Conservation – Our #FlywayPromise

Migrating Black Stork © Inglorious Bustards

We have conservation in our hearts and we care about the things you care about! That is why we continually link our ecotourism to conservation and wider sustainable societal gains wherever possible.

The Inglorious Bustards have a challenge! As conservationists, we are only too aware of the environmental impact of the activities associated with our business. We want to share with you the joy of watching wildlife all along the East Atlantic Flyway, but in doing so we inevitably encourage consumption of the planet’s resources. Our challenge as a responsible ecotourism operator is to ensure that our activities can be channelled into a positive outcome for the environment. We want to make sure that, when you travel with us, you´ll be benefitting, not exploiting the wildlife we see together. On our trips, eco-tourism is a promise, not an oxymoron.

We will be continually adding new connections, networks and partners to this page as we find new and exciting ways of ensuring conservation remains at the very heart of everything we do. We will continually share expertise with other individuals and organisations to achieve real measurable benefits for nature as part of our #FlywayPromise.

Inglorious Bustards founded the not-for-profit Flyway Birding Association to facilitate projects that link the East Atlantic Flyway, where our work and the wealth of expertise that forms our FlywayBirding team can make a real, measurable and positive outcome for migratory birds and their habitats, other species and taxa, and local communities.

Inglorious Bustards ecotourism directly supports, funds and offers longevity and sustainability of conservation through our Flyway Birding Association projects.

Inglorious Bustards are sustainable award winners!

Inglorious Bustards is the only sustainable and ethical award winning nature tourism company in The Straits of Gibraltar – 2018, 2019, 2020 and now 2021!

We are a Founding Partner and Signatory of Terra Incognita’s Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct. This means that we commit ethical ecotourism which creates win-win solutions for wildlife, local communities and the landscapes they share.

We’re more than just a nature tour company. We care about the wildlife we showcase, the local communities we visit and the opportunities for education through exploration. That’s why we’re excited to announce that we’re a Top Ethical Birding Ecotour 2020

The Top Ethical Birding Ecotours 2020 is a unique list generated by a global community of travellers, bloggers, conservationists, tour guides, birders and ecotourism operators. Curated by Terra Incognita – a social enterprise seeking to promote the best examples of ethical ecotourism worldwide – we’re part of a group of 85 incredible birding tours from across the globe. 

Working together, achieving more….

The Migres Foundation are a private non-profit, scientific and cultural foundation, oriented to the preservation and enhancement of natural heritage in The Straits of Gibraltar.

They perform research and awareness programs, develop advanced training activities and environmental education, organise conferences and all kinds of national and international meetings, and encourage activities promoting sustainable local development and Nature tourism in general.

Fundación Migres manages a long-term monitoring program of bird migration through The Straits of Gibraltar based on standardised constant-effort protocols. Every year they run daily migration counts, always using the same observatories and schedule.

Based on this information, they are able to calculate abundance indices that reflect the actual number of birds on migration, allowing them to monitor changes in their populations and migratory patterns. The origin of the program dates back to 1997 (soaring birds) and 2001 (seabirds), and is currently one of the greatest sustained efforts for monitoring migratory birds in Europe.

We work closely with Fundación Migres assisting with monitoring, fundraising and promotional activities using our wealth of experience gained whilst working for the RSPB – as well as volunteering for the count whenever we possibly can!

“The fork is the most powerful tool for conservation”

We recognise the huge influence of dietary choice and food production methods on habitat degradation and carbon emissions, often outweighing the costs of travel itself.  In 2018, we introduced a “meat-free day” to each of our tours, reducing carbon emissions from food consumed per person by around 15%.  We have developed a detailed food procurement policy whereby we can audit our own catering across various sustainability criteria, including carbon emissions. We will use this to plan, measure and implement reduction strategies and targets.

Our work over decades for the RSPB attempting to reverse the fortunes of both UK and European farmland wildlife has made us recognise the power of food choice and how it can affect the plight of declining species. This is why we teamed up with our accommodation providers to focus on sustainable food choices.

