Tuesday, 31 March 2015

BAWC Conference 2015

On Saturday was the first BAWC conference in Buxton as most of you are aware. 120 tickets sold out and this many people in the hotel gave the atmosphere a real buzz. It lasted from 9 till 6 with breaks and a veggie lunch between.
I was one of the four sponsored youngsters who managed to get a ticket, along with Zach, Georgia and Findley. I was really thrilled to be chosen and I bet the others were too.
Me and my dad travelled up on Friday- got to miss some school which was another benefit- and we arrived at our hotel. The following morning I filled up on a full English (minus the black pudding) and I headed over to the Lee Wood Hotel where the conference was being held. My dad had a good nine hours to kill, whilst I was there.

As soon as I walked in, I met Charlie Moores, Phil Walton and Lawrie Phipps and was handed my name badge and BAWC bag. There were a lot of stereotypical birders there, you know who you are, mainly jeans and birding t shirts on, which meant I blended in pretty well. Straight away I was greeted by Mary Arnold (a wildlife enthusiast on twitter) and many other friendly faces. I was asked to do a podcast, asking who I was looking forward to hearing. I took my seat, and moments later I was talking to Georgia Locock about the conference. Charlie welcomed everyone and gave a quick talk and announced the first speaker; Chris Packham.
Chris gave a really passionate and enthusiastic talk, drilling into our heads that we actually need to do something about wildlife crime instead of just discussing and sitting back letting and even thinking others will do it for us.

He demonstrated the importance of our wildlife, which had us all on the edges of our seats. He destroyed a copy of one of our national treasures, a painting of the Hay Wain by George Constable, by defacing the art work with graffiti spray and a pen knife. "This morning I destroyed a Constable, somewhere a gamekeeper destroyed a raptor- who's the criminal?" his answer, "we have both been robbed of a national treasure, the difference is he's getting away with it!". His actions have been imprinted in my head, as I am sure it has been in others.

The next talk was from Dominic Dyer, the CEO of the Badger Trust. He was very passionate about the Badger Army, which I am part of myself. His enthusiasm came across very well, and his messages about the importance of protecting and helping badgers were complexly told, but definitely understood by all.
Next was an intellectual talk about England's few species of bats by Malcolm Hopton, a member of the Derbyshire Bat Trust. He had a lot of facts about our bats and also some upsetting stories which had us all 'awhing' in pity. I managed to get to talk to him between speakers; he had a lot more knowledge to share and some information telling me how I could get involved more with the local groups in my area. The variation in speakers and topics provided a range of discussions between people during the break. This is when me and Zach had a good conversation about the conference so far and how everything was going for us in general.


After the break, the head of investigations for RSPB, Bob Elliot, gave a really passionate and interactive talk. His stories of trapped and killed raptors brought us all together in wanting to do something which could help these poor birds. He showed us old footage of an illegal egg collector trying to escape with some raptor eggs. Fortunately he was caught, but the idea was showing us how and what to do if we see or suspect any wildlife crime taking place. The use of traps in my opinion is totally wrong under any circumstance. Bob showed us a Fenn Trap which was very dangerous and he was cautious handling it even when the safety gage was on.
The Head of Investigations League Against Cruel Sports, Paul Tillsley, was up next. He had been with the league trying to prevent or disrupt any cruel sports, like fox hunting taking place. He also mentioned Jeremy Clarkson which got Chris going on about getting some hot lunch. Paul seemed to know a lot about his 'hobby', and showed how passionate he was, with all his stories he had to tell.
Police in my opinion don't know about wildlife crime, and if they didn't train or learn about it, then I doubt they would bother to learn it for themselves. Luckily the police have Craig Fellowes; a police wildlife crime training officer, who in the past, when he first became wildlife crime aware, didn't know what a badger was. He has trained many police about this type of crime and has said the technology and how police now tackle the crime has advanced and improved, along with his knowledge of badgers.
Ruth Tingay. She talked about natural injustice in Scotland,  giving a compelling talk about mainly the failures of the enforcement of wildlife crime. She had a lot of information to share, most of which gave us a different view of the crime going on with raptors, mostly Golden Eagles. She has written a paper about it all, and hopefully more people will read it and do something about it.
I got to converse with many other people during this time after lunch including some people from various bird organisations, who were all really friendly and informative. Due to some funny technical problems Alan Charles, the Derbyshire police and crime commissioner gave his talk after lunch. He knew a great deal about wildlife crime in his area and had much to say about it. Alan was to me, very convincing that his force is doing as much as they can to take wildlife crime.
His talk lead onto the North Derbyshire Labour MP, Chris Williamson. I couldn't believe how passionate he was, he could have talked forever it seemed, which I don't know is a good or bad thing given the topic. He even talked about when he was in the hunt saboteurs and how now because of one action, he is banned from the Derbyshire Moors. It got me thinking... Just how far people are going to have to go, to make 'non wildlife enthusiasts' realise what is actually going on in their countrysides and their own cities.
Then it was time for the final talk. I have heard a lot about this man and was really looking forward to hearing what he had to say. Mark Avery, public engagement. Mark definitely had everyone's attention, stood in the middle of the room with his hands on his hips, he engaged us all. He just told us exactly what had to be done by us, and what he was doing, but mainly he talked about Hen Harriers. The national bird vote is underway and "wouldn't it be great if the Hen Harrier won", "it's really the only bird that would benefit". I have personally voted for the Harrier for my own person reasons and would be proud if it did win. Mark is in somewhat down to earth, but he stills knows how to get certain, important messages across to all.
There was one point which was mentioned by all the speakers, and that was, media. Media has taken over everyone's lives whether we like it or not. It may be one of the only ways- for now- which could get 'other' people involved in helping wildlife. So in Marks words, "get over it!".
The whole day was overwhelming and I have learnt a lot. But one of the most important things (in my opinion) is getting all these messages into schools. This surprisingly was only mentioned at the end by Charlie, and I'm glad he did mention it. No one has ever been into my schools, but I can't say anything as I am only judging this on my own personal experience. Thankfully, there are people who go into some schools, but they still only seem to be going into primary schools. I know us 'bigger' kids don't want to listen about wildlife, but if someone did give a talk, I can say with great confidence that at least some information would go into everyone's heads. And isn't that the point, trying to help people to become 'aware' of wildlife crime and what is happening around them. I am the only birder in my high school and college, and people of my age do show some interest in what I do. I get many questions asked about birds and wildlife and I'm glad to answer them, even if some are as silly as "is that a bat or a bird?". But nonetheless, I am just thrilled that people want to know things like this.
The conference was amazing and a great idea. I would like to thank Charlie, Lawrie and Phil, all the speakers and the anonymous sponsor. The day was a success and I am looking forward to BAWC 2016! Thank you.



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