John Weigel of the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby donates $36,700 to Global Wildlife Conservation | photos

AUSTRALIAN Reptile Park director John Weigel has donated $36,700 to offset his carbon emissions from jetting and driving around North America while setting a record for birdwatching.

Mr Weigel clocked up an estimated 500,000 kilometres of air and car travel to spot a record 749 different species of bird.

He won the North American Big Year competition in the process.

The North American Big Year is described as the World Cup for birdwatchers.

Competitors travel across North America for a year recording every different bird species they see.

The competition started in 1939 and has a small but loyal and environmentally conscious fan base.

To offset his carbon emissions over the Big Year, Mr Weigel has donated $36,700 to Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).

The money is being used to purchase 12.5 hectares of tropical rainforest to add to the Buenaventura Reserve.

“I had such a great year and I want to insure the only thing that lasts is the record I set rather than the cost to the environment,” Mr Weigel said.

The Buenaventura Reserve was started in 1999 and is renowned for being one of the ornithologically richest and most accessible sites in Ecuadorian Andes. It is home to the el oro parakeet, an endangered species with fewer than 1000 in the wild. 

There are 12 endangered species of bird which can be found at Buenaventura. The reserve protects a narrow zone of cloud forest habitat on the otherwise dry west slope of the Andes in Southern Ecuador.

Mr Weigel, had dedicated last year’s effort to raising awareness for the Devil Ark project, a charity committed to rebuilding the endangered Tasmanian Devil population in a purpose-built facility in the Barrington Tops. 

The GWC is a partner of the Devil Ark project.

Mr Weigel also holds the Australian world record for the Big Year Down Under of 770 birds.

The only record left is the World Big Year where he would have to search for more than 6,833 birds.

And that would require a lot of carbon offset.