Richard Benyon speech – Natural History Museum

Launching a unique collection of wildlife images from species found within our Overseas Territories.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Richard Benyon

A recent article by Mike McCarthy the Environment Editor at the Independent newspaper questioned the use of the term biodiversity.

He felt it was a pompous way of saying wildlife. He thought it created a gap between policymakers and the public.  If you stop to think about it - how many people do you know say I love watching biodiversity documentaries on the television. They are more likely to say I love watching wildlife films on the TV.

But as Mike said it’s the currency in use in the policymaking debate about the future of the natural world and as such should be embraced if people want to engage in the discussion.

Though despite this some of the messages must be getting through because in his article Mike also talked about the fact that conservation efforts are increasing around the world.

As part of that effort I’m pleased to announce the launch of a unique collection of wildlife images from species found within our Overseas Territories. The collection will eventually consist of over 200 audio visual profiles that will be available online and on a free DVD for use by people around the world.

This is a joint effort backed by Defra/DFID and the Foreign Office and put together by Wildscreen as part of their ARKive project.  I understand ARKive have a stand here today so if you can go along and take a look at some of the fantastic imagery on display.

This launch is particularly significant because many of the species and habitats found within our Overseas Territories are found nowhere else in the world. As such they underpin the lives of many local people through fishing and tourism which in turn develops further the economic and social fabric of communities in the Territories.

Emperor penguins are a charismatic and much-loved component of the wildlife in many of the Territories, especially in the South Atlantic, and attract tourism and consequently valuable revenue. Indeed other seabirds, both common to the Territories and found elsewhere, attract people to some of the least affluent of the Territories, such as Ascension Island, the home to the Ascension Frigatebird, and Tristan da Cunha with its Tristan Albatross.

On the wider stage we are all gearing up for Nagoya later this month. It’s the showpiece event for the International Year of Biodiversity.

It’s important that in Japan we look to set the framework for conservation post 2010.

It’s important we learn from our experience since Johannesburg 2002.  Important we recognise that the international community collectively failed to meet the targets set in South Africa.

We now need to focus activity on new ambitions and make sure the UK takes a leading role in this work.

So how will this take shape? We need the international community to recognise that we are all in this together. And as such we all need to secure an agreement on ambitious and realistic action post 2010.

Above all it’s important everyone understands that biodiversity is not seen as a side issue  - as an after-thought or  ’a nice to have’. It is fundamental to our survival. We must take action to conserve it.

Thank you.

Published 10 October 2010