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The Baker family's research has taken them on adventurous journeys across Tanzania
Mention the word ‘bird’ in connection with Tanzania and the Baker family are sure to be mentioned in the next breath. Marc and his father Neil are the best known birders in the country. The ‘Tanzania Bird Atlas’ has been a life-long family project and, with records now approaching 1 million, they have given Tanzania an astonishing map of its birdlife. However, Marc’s enthusiasm is for all of East Africa’s wildlife: its diversity, scale and setting, and these have inspired his broader work in guiding and conservation.
Marc studied conservation biology at Nottingham in England. He was then employed by the United Nations Development Program to study cross-border bio-diversity in East Africa. In Zanzibar he conducted surveys of Jizani Forest, home to the rare Red Colobus monkey, to support its registration as a National Park. He has published academic reports and is an environmental consultant. Meanwhile he guides foreign visitors, not only on birding trips and safaris but also walks up Kilimanjaro and Gorilla trekking.
Marc grew up in a famous birding family
In 2007 Marc set up Tanzania’s first carbon offset project, ensuring that only indigenous trees are planted and that communities are encouraged to protect their environment. Deforestation, for farming or to make charcoal, is destroying much of Africa’s forest. Born and bred in Tanzania, Marc is strongly committed to the economic development of the country, and sensitive to the concerns of local people, and so he is pragmatic and practical in his approach to conservation. He helps communities find ways to benefit from carbon offset projects in the ways that they see fit. In this way he creates incentives for natural forest conservation at the grassroots level. Negotiating these issues at local level requires great patience and skill.
Marc is a passionate birder, but as a wildlife biologist, and with sensitivity to the broader needs of the country, he is seeking practical ways for people and the environment to live together. In his audio ‘Birds and Conservation’, Marc gives us a fascinating discussion of his work as a conservationist and a guide: the dilemmas of finding solutions to the conflicting needs of communities, wildlife, government and private development.
Author: Roddy Bray
Published Date: 13 Nov 2010
Location: East Africa | Kenya, Tanzania
Themes: natural world, travel | bird, safari guide