Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Renewed commitment to wildlife will help poorer communities worldwide

Renewed commitment to wildlife will help poorer communities worldwide

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref : 200/08) issued by The Government News Network on 30 June 2008

Wildlife projects across the globe are set to benefit from a commitment to funding for the next three years, Wildlife Minister Joan Ruddock announced today.

Defra's unique Darwin Initiative provides three year grants and UK expertise to help start up and extend wildlife conservation projects in countries that are biodiversity rich but cash poor.

Since its launch in 1992, the Darwin Initiative has dedicated over £65 million to over 500 conservation projects and over 100 related projects, in 146 countries in the developing world.

One such project is the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU-CMU) of Chiang Mai University, in Northern Thailand, partnered by East Malling Research and Wildlife Landscapes in the UK. Since 1994 FORRU-CMU has been developing innovative techniques to restore fully-functioning forests rich with wildlife, that have led to biodiversity conservation, local protection from flooding and mitigation against climate change.

The project has been restoring forests by selecting and planting a range of indigenous forest tree species to encourage seed dispersing wildlife, which in turn do the job of establishing other important species.

Indigenous hill tribe communities in Northern Thailand have been involved at every stage of the forest restoration project, from seed collection and growing the trees in community nurseries, to planting and taking care of them. They have benefited from improved water supplies, increased supplies of forest products and income from tourism.

A second project also funded by the Darwin Initiative enabled FORRU-CMU to spread its expertise to neighbouring countries, assisting foresters in forest restoration projects in Laos, Cambodia and China.

Joan Ruddock said:

"The Darwin Initiative has helped hundreds of valuable projects over the last 15 years, and it is unique to the UK. The Forest Restoration Project is a fine example of partnership between scientists and rural peoples working to conserve nature to everyone's benefit.

"Charles Darwin's work helped to underpin modern-day conservation methods and with next year marking the 200th anniversary of his birth, today's Darwin Initiative is all the more relevant. I am committed to ensuring that it continues to help conserve wildlife and support indigenous lifestyles around the world."

Dr. Stephen Elliott, CMU Senior Scientist and co-founder of FORRU-CMU, said:

"Support from the Darwin Initiative has been critical in enabling our tiny research unit in Chiang Mai University to turn tropical forest restoration from a pipe dream into a reality."

Funding for the new Darwin projects will total at least £9million over the next 3 years.

Notes to Editors

1. Details of all the current Darwin Initiative projects and a map of where they are based can be found at http://darwin.defra.gov.uk/

2. The Darwin Advisory Committee (currently chaired by Professor David MacDonald), consists of experts from government, academic, science and the private sector, advises Ministers on development of the Initiative and makes recommendations on applications for funding.

3. Applications, selection and the decision making process will take approximately seven months, and details can be found at http://darwin.defra.gov.uk/

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