We also teamed up with Molino de Guadalmesí a local hub for eco-consciousness, thinking globally and acting locally. On our trips you can enjoy sustainably-sourced produce from their organic, wildlife-friendly farm here in The Straits. We work in partnership to offer visitors an experience around food choice and how positive change can help our wildlife and the wider environment.

Marisma 21 is an organisation devoted to the restoration of the salt marshes in the Bay of Cadiz, on the south-western coast of Spain. They use artisanal salt production methods to aid the recovery and revitalisation of this important ecological area. This not only ensures the maintenance of the macro-flora in the salt pans – an important food source for migratory waders – but also enhances the local environment for aquatic salt-loving species.

This sympathetic management and hand-harvesting of the pans uses methods that have been in use since Roman and Phoenician times. It generates multiple benefits for wildlife, making it truly fair to nature. It also brings employment to the area in the form of salt workers and nature tourism.

The Inglorious Bustards will continue to promote nature-friendly salt products to clients (even including it in our legendary picnics!) and link salt production to eco-tourism wherever possible through the development of new and exciting tours.

Based at Kotu Creek, near Brufut, The Gambia Birdwatchers Association (GBA) was established in 2007.  It provides a headquarters for the area’s bird guides, trains the next generation of ornithologists, and carries out excellent project-based conservation work, including utilising local volunteers in the restoration of mangrove swamp habitat – a project we are proud to be funding since 2018.  In The Gambia, many important forests are community-owned, and GBA is instrumental in setting up community reserves, training bird guides in the villages and enabling them to benefit from the preservation of forest habitat through well-thought-out ecotourism. Inglorious Bustards work closely with GBA, giving project advice and consultation and supporting their high quality, objective-led work.

Thinking globally and acting locally

We believe that the first step to responsible ecotourism is eliminating any negative effects that our travel could potentially have on our surroundings.   During our tours, we work hard to minimise food and packaging waste.  We ask our clients to bring their own water bottles which are filled from taps or potable mountain springs.  In countries outside the EU where tap water is not drinkable, we buy large containers and decant into personal water bottles to reduce plastic waste.

In-country, we use modern, fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce emissions.  We know our areas well, so we are also able to apply careful route-planning to minimise driving distances between sites.

We choose our accommodation providers carefully to be small, locally-owned and eco-conscious, and work with them to continually evolve their own eco-credentials.

We continually research and offer advice guests on ways of arriving to our trip destination efficiently, and by land if possible.  Our focus on hosting trips along the glorious East Atlantic Flyway means that we are able to arrive at 90% of our tour destinations to meet you without boarding a flight ourselves.

What we can’t eliminate, we balance

Inglorious Bustards have pledged to balance unavoidable carbon emissions through World Land Trust‘s (WLT) Carbon Balanced Programme.

Unlike some carbon-offsetting schemes, this is not simply a case of absolving guilt by shoving some trees in an ill-thought-out location!  WLT funds the purchase or lease of threatened land to create nature reserves, protecting both habitats and their wildlife.  By protecting and restoring threatened forest in key areas of conservation importance, CO₂ emissions are prevented and carbon storage enhanced.  To make projects like this work, this fore-sighted organisation includes, rather than excludes local communities.  It funds partner NGOs to employ local people as reserve rangers, sustainably managing some of the world’s most threatened habitats and the animals found within them.

We balance all the CO₂ emissions associated with any staff flights and all in-country travel and accommodation associated with our tours.  In 2020, we offset over 26 tonnes of CO₂, funds for which went directly to acquiring and preserving threatened forest habitat.  We also encourage our guests to offset your own holiday travel through WLT, which can be done directly through our booking form, allowing you to offset as you book your trip!

Setting our standards

In July 2020, Niki completed the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)´s training course in Sustainable Tourism delivery and is now a member.  This excellent learning programme gives a full understanding of GSTC´s Sustainability Criteria and how to apply them appropriately to a tourism business or organisation of any size or scope.

Truly sustainable, responsible ecotourism is essential in supporting local economies and preventing the destruction of habitats that not only host much of the world´s biodiversity but provide essential ecosystem service functions such as carbon sequestration.  It thereby provides overall net benefit to biodiversity conservation and the wider environment.

