A chance meeting four years ago between a Chinese visitor with a deep commitment to nature and the managing director of EcoTraining has resulted in a positive relationship that sees international students learning more about conservation.
EcoTraining aims to create a generation of environmentally conscious travellers and now trains between eight and ten groups of travellers from China each year. Managing director Anton Lategan travels regularly to China to promote the programme.
The EcoTraining EcoQuest seven-day course is designed to immerse its participants in the wilderness, concentrating on reconnecting with nature, ecology and conservation initiatives. Activities are tailored around topics such as symbiotic relationships, the ecosystem, poaching issues, and the inter-relationships between all aspects of the ecosystem, including the role of humans.
EcoTraining aims to introduce visitors to the extraordinary environment and its wildlife. “We hope that when they return to their country, the experiences and knowledge gained will percolate through their social and business circles like a snowball rolling down a mountain,” says Lategan.
Feedback from those who have attended the course has been positive. “What I experienced and learnt is priceless and inspiring. I wish more people in every corner of the world would come to know EcoTraining and the concepts and beliefs it holds,” says Mirar Jan, one of the Chinese visitors who attended a course in South Africa.
The initiative between EcoTraining and China has grown substantially and by the end of 2019, 677 Chinese students will have received training in Southern Africa and Kenya.
This relationship and the increase in attendees are not by chance. Lategan has travelled to China four times in the last five years.
He has spoken at universities, schools, tourism events and international conservation conferences, including the Shanghai Nature Conservation Festival.
He also took part in a roundtable discussion about rebuilding nature in the city alongside international environmental stakeholders.
In 2018, the Chinese government committed to the rehabilitation of the Yangtze River estuary, the Yangtze River bank and biodiversity corridors in the city.
Lategan says his message is simple: “The world is connected as one natural system. There is ecological interrelatedness from the formation of rocks, soils and plants, to the herbivores and carnivores, through decomposition and back to the soil. This relationship applies throughout the world,” he says.
“Once we realise how interdependent we are we simply need to empower the nearly eight billion people of the world to make wise choices in favour of the environment,” he adds. “It is imperative that we inspire sustainable behaviour in the most populous countries in the world.
“If you mobilise an entire population you can achieve incredible things. The process is simple: plants absorb noxious gases and give us free oxygen, which improves health. Flowers attract birds and butterflies, which pollinate more plants and improve quality of life.”
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