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Advancing to the implementation of a Code of Ethics for Birdwatching in Chile

The interest on birds has increased in the past couple of decades in Chile. It is striking to remember that not too long ago, most people would be puzzled with the idea that bird watching was something worth doing. What is so interesting about that?, people used to ask. But today the situation in Chile is completely different. We now have a growing industry around bird watching and more people are pursuing bird watching for the fun of it. There are more field guides, Chilean nature-themed stores, more birdwatching leaders and companies, and even more NGOs that address the topic than ever before.

With all this interest, there has been an increase in the number of bird-themed meetings and conferences (as an example, the South American Bird Fair was held in Puerto Varas in 2017). One of such meetings was the First National Birdwatching Meeting on Chilean Southern Ecosystems that Rio Cruces Wetland Center organized with the Tourism Institute of Universidad Austral de Chile and College of Forestry of Universidad de Concepción de Chile, in April 2017. This instance gathered more than 150 people, which turned out to be a huge success. Amongst the many activities conducted, there were workshops, field trips, and round tables. And one important conclusion of these activities was that to this date, there is no Code of Ethics for people to follow and reduce the potential impacts that this activity may have on the birds and their habitats. Birding codes of ethics are common on developed countries, but they are also used on countries such as Argentina and Colombia. Having this in mind, a team that included Jorge Ruiz, Ignacio Rodríguez, Cristóbal Pizzarro, Angel Beroíza and Jorge Tomasevic decided to address such need and developed a first draft of the document.

Ignacio Rodriguez, Executive Director of Río Cruces Wetland Center explains:

“In general, we assume that observing birds is a very safe activity for birds, the nature and the people that are involve in birdwatching. Nevertheless, there is an increase amount of evidence indicating that this “safe” scenario is not necessarily true for all cases. For this reason, several countries have developed a conduct code to assure that the activity of birdwatching is safe for birds, for nature but also to assure that people is also enjoying this outdoors activity without major inconvenience. We believe that proposing this code of conduct will contribute to improve the birdwatching quality in Chile, but also can serve to create an impulse in collaborative work among the Chilean birdwatching community ”

After working the document within the team, they decided to expand its reach and include the input and opinions of birdwatching leaders, NGOs, and society in general using a web-based form.

“We have presented the draft of the Code of Ethics at two meetings by now (the South American Bird Fair and the Chilean Ornithological Conference) drawing attention to what we are doing and inspiring people to be part of it. We are interested on making this a very inclusive process, where anybody that interested can participate and we can build an inclusive Code of Ethics that is tailored to the Chilean situation”, Jorge Tomasevic, Research Coordinator at Río Cruces Wetland Center, comments.

A final version of the Code of Ethics should be available during 2018, hoping that it can help filling such gap on the protection of birds and their environments.

The draft of the Code (in Spanish) and a form to leave comments is available at:
https://tinyurl.com/CodigoAvistamiento