Hello, I'm Ann Meoni your host for today and you are listening to the Aberdeen sustainable investing podcast discussing all things relating to sustainable and responsible investing. I'm delighted to introduce today's guest Dr. Lesley Dickie. Lesley is the Chief Executive Officer of the dura Wildlife Conservation Trust, one of the foremost species conservation organisations in the world. In 2017, she launched Charles rewild award strategy in 2021 Durrells carbon and biodiversity sequestration scheme called rewild carbon, and they did that in partnership with their long term Brazilian collaborators pi p. E. Lesley is incredibly well qualified. She holds a BSc in psychology from the University of Glasgow, a master's in biological anthropology from Cambridge, she undertook a PhD at Queen Mary University of London where she researched the behaviour and reproductive physiology of the fossa in captivity. In addition to that she has a foundation in fine art from the Art Academy of London. And she's even managed to do a postgraduate certificate in behaviour change for conservation. And she got that from the University of Derby in 2019. Lesley , it's such a pleasure to have you here with us today. Thank you so much for joining us.



Thank you for inviting me.



In the run up to cop 15 Convention on Biological Diversity and with the increasing interest from investors, it's brilliant to have a conservation expert like yourself speak on this topic today. Can you just tell us a little bit more about the federal wildlife conservation trust? And why the work you do is so important in helping to halt and reverse biodiversity loss?



Yes. Well, the trust itself was founded originally as Jersey zoo in 1959. But we were always different from a start. We were the first sue to be founded solely for the purposes of conservation. That was from our founder Gerald Durrell. And so that has always been at the heart of what we do as Darryl. A few years after that. In the early 60s, the trust itself came into being and here we are 63 years later, it was our anniversary last week. We are very different from other zoos who do some conservation. So we are essentially we are an international conservation organisation that undertakes some of our conservation via our zoo. But we also have extensive field programmes. We have a whole science programme, and we train young conservationists globally. So we are very much a practitioner organisation. It's our double team that's in the field. And so we're fully integrated in what we do. We also have a significantly higher percentage of our turnover actually spent on conservation than other conservation organisations, who are more predominantly zoos. And we think that's the most globally in fact, so we really, you know, put our money where our mouth is, as it were. And the way we do conservation is a very hands on approach. We employ techniques from the ex situ, so the captive setting, and we deploy them in the in situ or wild setting. And I think that's the reason that a lot of our projects have been so successful, and isn't that we are interventionist to a very high degree, we make no apology for being interventionist. So we do a lot of supplementary feeding in the wild when releasing animals, we do a lot of captive breeding and release. And that is less common for a lot of conservation organisations or interventionist level. But we also combine that with scientific rigour. Now we have a big team of scientists who work for us. And then we take what we've learned, and we put that into our training academy to help train other people make other people's programmes more efficient. So quite honestly, what we're trying to do is make more conservation organisations like us and make them function like us. I think the other thing is that we are in it for the long haul when we work with species and communities. So some of our species we've been working with for over 50 years now. Some of our projects we can envisage doing for 100 years. So we're very much committed. And we we have to do that because nowadays the pressure on the natural world isn't receding is increasing. So it's accelerating due to a combination of a continually increase increasing global population, which brings with it increasing consumption and demand. So this is also the reason that we spend quite a lot of time and analysing how we are performing. We analyse and evaluate our true impact. So we don't just report on activities or outcomes, we report on impact and we use to a tool called neural index, which we made ourselves, and it's a counterfactual analysis programme. So essentially, we analyse all the species we work with. And we look at what would have happened if we had not been there. If we had not worked with that species, what would have been the likely outcome. And for an awful lot of the species that we work with, then it would have meant that we'd no be extinct today. So that's the basis of all of that counterfactual analysis. So in our work, what I really like about what we do is we, we use all kinds of technologies. So whether that's using drones to track critically endangered species and marshlands in Madagascar, or really doing work around the science of nature connection for humanity. Nature connection is incredibly important because you don't get behaviour change before you get connection. I like working for an organisation like Durrell that is very much a learning organisation. We always want to see what we can do next. What are other people doing in conservation? And how can we apply it into our own projects?



Brilliant, thank you so much. duro do such a lot of exciting work. So the next question might be a little bit difficult to answer. But is there anything that gets you really excited? What's the stuff that keeps you going when things are tough?



I think what I find really exciting, is at Durrell, the willingness to take risk in what we do, I would say that we are a risky organisation when it comes to conservation. We don't work on very big notable species that you might think of in conservation. We work on things like the rarest duck in the world, the rarest pig in the world, the rarest Kestrel, the rarest snake. So we work on species that have a high risk of failure. And but that's exciting. That's an exciting organisation to work for. Because we know that if we don't do it, maybe no one will. So I'm also excited about how the team works. We have an amazing team working across Durrell, whether it's here at the headquarters in Jersey or across the world, and their commitment to continue working in conservation despite the challenges of the pandemic, for example, a good case in point was the rescue of three highly endangered species of reptile from the southern islands of Mauritius, that were impacted by the really awful oil spill in the summer of 2020. Of course, the summer of 2020 was the first summer of the pandemic, we'd only just come out of the initial lockdowns. And we could have at that point said, you know, we don't know what's happening, we don't know about our own financial future, we don't know how we're going to deal with a pandemic, maybe this is a project too far. But the whole team took the view immediately well, but we can do this, if not us, then who is going to do this. So we've got the skills, we've got the experience, we're passionate about this. So let's do it. And we'll work out the long term details in the long term. So what we're going to do is act now. So that is a really exciting organisation to work for. And when it's tough, you know that you've got a team of people around you who are just going to go for it,