The criteria and themes of sustainable tourism are wide-reaching, covering cultural, socio-economic and natural heritage.  As a small tour operator, it is not within our scope to change the tourism industry alone.  But we can have a positive impact on our little corner of it – traveling to both experience and help nature – as well as holding up a light for others, illuminating the art of the possible.

Using guidance and training from GSTC we have used this document to demonstrate what we are doing to fulfil applicable sustainability criteria across the board, and where our journey will take us next. 

If you wish to read the full substantive report you can do so here

Encouraging and practicing respectful wildlife -watching

For the prosperity of the species that we enjoy watching so much, and for our own ongoing enjoyment, it is imperative that we avoid disturbing the wildlife we are trying to see.

Red-necked Nightjar © Inglorious Bustards

We never flush birds.  For ground-nesters such as the Moroccan Marsh Owl, we only offer trips outside the breeding season, and time our site visits to maximise the chance of finding the birds active rather than roosting.

We use fieldcraft to find passerines.  Usually with a little patience and listening, it is perfectly possible to find the bird you are looking for.  On the extremely rare occasions we choose to use a tape, we do so sensitively, always adhering to the guidelines published in the article “The Proper Use of Playback in Birding” by Sibley et al.

Where we work through other companies, for example for cetacean-watching boat trips or to look for Iberian Lynx, we only work with reputable firms who have non-intrusive wildlife-watching protocols in place.

Challenging the unethical…

While we as individuals have no problem with sustainable subsistence hunting within local communities, we personally find hunting for so-called ‘sport’ abhorrent, and unsustainable trophy hunting completely unacceptable.  The hunting industry often seems to be out of control, able to damage ecosystems and illegally kill native wildlife  with impunity.  Of the thirty optics companies that were examined in the 2018 Ethical Consumer report entitled “Shooting Wildlife II”, 83% were found to specifically market to hunters as well as birders.  And a disappointing 13 of these actively glamorise trophy hunting in their promotional material, including targets like lions and bears.

Inglorious Bustards engaged in the debate on this subject following the Shooting Wildlife III report. Our view is that as conservationists and an ethical caring nature tourism business we should promote positive ethical choices to potential consumers so they can make an informed choice.

Supporting the next generation

Next Generation Birders was set up to provide an online as well as offline social community for young birders. We are proud to work with them to provide young birders opportunities for affordable foreign birding trips and opportunities for volunteering with other conservation partners.

Working with conservation organisations and our former colleagues

We have worked for nature conservation organisations at a senior level for decades and we continue to work with former colleagues to use our expertise to assist with conservation projects, advocacy and land management advice.

Inglorious Bustards were very proud to provide all arrangements, logistics and guiding to make this promotional video for Birdlife International and GREPOM / Birdlife Maroc about the Northern Bald Ibis.

Making our Birding count!

Just like many of you we love to count and we work closely with Fundación Migres and assist with the ongoing monitoring of soaring migratory birds crossing The Straits and the long-term Balearic Shearwater monitoring too.

We also take part each month in the Pan African – Eurasian Shorebird survey at two of The Straits premier wetland sites for the Shorebird Conservation Society.

The Shorebird Conservation Society is a community formed to highlight the plight of shorebird populations at a global scale. The community is represented by individuals from extraordinary diverse fields working together to protect shorebirds and their habitats all over the world.

Andalucía is an important wintering and stopover point for migrating Common Cranes. During the winter we conduct the census of wintering Common Cranes at La Janda for Grus Extremadura.

As well as education and conservation work, this organisation has been working to bring together data about Common Cranes passing through the Iberian Peninsula since 2014, both by collating ad hoc records and managing two peninsula-wide surveys in December and January of each winter.

And …..of course all our birding records are submitted to eBird too!

eBird is among the world’s largest biodiversity-related science projects, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed annually by eBirders around the world and an average participation growth rate of approximately 20% year over year. A collaborative enterprise with hundreds of partner organizations, thousands of regional experts, and hundreds of thousands of users, eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.