A lifeline to prevent Africa's first recorded bird extinction
By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 04/03/2011 - 11:18
Liben Lark with a population of possibly fewer than 100 birds, is widely tipped to become mainland Africa’s first recorded bird extinction, unless urgent action is taken to prevent its demise from the only area it now inhabits: a single grassy plain in southern Ethiopia. Classified as Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat, this globally threatened bird has now been thrown a lifeline thanks to funds raised by the British Birdwatching Fair held at Rutland Water last August. Birdfair organisers Martin Davies (from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds - RSPB) and Tim Appleton (from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust - LRWT) presented a £242,000 (US$395,000) cheque to Dr Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International’s Chief Executive at an special reception hosted by His Excellency Berhanu Kebede, Ethiopia’s UK Ambassador, at the Ethiopian Embassy in London. These funds will be used by the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, the BirdLife Partner in the country, to work with local communities to reduce the impact of over-grazing livestock and prevent conversion of the land to arable farming. Helping the grasslands recover will benefit both the lark and the pastoralists living there. Man-made and natural phenomena all conspired, historically; to ravage Ethiopia’s wildlife riches and this landlocked African country now has 22 species of bird facing extinction. Conservationists hope that the proceeds from the 2010 British Birdwatching Fair will help turn the tide and save the Liben Lark and a range of other highly threatened species. A huge mural (16ft x 4ft) portraying all the endemic and threatened birds of Ethiopia, which was painted by more than 40 wildlife artists at the 2010 Fair, was put on display at the Embassy Reception. It will soon be heading out to Ethiopia where it will go on permanent display in Addis Ababa to help raise awareness of these bird species and their plight. Martin Davies, of the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) – one of the fair’s co-founders and key organisers – said: “Ethiopia has a remarkable natural heritage and is hugely rich in species found nowhere else in the world. Over 840 species of bird have been recorded in Ethiopia, 17 of which are unique to this country and 29 others nearly so. Unfortunately, this wonderful wildlife is under increasing threat and we hope that the proceeds from this year’s event will help the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society and BirdLife International to take the urgent steps needed to secure the future of this country’s unique birds. We also hope that the event will help raise the international profile of this wonderful country, so rich in wildlife.” “Once again Birdfair have delivered a huge boost for conservation. This money will be used to secure a future for Southern Ethiopia's incredible birds”, said Dr Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International's Chief Executive.