Become a conservationist and improve your health

Since I moved office from a typical building to a purpose-built conservation center located near a natural area, many of the staff have felt more relaxed and productive. This seems logical and one would think it is just common sense. Now a paper in the British Medical Journal provides scientific proof that being close to nature improves people’s health and well-being.

Ecotherapy is a developing practice that is focused on restoring health through contact with nature.  It is known that use of wildlife in some therapies improves quality of life. Swimming and interacting with dolphins has for years been used in treating impaired children and patients with depressions. Smaller animals such as example, squirrels, owls, and raccoons have been used successfully in therapies for children with emotional and behavioral problems.

Of great interest to us here, is that people who take part in conservation projects have reported better health. This is credited to being outdoors and to feeling part of a larger natural system connecting beyond the individual. Such projects can help overcome social isolation, develop skills, and improve employment prospects, as well as provide the known benefits associated with exercise, the authors of the paper explain.

The Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles have been bringing the young people of Seychelles closer to the animals and plants that live around us. Over the years we have noticed that children become calmer when they are in natural environments. Parents have said that their children who regularly take part in Wildlife Club activities turn out to be gentler and more attentive.

The Wildlife Clubs also allow both the young members and the Leaders, who are adults, to initiate or take part in conservation projects. The Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles, as a group, have been involved in different projects on several islands. Despite the hard work, the Leaders and members have always described these activities as “feel good”, extremely exciting and very memorable.

More research is necessary on the health benefits of conservation projects. Nevertheless, the government agency responsible for nature conservation in the UK, English Nature, is planning a national strategy to encourage people to reconnect with nature and benefit from being close to wildlife.

This is an exciting and novel development. In Seychelles, conservation projects can now have more than just a focus on saving species and habitats. As conservationists we can start to develop new partnerships with the health professionals to make nature conservation even more relevant and beneficial to our people.

If conservation projects can make the participants feel healthier and better about themselves then we have yet more proof that there is very strong link between healthy people and a healthy environment.

by Nirmal Jivan Shah, Nature Seychelles' CEO, on the People Articles, February 9th 2006.

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Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

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