How are the data used?
The Opwall Trust (full name Operation Wallacea Trust) was established in 2000 in the UK in order to support activities that could directly contribute towards the conservation of biodiversity in the areas in which Operation Wallacea is working. The Opwall surveys produce data that can be used by conservation managers to more effectively manage the studied areas. However, despite in many cases having demonstrated an urgent biodiversity need to protect an area, the data were often not being fully utilised because of the lack of conservation management funds. Hence the Opwall Trust was created to provide the focus for funding follow on conservation management interventions at the Opwall study sites. The Opwall Trust is a UK registered charity (Charity number 1078362) which is entirely independent of Operation Wallacea, with no shared Directors.
This collaboration between a business funded model (Opwall) and a charity (Opwall Trust) has proved to be a strong symbiotic relationship. The costs of identifying potential projects to fund and the mechanisms most likely to be successful are all part of the Opwall funded research programmes so the Opwall Trust does not need to spend hard won funds on initial project development. Moreover the Opwall annual biodiversity monitoring programmes produce, free of charge, the data needed to monitor the success of any conservation management interventions funded by the Opwall Trust. From the Opwall viewpoint there is little point in collecting biodiversity data if there is no conservation benefit. Conservation management interventions cannot be funded just from the tuition fees paid by the participating students so the follow on funding from the Opwall Trust is essential.
With these advantages one of the main successes of the Opwall Trust has been in demonstrating how funds can be used cost effectively in developing countries to ensure wildlife conservation. A distinctive feature of Opwall Trust funded projects is that they are trying to empower communities and individuals to develop businesses linked to forest or reef protection. Funding for wildlife conservation projects often includes provision of alternative income streams but in many cases these alternatives are not then linked to enhanced protection of the wildlife and habitats. In some cases this spending results in ‘additional’ rather than ‘alternative’ incomes with the damage continuing unabated. Where the work of the Opwall Trust is unique is that it has pioneered the concept of tying business development investment in communities that agree conservation contracts (Wildlife Conservation Products scheme) or to fishing licence replacement income (Kaledupa reef fisheries project). Once individuals or communities have a financial benefit in protecting their wildlife then the effects can be spectacular.
Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC MP is Patron of the Trust which is chaired by Professor Ian Swingland with a group of Trustees drawn from academia and business.