Spirit of Big Five

Travel, tourism, and Mother Nature

Travel, tourism, and Mother Nature

By eTN Staff Writer

Travel and tourism seems to be the universal link to so many of our world's most important issues - fostering peace between nations, protecting our children, aiding in crises, improving economies and communities, and caring for Mother Earth. Here, we see how Korean Air and the Spirit of Big Five Foundation (founded by Big Five Tours and Expeditions) has partnered with various organizations to improve our world's natural sustainability.

Korean Air Partners With Los Angeles to Plant and Care for Urban Trees
Korean Air today announced that it is donating $160,000 to the Million Trees Los Angeles (MTLA) initiative developed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to create and sustain urban forestry. Korean Air made this donation as part of its international commitment to reforestation and tree preservation throughout the world. The Korean Air partnership in Los Angeles will help plant, water, and care for urban trees throughout the city.

"Trees provide shade and save energy costs, clean the air, and help reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming," said Jay Lee, Korean Air's regional director the Americas. "They also reduce pollution, capture polluted urban runoff, improve water quality, and add beauty to Los Angeles' neighborhoods. Our donation to MTLA is not just about beautifying the city, but about its environment, and we're honored to make this donation and be part of the green solution."

Korean Air is the first international airline to make this commitment to the MTLA initiative. The airline's North American headquarters is located in Los Angeles and Korean Air is the largest transpacific carrier out of LAX.

"We are excited and proud to be partnering with Korean Air and their ongoing commitment to improving our environment throughout the world. Korean Air is a corporate role model, providing leadership and investing in LA's urban forest, which will provide numerous benefits for generations of Angeleno's," said Lisa Sarno, executive director for MTLA.

A formal agreement was signed today between the City of Los Angeles and Korean Air and an official kick-off to the program will take place in March 2009 when the airline celebrates its 40th anniversary. At the March event Korean Air and MTLA employees are expected to begin planting and watering "Korean Air Trees."

As part of its environmental initiatives, Korean Air has been planting trees in Mongolia since 2004 and in China's Inner Mongolia region since 2007 to help lessen the impact of yellow dust and desertification and promote conservation efforts of Mongolian forests. Korean Air hopes to expand this grass-roots environmental program worldwide, and it chose Los Angeles to kick off the campaign.

Spirit of Big Five Foundation Supports Belize Barrier Reef Conservation
The Spirit of Big Five Foundation, the 501.c3 nonprofit organization founded by Big Five Tours and Expeditions, has joined other international groups, including Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund in helping Friends of Nature (FoN) in Belize with funding support to protect the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere.

The Belize-based community conservation organization has been active since 1996, and has worked to protect and manage two critically important marine protected areas in the Belize Barrier Reef Complex: Laughing Bird Caye National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, a high biodiversity hotspot. In addition, through a co-management agreement with Belize’s Ministry of Fisheries, FoN is expecting to also oversee management of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, another UNESCO site, in the near future.

The 150-mile-long Belize Barrier reef supports a large diversity of marine life and habitats, including hundreds of species of fish, and relatively pristine swaths of mangroves, seagrass, atolls, and barrier, patch, and fringing coral reefs. The reef ecosystem is under tremendous threat from indiscriminate and illegal fishing, as well as land-based pollution, climate change, oil exploration, shipping, and unregulated coastal development.

What began as a grass roots organization in five local communities, FoN is now recognized as a conservation leader in the management of marine protected areas in Belize. FoN plays several key roles in protecting these fragile environments: enforce laws and regulations, provide management presence within and beyond park boundaries, expand and establish no-take zones, conduct scientific monitoring and research, foster community participation in ecotourism as an economic alternative to reliance on commercial fishing, strengthen stakeholder local community groups, implement adaptive marine conservation management, and develop a long-term sustainability plan to help protect the second largest barrier reef on Earth.

The Spirit of Big Five Foundation’s small grant funding goes directly to support FoN’s scientific monitoring and management of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. These funds will be used to support ranger patrols to prevent illegal poaching within the marine protected area, scientific data collection used to carry out environmental impact assessments from unregulated coastal development, and local community educational outreach, including funding marine conservation awareness and teaching about the environment in collaboration with local elementary schools.

FoN joins a number of other projects that the Spirit of Big Five is proud to support, including Heritage Watch in Cambodia, Fundacion Galapagos in Ecuador, Blind Foundation of India and St. Nicholas Community Development Center & Children’s Home in Kenya.

The Spirit of Big Five Foundation awards small grants and makes funding donations to projects and organizations that aim to protect or enhance natural and cultural heritage and/or increase the capacity of disadvantaged communities to achieve economic empowerment. The foundation’s overhead costs are funded directly by Big Five Tours and Expeditions as part of the company’s commitment to sustainable tourism practices. One hundred percent of foundation funding goes to the projects it supports.

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