Selling green tourism with a story

Convincing people to pay for environmental sustainability sometimes takes a story. Ellis Bird Farm(EBF), one of central Alberta’s best (and free) attractions discovered bird brains can sway corporate thinking with the right tale.

This story’s heroine is Amelia, two ounces of determined purple martin living in one of the farm’s many birdhouses. EBF became a magnet for birds when farmers Winnie and Charlie Ellis put out thousands of pounds of seed. When they got too old to keep it up they sold the land to a large petrochemical plant with the proviso the birds be looked after forever.

Thirty years after Charlie and Winnie moved out, MEGlobal still funds EBF’s operating costs and EBF biologist, Myrna Pearman, keeps looking for ways to advance wildlife conservation and education. An alliance with Dr. Kevin Fraser and the University of Manitoba to put geolocators on purple martins was created to identify migration routes (something unknown at the time).

Data revealed that the first purple martin to return (named after another great aviator, Amelia Earhart) had wintered in South America, taking several weeks to arrive but rocketed back to Canada in the spring, flying on average 600km every day for three weeks!

Senior staff from MEGlobal’s Dubai office was visiting EBF in 2013 when this information was revealed, Amelia herself sitting nearby on a pole, her tiny appearance belying tremendous stamina but her story made an impression.

At a MEGlobal meeting the next day it was decided to gift EBF with an additional $450,000 to build a new visitor center — a spontaneous gesture rarely seen in corporate governance. But the staff was so moved by Amelia’s story and the work done at EBF they wanted this tiny tourism attraction to reach even more people with bird stories.

A few months later the new visitor center opened and the second great aviator to be named Amelia secured her place as a tourism influencer!

To learn more visit www.ellisbirdfarm.ca

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Originally published at Carol Patterson.

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