation charity that focuses on protecting the world’s most biodiverse and threatened habitats. We do this by funding over 30 in-country partners around the world who create and permanently protect nature reserves for habitats and their wildlife.
Each project is different, but generally we focus on creating reserves through land purchase or legal declaration; funding rangers for ongoing management; restoring already degraded land by planting trees, and funding community work to ensure projects are sustainable for people and wildlife.
What’s your role?
My role is to manage, along with other members of the team, the many conservation projects we support with our in-country partners around the world. This work involves liaising with partners about opportunities, project development and monitoring, as well as working with other teams at WLT to communicate and highlight the work our generous donors make possible.
How is habitat loss impacting animals?
Habitat loss is one of the most pressing problems our partners are tackling and the biggest threat. Forests are being lost at an alarming rate due to, among other things, expansion in cattle grazing, monoculture crops and the associated threats that come along with this such as increased fires.
The loss of habitats themselves is devastating for the resident biodiversity and the ecosystem services, such as water, that they provide. But the fragmentation and loss of habitat adds pressure on already vulnerable animal species. Habitat loss also limits the ability of wildlife to adapt to a changing climate – we see this in some of our project areas, where species ranges are shifting due to higher local temperatures.
How do donations to WLT contribute towards protecting endangered species?
Saving land saves species and that’s why WLT prioritises the protection of threatened habitats. By creating reserves and focusing on the areas most under pressure we can work towards the protection of the whole ecosystem. This is what WLT supporters achieve when they donate to us: they contribute towards habitat protection for many different species, from Critically Endangered and endemic amphibians to larger ranging species such as the Jaguar.
If you had to name a favourite animal, which would it be and why?
Always a difficult question to answer and it changes daily but if I had to choose, I’d say howler monkeys. We have a few projects in the Americas protecting different species, such as the Endangered Yucatan Black Howler Monkey in Central America and the not as threatened but beautiful Colombian Red Howler Monkey found in our projects in Peru. They are a favourite of mine as they often have a comically grumpy face and an otherworldly call (listen online if you can) – sadly I’m yet to hear this in real life!
What’s your top animal fact?
WLT helps to protect what is thought to be the deadliest vertebrate on the planet – the Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis). This tiny amphibian holds enough toxin to kill 10 grown men! This species, found only in a small area of the Pacific coast of Colombia, is being protected and monitored by WLT-funded rangers in the reserve that takes its name – Reserva Rana Terribilis.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about any of the animals featuring in the new El Camino range?
Most people might think of Africa when it comes to leopards but there are nine recognised subspecies, the largest being the Caucasian or Persian Leopard. There are only around 1,000 individuals in the wild. Of those, fewer than 15 are likely to be left in Armenia, where our partner FPWC has recorded two individuals visiting the WLT-supported Caucasus Wildlife Refuge within weeks of each other.
Tell us a little bit about one of the latest projects you’ve been working on…
One of the projects we are working on at the moment is an expansion to a reserve in Caribbean Guatemala with our partner FUNDAECO. We are aiming to purchase three neighbouring properties to the existing Laguna Grande reserve to almost triple the size of this protected area. The reserve will protect a mix of lowland forest habitats including mangroves around the lagoon edge, and form part of a network of protected areas and conservation projects FUNDAECO are working on to create the Caribbean Conservation Coast.
Have you been able to travel to any parts of the world where WLT projects are underway?
I am fortunate that my role has enabled me to travel to some of our project areas. While we aim to keep travel to a minimum, building relations with partners and local stakeholders and reviewing projects to ensure we are delivering the best conservation outcomes for donors does mean we sometimes need to visit. Most projects I personally manage are in Central and South America so this is the region I have been able to visit most.
What’s been your best animal encounter?
A few years ago, I went out to Ecuador to visit our partner Fundación Jocotoco. During my trip, I was able to see a couple of reserves supported by WLT but also another protected area they manage just outside the capital Quito. The reserve, known as Chakana, protects high-altitude Páramo grasslands and is a great place in the country to see Andean Condor and Spectacled Bear. Although we only had time for a very brief visit, I was lucky enough to see almost all the flagship species of the reserve, including a young Spectacled Bear known to the team and born in the reserve. We watched him and he watched us in turn for a little while before continuing his walk over the brow of the hill – a really memorable encounter.
Check our our Animal Steps here.