there is a lot of hope that the second phase of cop 15 will bore stronger policy and targets there will actually hold a reverse biodiversity loss. But with disappointing results following on from the 2020 Convention on Biological Diversity and a failure to meet the biodiversity targets that were set out then. What do you think needs to be different? This time? Cop 15?



Yeah, it's it's an interesting question, and not the answer people expect when I say, you, I'm not really interested in outcomes a cop 15. Because I think we could get in a situation that we had, again, with the Ihe 2020 targets, which we failed. You know, we set these ambitious targets off on the horizon 2030. So we kind of push we push it away. What we need to really feel is that the horizon is not enough. What we're doing right now, how do we set targets right now they need to be more immediate. And for me, I think there needs to be really strong regulatory frameworks around how businesses operate, and perhaps how they should be penalised for destruction of nature. We've taken an approach of some regulation, but also of, you know, the market trying to regulate itself, but maybe that's not enough anymore. I also think you could probably say, Well, you would say that Lesley, but I think there needs to be planetary reparations, and that businesses need to play for the global commons that they use and that money should be given to organisations that can effectively combat biodiversity loss is a quote I liked Robert Kennedy, that said GDP measures everything except that which is worthwhile. And I would really say that, you know, I think there needs to be potentially caps on wealth for individuals, so that shareholders operate differently so that they think differently. I know that might not be a popular view for some people. But I actually do believe that if cop 15 really addressed what the the key problem is here, which is our economies no longer work effectively in the 21st century, our economies were built a certain way, centuries ago, but they don't work now. Because essentially, they're destroying the thing that they entirely rely upon, which is nature. So therefore, there needs to be a fundamental rethinking of how we run our economies. If that was the agreement, cop, everything else would flow from that.



Absolutely, there is a real market failure that needs to be addressed. Valuing nature, is the key to resolving the issue. And to an extent this is likely starting to happen. And that's through the kind of concept of nature based solutions and that is paying for through foliage, carbon offsets the restoration of areas, like forests or peatlands, or seagrass meadows. And what they do is they absorb carbon, they act as carbon sinks, and people are willing to pay for that service of nature. But there are some concerns around that. And the concerns around focusing too much on just absorbing the carbon and not enough on the biodiversity itself. Can you explain a little bit more about Durrells rewilding Carbon Project and how it addresses that balance in protecting nature and absorbing the carbon?



Yes, it we definitely considered long and hard about should we produce an offset mechanism to offer businesses around carbon. And from the summer we are offering it to individuals. Because we know offsets have a really mixed reputation. It can be a bit of a wild west out there and voluntary carbon market. And of course, for us as a biodiversity focused organisation, we can see that an awful lot of the programmes currently offered just don't address biodiversity. They're putting carbon as a standalone accounting unit, you know, a tonne of carbon. And of course, biodiversity is not like that there is no single accounting unit of biodiversity. So, you know, they can be viewed more as a pay to pollute type structure, and that we definitely didn't want to do. So you can you can see programmes where you can sequester carbon, but at the same time, they actually damaged biodiversity. We see tree planting schemes that are more like monoculture plantations, which in reality don't sequester that much carbon. And they certainly sequester far less carbon in a rich complex forest planting scheme. And they also completely ignore the issue of biodiversity loss, or they actually exacerbate it. So the monoculture plantations that you often see in tree planting schemes, they're usually for harvest as well. So essentially, depending on what the use of that timber will be, you end up releasing the carbon again. So you could argue they're not actually sequestering that much carbon in the long run. So rewild carbon is much more than that, what you could call sticks of carbon approach. It's a programme that is focusing on rebuilding a complex rainforest in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil, that what's called the Mata Atlantica, the Mata Atlantica is actually the older rainforests in Brazil. Everyone's heard of the one. But the Mata Atlantica is even older and an amazing place. So in the Remo carbon programme instead of a monoculture where it got over 140 different species of tree that we're using. And those are connecting up the forest corridors connecting up fragmented habitats. So it's also looking at the connectivity of the entire habitat itself. So it's, it's very strategic, you could say compared to just say, lines of a single tree species that you might see in a plantation structure. We have a focal animal and that's an incredible little animal called black lion tamarin. And it's a critically endangered monkey species. Very beautiful little animal. You can actually see them here in Jersey, we're the only place outside of Brazil that you can see this animal. So we're very, very pleased that we are starting to build a breeding programme as well. So you've got the trees, you've got the species but it's also working with our partners eBay, or AIP. They are also working with local farmers promoting a sustainable agroforestry programme. So we're also looking at the social needs of local people. So where we're really putting that front the centre as well. So ReWalk carbon is what can be described as a high cost benefits carbon scheme. So it's carbon and biodiversity and social needs and education, and so much more. So when you compare that to a monoculture, they're nothing like each other. And we've also, you could say, strict when we're working with companies, we do spend time talking to them about their carbon reduction targets. And if we don't think they're actually going to reduce their carbon use, then we don't work with them. And we actually have turned down clients for reward carbon, because we we don't want a pay to pollute scheme. We want a scheme that is helping galvanise action.



