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Europe and Central Asia
1 Jun 2015

Butterflies, SEO/BirdLife, and the Natura 2000 Citizens Award

By Lisa Benedetti

Making butterflies with your hands may not change the world, but it’s a symbolic gesture that has been winning the hearts of people across Europe in celebration of the Natura 2000 Network. They have just chosen SEO/BirdLife in Spain, as winner of the 2015 European Natura 2000 Citizens’ Award because of its ‘Natura 2000 Day’ project which is spreading the word about the importance of Natura 2000 sites in protecting Europe’s nature and wildlife.

Despite its 20 year history, and the benefits it brings to people, nature, and the economy, few Europeans know that the Natura 2000 Network even exists. This is why May 21st became Natura 2000 Day, to celebrate Europe’s largest network of nature areas protected by EU law. It’s the very day in 1992 when the Habitats Directives was approved, the foundation of the Natura 2000 Network. On each May 21st, the European Commission celebrates Natura 2000 by handing out a series of awards. The European Natura 2000 Citizens' Award is special because it’s European citizens who decide the winner. This year, ‘Natura 2000 Day’ was chosen, an initiative started last year by SEO/BirdLife and the Spanish news agency EFE.

Since the ‘Natura 2000 Day’ campaign begun in 2013, more than 40,000 people took part in different events across Europe and over 6 million social network accounts have been reached. Thousands of Europeans of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers to grandmothers, have sent in photos of themselves making the “butterfly gesture” as a symbol to show that they care for nature and support the preservation of nature and wildlife through the Natura 2000 Network.

Each year the ‘Natura 2000 Day’ project is dedicated to the conservation of a particular Natura 2000 site in Europe. In 2014, Doñana was selected, a vast area in southern Spain made up of beautiful coastal wetlands, dunes, cork oak and pine forests, and ‘matorral’. Like many other Natura sites, it’s an important place for thousands of plants, bird and animal species. This place is home to species that are in trouble, such as the Spanish Imperial Eagle and Iberian Lynx. The site chosen for 2015 is River Havel in Germany, one of Natura 2000 Network’s most important wetlands of central Europe, home to thousands of threatened species; it is also an important resting site for thousands of waterbirds.

Although May 21st has passed, you can still join the effort and support next year’s Natura 2000 site. Show EU decision makers that you want them to keep protecting Europe’s nature and habits through the Natura 2000 Network by uploading a photo of yourself making the “butterfly gesture” (tag photos with #Natura2000Day).

European Natura 2000 Day is part of the LIFE+ project ‘Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity’, implemented in partnership with Agencia EFE

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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.