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Pupils embark on conservation trip

Twelve Haileybury Sixth Formers are to embark on a five-week rainforest conservation expedition to the Philippines this Summer with Coral Cay Conservation (CCC).

The students will help to gather quantitative data on the fauna and flora of the North Negros Forest Reserve (NNFR) – one of the last significant areas of moist tropical forest in the Negros-Panay Faunal Region of the central Philippines.

Dr Cheryl Loughton, Haileybury’s Head of Biology and the leader of the trip, says this is the first time a school has been involved in a trip like this to the Philippines. "Depending on its success, I hope to make this an annual event for our Sixth Formers: that way we can truly support Coral Cay Conservation and ‘see’ the direct impact that Haileybury has had," she adds.

The students will be based in the small village of Campuestohan (890m altitude) at the edge of the rainforest. The expedition will involve trekking and setting up camp several miles away from the expedition base for periods of up to four days, to allow access to remote survey locations.

Coral Cay Conservation’s Managing Director, Richard Surma, says Haileybury’s commitment to make a lasting annual contribution to rainforest conservation by "getting out and doing it" really impressed him. "Many people theorise, but only a few actually get out to the coal face to make things better," he adds. "I hope the expedition will enable the pupils to see first-hand how community interaction and education can have a real part to play in environmental protection and conservation. In addition, it will also give them the opportunity to see some truly breath-taking scenery and to meet some of the warmest people on the planet who – at least by our standards – live very poorly but love their life. It is very humbling."

One of the students who is going on the trip, Harriet Hewitt, says she jumped at the chance to go to the Philippines as soon as she heard about it; "The idea of trekking through a jungle, not purely for fun, but for reasons which will help not only the local ecology but also the community, was more than appealing to me. I by no means chose to go simply because I study Biology at school, but because conservation work has always interested me. I plan to take a gap year based largely on conservation work, and to get some experience in a year or two early seemed an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. All I can hope is that this month’s worth of conservation work will not deter me from my main ambitions in life but will spur me on to go and help our ecology worldwide!"

Mr Surma says that conservation is about people, time and energy. "It’s an ongoing process and I think it is best served by having a firm relationship in place with interested partners like Haileybury to make sure the right goals are achieved. I would like to see Haileybury come back every year and grow their own commitment with us instead of inviting others in their place. People who believe they can make a difference invariably do make a difference. I have no doubt that this is true about Dr Loughton and her group and it is something they should be very proud of," he says.

The trip will also serve as a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and, in the future, may provide material for Extended Essays for the International Baccalaureate pupils.

CCC is a British-based not-for-profit, international organisation, dedicated to providing resources to help sustain livelihoods and alleviate poverty through the protection, restoration and management of coral reefs and tropical rainforests.

The pupils going on the trip include Chris Petrovic, Pantellis Pericleous, Katherine Polley, Jessica Curnock Cook, Louise Kimpton, Kate Sullivan, Elissa Davies, Sophie Baird, Victoria Chase, Harriet Hewitt, Alexandra Marsh and Isabel Wustrow.