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They say, the busier you are, the quicker time passes, and this year really has flown by at the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park.

Although at present there are currently no active breeding programmes at the AWCP, there have been some unexpected arrivals in the past year. Notably this October, when seven tiny ‘replicas’ emerged unexpectedly. These Spur-thighed tortoise hatchlings were found over the space of a few days, wandering around the tortoise enclosure. At just three centimetres in length, they really are fascinating to see. This species is sadly endangered in Morocco due to the illegal pet trade and various other environmental pressures, so these additions to the population, although unexpected, are most welcome.

Some of the animals have been at the park since its very beginning. The Long-tailed macaques have been at the AWCP since 1994 when they were found by Gibraltar Customs on a ship from Indonesia. These macaques were most likely bound for European animal testing laboratories. A lucky escape from a life of misery, the three macaques are thought to be over 26 years old. Sadly, in June 2019, La Chica, one of the eldest passed away, from age-related issues. A sad loss for the AWCP. The loss of an animal is always a hard time for staff and volunteers at the park, many of whom have worked with them for many years. The two other macaques, rescued by Gibraltar Customs, El Macho and La Vieja, are still going strong, despite being a similar ripe old age.

Other than maintaining the animal inhabitants and grounds, 2019 was all about fundraising and community campaigns for the AWCP. One of the most exciting developments of the year was the launch of the Habits for Habitats campaign at the Gibraltar Gardens and AWCP Open Day in November. Many of the species of animals at the AWCP are affected by habitat loss in their wild habitats and are subsequently endangered or threatened with extinction. Much of this habitat loss is directly related to things we do in our everyday lives, from plastics in ocean habitats and waterways, to rainforests cleared for soy production to feed cattle in Europe an USA, to greenhouse gasses and the impacts of Climate Change. Many of our everyday habits are inadvertently helping to destroy habitats for species all over the world. Habits for Habitats highlights these impacts and encourages people to take small steps to replace old habits with new habits that make a positive change to habitats (and species) all over the world. There are already many actions and campaigns already taking place around Gibraltar that are having a positive impact on our local habits and habitats.

Making positive changes to our individual habits is an ideal way to start 2020 and to take positive action! Here are 12 habits to break and make in 2019:

1Old Habit: Eating meat every day of the week.

New Habit: Cut down on meat consumption, at least one day a week. Take part in ‘Meatless Monday’. The AWCP-run ‘Conscious Eating’ campaign has worked on improving access to meat-free options in Gibraltar’s restaurants and supermarkets. Other local entities such as ‘Vegan Gibraltar’ have also pushed for a change. This year the Conscious Eating team also introduced Gibraltar’s first Beyond Meat burgers and sausages at the Calentita Festival, since then they have appeared in local restaurants and supermarkets. The meat industry contributes to habitat loss the world over, particularly in the Amazon rainforest. Also, it is one of the highest contributors to greenhouse gasses and subsequently climate change. Switching to plant-based is the easier (and cheapest) way to make a positive impact.

2Old Habit: Sending birthday or Christmas cards.

New Habit: Plant a tree. Or get JustOneTree to do it for you! This fantastic initiative is working in areas around the world to restore forests and habitats. In February, the AWCP and the Botanic Gardens will be helping local schools to get involved with a ‘Green Uniform’ day on February 14th. A £1 donation will plant a tree for each pupil that takes part. Ecosia search engine is also a great way to help re-forest the world. For every search you make on Ecosia, a tree is planted.

3Old Habit: Buying plastic water bottles.

New Habit: Carry your reusable and refill around town. Thanks to The Nautilus Project and their tireless campaigning in Gibraltar for ocean habitats there is far more awareness in Gibraltar. There are also many more refill sites are available throughout Gibraltar. The AWCP has a filtered water fountain too, and reusable bottles on sale rather than plastic bottled water. Say no to plastic where every you can, from straws to packaging, we just don’t need it. Reuse plastic bags wherever possible and take your own bags shopping with you.

4Old Habit: Buying clothes and fast fashion.

