Monday, January 14, 2008

Responsible travel, irresponsible comments

There is a UK-based company called "Responsible Travel". What they are trying to do is admirable, in a nutshell, they are encouraging "green", "low-impact", "responsible" tourism. But a fellow woodpecker enthusiast recently pointed me in the direction of this statement on their website, in a section on birdwatching Hungary:

"We work closely with the Bukk National Park and private forestry companies to ensure habitat protection for the White Backed Woodpecker and in the past 5 years we have seen a doubling of the population".

This is simply not true. I (and others here in Hungary) am quite certain that there has been no "doubling" of the White-backed Woodpecker "population" in the Bukk, nor indeed anywhere in Hungary in the last 5 years. Even if the Bukk's forests were managed specifically for this species (which is not the case), the habitat could not support such an increase in such a short period of time. I know the Bukk very well, and I know White-backed Woodpecker and its habitat requirements well (sorry to sound immodest) and some areas of the Bukk are good for this species, but statements like the one above are irresponsible. Once such opinions and claims get onto the internet, they go around, get repeated, and become enshrined as "fact". Now, if this species had indeed doubled in number in 5 years (which, I repeat, it has not), it would not exactly encourage foresters and forestry companies to change their management methods. In fact, it would allow them to state that everything they do is just perfect for such woodland birds and that there is no reason to change their forestry policy.

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