• Q & A with Tom Amey, Ecosystem Impact

    • Training Focus: Tom Amey

      Programmes Manager, Ecosystem Impact Foundation

      Tom Amey is the Programmes Manager for Ecosystem Impact Foundation in Sumatra. Tom has recently undertaken the DESMAN (Durrell Endangered Species Management) course, and was selected for our ProfessionalTom Amey profile Development Programme - an online training and mentoring scheme co-ordinated by Durrell Conservation Academy which continues after the DESMAN course.

       We interviewed Tom at the end of his time in Jersey so we could share the story of his inspiring work and future conservation ambition.

      What first inspired you to work in wildlife conservation? 

      Growing up in rural Devon, England, I think like many conservationists my love affair with nature grew out of a childhood curiosity for the natural world around me, parents who did everything they could to get me out and about in the countryside, and of course, lots of David Attenborough. I had very little choice in the matter; weekends were filled with long walks, wild swimming, and holidays were always to somewhere rural and remote. My introduction to science and conservation came at the age of eight, where I was very lucky to have an incredibly inspiring and enthusiastic naturalist as a teacher. She got us pond dipping and bird watching whenever possible, where everything was to be recorded in neat little self-drawn tally charts. I distinctly remember, in the middle of particularly boring math or English lessons, someone would shout “blue tit” or “nuthatch” and we would all run to the window eager to draw another line in our tally charts.

      Tell us about your career path so far and how you got to where you are today.

      Fast-forward twenty years and, having finished a degree in geography and participated in a number of conservation internships in South Africa, Australia and closer to home with the RSPB, I now find myself working as Programmes Manager for EcosystemImpact Foundation on the small island of Simeulue off North Sumatra. EcosystemImpact is a conservation organisation that protects Simeulue and surrounding islands’ endangered sea turtle and bird species through community ranger projects, conservation breeding programmes and environmental education. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s sea turtles and songbirds are severely threatened by poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Turtle nesting beaches are raided every night for turtle eggs, which are considered a local delicacy and free food source. Being Indonesia’s most common pet, songbirds are traded prolifically across Southeast Asia, meaning they are disappearing from forests at an alarming rate.

      Team of rangers working with Ecosystem Impact

      What does your role at EcosystemImpact involve? 

      As Programmes Manager, I am responsible for overseeing each of our projects, managing a diverse team of individual project managers, community rangers, field staff and breeding programme keepers. My role also involves finding sources of funding, managing these funds, along with maintaining EcosystemImpact’s international network of partners. We are a relatively new organisation, but I am proud to say we are growing and developing fast and are having a positive impact on the island’s species, habitats and the capacity of local communities to protect their biodiversity


      Why did you apply for the DESMAN course and what do you hope to gain from the experience? Turtle hatching in sand

      The DESMAN course was recommended to me by a number of friends and colleagues who had either worked at Durrell or participated in one of their courses. The DESMAN course sounded like the perfect way to develop my skills and become a more effective conservation manager, so I jumped at the opportunity to participate. For me, the DESMAN course has provided a wide variety of relevant theory and skills training. A particular highlight has been getting to know the Durrell team and learn about the unbelievable impact the Trust has had; it’s not often one gets lectures by people who have saved multiple species from extinction! Learning about each species saved from extinction is beyond inspiring and makes having a very real positive conservation impact seem possible – a positive message that we all need to hear more often.


      What’s the most important thing you’ve taken from the course?

      I am particularly excited by the Professional Development Programme, which follows on from the DESMAN course. This provides bespoke training and post-course mentoring to help students effectively implement what they have learnt during the course when back in their workplace. Working on a remote island like Simeulue, it is connections like this that make our work possible. Through providing mentoring, guidance and technical advice, Durrell is playing a crucial role in the development of EcosystemImpact’s songbird projects. More personally, the course is helping develop the valuable leadership skills needed in myself and my team to drive such ambitious projects. Many of the Durrell staff also play lead roles in global conservation networks such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG), and it is guidance from groups like this that has enabled EcosystemImpact’s projects.

      Can you tell us about EcosystemImpact’s collaboration with Durrell? 

      During 2022, EcosystemImpact will work with Durrell and the Ellen Fund, along with ASTSG partners Marlow Bird Park and ZGAP, to breed and reintroduce Simeulue hill myna and Simeulue Barusan shama, two critically endangered subspecies of songbird found only on Simeulue but now thought to be extinct in the wild. Through the development of a pre-release aviary and community ranger project, supported by environmental education, we will release birds bred on Simeulue onto a small satellite island – a specialty of Durrell with their vast experience gained from their success in Mauritius, the Caribbean, Madagascar and the Channel Islands. Our long-term goal is to reestablish sustainable wild populations of these endemic subspecies. With the continued rampant trade in songbirds across the region, this will not be an easy task. None the less, we believe through developing community support, generating a local sense of pride in these beautiful songbirds, and providing alternative sustainable sources of income, Simeulue’s forests will once again be filled with bird song.

      If you’d to know more about The Carl Jones Scholarship Fund and how you can support the next generation of conservationists, please email paula.loveday@durrell.org

    • Durrell is extremely grateful to Mark and Esther Tavener, who generously funded the cost of Tom’s training through The Carl Jones Scholarship Fund.

      If you’d to know more about The Carl Jones Scholarship Fund and how you can support the next generation of conservationists, please email paula.loveday@durrell.org

    • Wild Life Magazine 

      Wildlife magazine front cover

      This interview featured as an articulate in Durrell's member magazine, WILD LIFE. If you are keen to learn much more about the varied and valuable work of Durrell Wildlife Conservationist, our magazine is a perfect way to do so. Become a member of Jersey Zoo and you will receive not only two issues of the magazines, but access to many other wonderful benefits. Find out more here.