If you could offer our listeners one piece of inspiration, what would it be, it can be something that you've heard before, the view that you have just different perspective? Well,



I think one of the problems we face around things like biodiversity loss and climate change is it seems so overwhelming for people to think about. But I really love the quote from the 20th century social scientists, Margaret Mead, who wrote, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has, I've always loved that, quote, I like it for lots of reasons. I like it, because its emphasis on us being citizens. One, one thing that I really find depressing in media is the way that the public are described as consumers, as if that's the only thing we do consume. And actually, from psychology experiments, we know that describing people as consumers, as opposed to describing people as citizens, you become more selfish and your actions if you believe yourself to be a consumer. So there's a real problem there about how we talk about public citizens, I think gives that sense of collective responsibility. And that we can do something but of course, it needs the first people to do something and needs the people who will make the difference. To the first people will say, well, that's not right, or we need to change. It's like a nod to a bit of bravery. And I usually think we can see an amazing example of that in the world right now not to do with biodiversity. But if we look at the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Volodymyr Zelensky, is that thoughtful, committed citizen, who, through the force of his own will is inspiring an entire country. I think Ukraine would likely not have would have withstood so much for so long, without his determination without his grit. And whatever happens for me, it's clear that Putin looks like and is a weak leader. And so Lenski is an example of real leadership. And I think it's gonna be very interesting. So political leaders around the world are probably right now assessing what impact the Lenski effect might have on their own electioneering.



Very interesting. I do really like the concept of it takes a small group of thoughtful and committed people to make real change. Very inspiring. So thank you for that. We always ask this question on our podcast. So I'm going to ask you if a book that you would suggest that our listeners would read,



I do have a favourite book. And it's a book gets, it's been turned into a film, it's been turned into a play. In fact, I'm going to see a new production of it very soon. Over time as new production, I try and see it. It's quite an old book. Now. It's a work of fiction. But it says an awful lot about doing the right thing. And that's what biodiversity needs. And that book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. And it was published in 1960. It was pretty controversial at the time, and it actually remains a controversial book today. And if you haven't read it explores how a society's attitude to race and race relations can be changed and challenges around how individuals and institutions had to examine their behaviour. But it's got this line in it that I think conservationists working today can really relate to and that is real courage is when you know you're late before you begin, but you begin anyway. And you see it through no matter what. And of course, that was talking about Atticus the lawyer, knowing he's probably going to lose this law case, but you knew it was the right thing to try. And if we're really honest, right now, we're winning battles in biodiversity, but we're losing the war. So that determination to keep going is something really neat right now. Too many vested interests are profiting from overconsumption and destruction of nature. Too many shareholders are deriving their personal, and I have to say often obscene levels of wealth from the destruction of nature, but they're not currently paying the price personally for the laws of nature. And if we're also honest about who is facing that costs first, then it's it's not the wealthy, global north and west. It's the south. So you could say there's an element of racism that echoes walks in To Kill a Mockingbird. At Durrell, even when we know a project has high risk we commit to it anyway. And the interesting or odd thing is that conservationists tend to be optimists by nature, this has actually been a subject of studies of conservation against non conservation, where we have what's called situational optimists. And I'm not sure how that's really explained, perhaps we're drawn to do the work we do because we're optimists. Or perhaps it's because being an optimist is reinforced or become more optimistic, because we can see some progress. And we get to address these big societal problems as a sense of purpose and what we do. And for me, it's a really, truly wonderful thing to wake up each day and know that what you do has really clear purpose. And it's something that lots of people don't get to do, or they struggle to find through the work. So I think we're lucky in that regard. That's not to say that we don't have dark days, or very sad days when something goes wrong. When some days when the forest is literally burning down around us, or we can't save a species. That's that's really, really depressing. But we get to try and we get to do this amazing thing of saving the planet. And that sounds romantic. And real conservation isn't romantic. It's about never stopping like the mockingbird quote. But I always feel that a little romance is needed



sometimes. Well, thank you very much for trying to save the planet. I certainly personally appreciate that. So thank you so much, Lesley, and really interesting conversation. Thank you so much for your time today.



Thank you very much. Thanks.



You have been listening to the Aberdeen sustainable investing podcast, a podcast relating to all things responsible and sustainable investing. Today, our focus was on biodiversity loss with conservation leader Dr. Lesley Dickie. Thank you so much for tuning into our podcast. You will find all our episodes on various podcast channels such as SoundCloud, and Apple as well as the Aberdeen website. Until our next podcast Good bye for now.



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