New Habit: Spend a little more money on good quality, sustainable clothing. Quality items tend to last longer too. Complement quality items with secondhand or thrift store clothing. You can also host a SWISH for your friends at your home to swap clothing. This year the AWCP hosted a sustainable fashion show at Dusk nightclub, with The Youth Group presenting their secondhand clothing outfits from Clubhouse. During the festive season, The Nautilus Project and Habits for Habits hosted a SWISH to encourage people to swap party outfits rather than buying new.

5Old Habit: Buy supermarket fruits and veg.

New Habit: Grow your own veg. The Botanic Gardens Gardening Club have introduced the world of hydroponics to Gibraltar. With these amazingly compact systems, you can grow your own herbs and leafy veg in your home or classroom without the need for soil. New schools in Gibraltar have also taken this ‘Grow your Own’ initiative on board and most schools now have an area where pupils can take part and also taste the fruits of their labour.

6Old Habit: Throw food waste.

New Habit: Reduce your food waste and compost the rest. Composting is an area that needs development in Gibraltar but can easily be implemented at home. Home wormeries have come a long way over the years, available to buy online, these discreet and clean boxes fit neatly into the smallest kitchen and help dispose of your food waste. The AWCP has plans to purchase a closed unit composter to help dispose of vegetable waste and plant matter produced at the Wildlife Park. Any compost produced can then be reused in the flower beds and animal enclosures.

7Old Habit: Drive to work.

New Habit: Gibraltar is small, and we have an excellent ‘free for residents’ bus service. Sustainable Gibraltar have also introduced ‘Traffic Free Tuesdays’, encouraging people to leave the car at home and walk, cycle or bus to work or school. The new residential parking zones also encourage people to leave their car at home, rather than drive to work. Better for the environment, and you’ll be healthier for it!

8Old Habit: Buying processed food and not checking labels.

New Habit: Cook from scratch more often and check labels. Processed food is usually heavily packaged and it also often harbours ingredients that are damaging to the environment. Palm oil is a huge factor to consider as it is responsible for large-scale deforestation in most of SE Asia and parts of Africa, destroying many hectares of pristine rainforest every year. It is found in many food products. Looking for Sustainable Palm oil labels on products is the best way to help. Palm oil grown in sustainable areas is far more sustainable than many other oils and is actually quite healthy too. Many of the parrot species you can see at the AWCP feed on palm oil fruits in the wild.

9Old Habit: Polluting waterways with microfibres.

New Habit: Go cool with your washing machine settings and buy environmentally friendly natural fabrics. Plastic microfibres are released when washing clothes, these micro plastics get into the food chain and can be devastating to marine life. At cooler settings the fibres hold their integrity better.

10Old Habit: Using chemicals to clean our homes.

New Habit: Chemicals washed down sinks and toilets end up in our oceans and waterways, destroying habitats. There are many excellent, natural alternative cleaning products. You can also make your own from a variety of traditional ingredients: lemon, baking soda, and borax are non-polluting and give the same result as many shop-bought chemical cleaning products.

11Old Habit: Buying presents and gifts.

New Habit: Buy an experience or support a conservation project instead of pointless gifts. The AWCP has a variety of Animals Adoption Gift packs and Experiences. These immersive and educational experiences also help to support the animals at the park, as well as the valuable conservation projects and initiatives the park supports around the world.

12Old Habit: Voting for tax cuts and self-serving initiatives.

New Habit: Vote for politicians that support Green initiatives and want to tackle Climate Change and environmental issues. Gibraltar has its very own Department for the Environment and Climate Change and is working hard to meet environmental targets for the future. It is important that Governments take environmental issues seriously, now, before it’s too late. The most effective change occurs when changes take place both from a Government level and individual level. Better habits mean a better future for all the species on the planet.

If you would like to find out more about Habits for Habitats campaign or the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park and its work, visit www.awcp.gi.

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Jess Leaper has managed the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park (AWCP) for over 12 years. Having completed her MSc project on the Barbary macaque, she later returned to Gibraltar and was asked to help out at the Wildlife Park. Vowing to somehow improve the enclosures of the primates there before she moved on, she managed that and much more. Now also active locally in sustainability groups and campaigns, raising awareness of Climate Change, particularly in relation to species and habitats.