Wetland Education Centres


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A visitor centre at the Lake Hornborga Ramsar Site welcoming over 250,000 visitors per year!

Wetland Education Centres are prime vehicles for raising awareness of the functions and values of wetlands within the general public and school groups, as well as emphasising the role of all citizens in conserving wetlands.

A great diversity of centres exists worldwide, ranging along a continuum from the high-tech centre, designed to welcome significant numbers of school children as well as the general public, to the simple, non-staffed visitor centre, welcoming small numbers of people and offering a limited CEPA experience. The CEPA output from such a range is, of course, equally variable -- but all of it is valuable in getting the wetland message through. 

In order to provide advice on the design and management of wetland centres to Ramsar Contracting Parties and other partners, the Ramsar Secretariat cooperated with the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea and the Environmental Ecosystem Research Foundation (ERF), an independent not-for-profit organization based in Seoul (R.O. Korea), to produce a Handbook on Best Practices for the Design and Operation of Wetland Education Centres.

The Convention's CEPA Resolution and Programme of Work encourages the establishment of  Wetland Education Centres, recognising their value as important catalysts and  key actors for CEPA activities that promote the Ramsar principles of wetland  conservation and wise use. The Programme notes also the potential for  established wetland centres to exchange information, materials and expertise  for their mutual benefit, and for the benefit of newly established centres. The  Programme identifies Wetland Link International (WLI), a programme of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), as the key  organization to develop this area of the Convention’s CEPA Programme.

All About WLI.    Wetland  Link International (WLI) is a support network for those working at wetland  centres. Launched in 1991 and forms part of a Memorandum of Cooperation between  WWT and Ramsar. At the WLI Web site, over 300 centres throughout the  world contribute to profiles of their centres, provide resources that can be  used to help run education and engagement activities, and share news and  updates on their activities. Chris  Rostron manages the network from Slimbridge in the UK, one of WWTs wetland  centres. For further information on how to join WLI for free, please visit the  web site or send an email Chris.Rostron [at] wwt.org.uk. View here a leaflet on the WLI network  (hard copies  are available from Chris).  View the WLI Information Sheets here (on Wetland Treatment Systems; Developing Wetland Centres; and Engaging the Public in Aviculture). 

An important area of development of WLI is the  establishment of national and regional networks organised by officially  recognised and bone fide organisations, including virtual meetings and  occasional conferences.

WLI-Asia regional network has been set up following a meeting in Hong Kong, China, in June 2005. They held their First  WLI-Asia Symposium in January 2007 in Hong Kong, launched their own site in  September 2007, their Second Symposium in October 2008 in the Republic  of Korea, and their Third Symposium in October 2010 in Malaysia. A  fourth is planned in the Republic of Korea in 2013.  Reports from all three conferences are  available here.

WLI-North America, a network covering Canadian and  US wetland centres was set up in 2009, with an active set of centres that meet  via teleconference. View their wetland centre leaflet produced in 2011 here.

WLI-Oceania, a regional network, held its  inaugural meeting in October 2009.  Read more about this here.   The lead partner is one of the WLI founding centre, the Hunter Wetland  Centre in Australia. 

WLI  Africa.  A relatively young network, with wetland  centres in West Africa taking part in the Migratory Birds for People programme. 
WLI Neotropics, covering Central and South America and the Caribbean.  Again this is a growing network, with the  Fundacion Kennedy taking a lead on growing the network and planning a future  conference.

WWT and the Ramsar Secretariat are very keen that these models are developed  around the world. For further information on how to go about setting up a  national or regional network, please contact the Head of WLI, Chris Rostron (Chris.Rostron [at] wwt.org.uk).

WLI background information ....

What is a ‘wetland centre’? 

For the purposes of the WLI network, WWT defines a wetland education centre as:

Any place where there is interaction between people and wildlife and CEPA activity occurs in support of wetland conservation objectives.

This definition would include nature reserves with a wide range of visitor facilities on wetland sites (e.g. those of WWT and similar organisations), environmental education centres, field study centres, zoological and  botanical gardens, many interactive museums of natural history and a variety of community-based projects and programmes.

The functions of such centres should include:

  CEPA for wetlands delivery
Capacity building for CEPA
Venues for training

What are the objectives of the WLI programme?

   To encourage and support the exchange of information and expertise internationally between those involved in wetland CEPA, particularly those operating from wetland education centres (including appropriate field study centres, environmental education centres, zoos, botanic gardens, aquaria, etc).
To advocate for, and assist in, the development of new wetland education centres and their associated programmes throughout the world;
   To improve the effectiveness of operations at wetland education centres through sharing, training and expertise exchange;
To lobby for the greater inclusion of communications, education and public awareness (CEPA) programmes within wetlands and related conservation initiatives and instruments, and support the development of frameworks for subsequent implementation at national, regional and global levels.

Contact details:

Head of Wetland Link International, Wildfowt & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, United Kingdom, Tel: +44 (0) 208 409 4404+44 (0) 208 409 4404; Fax: +44 (0)1453 890827; Email: Chris.Rostron [at] wwt.org.uk; Web site: www.wwt.org.uk/wli.

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