A great success for Azores Bullfinch!
SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and BirdLife International have released the results of their EU Life Project and announced a new Species Action Plan for Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina, or ‘Priolo’, during a press conference on Ponta Delgada, on the Azores Islands.
Angelo Caserta, Regional Director of the BirdLife European Division, visited the Special Protection Area of Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme, the only area in the world where Azores Bullfinch is found. Started in 2003, from an estimated population of 120 pairs, the project resulted in a spectacular increase to 500-800 pairs and the restoration of 230 hectares. The positive results of this project mean that the outlook for the species is now much rosier. “According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species produced by BirdLife, Azores Bullfinch has been downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered partly as a result of conservation work to restore natural vegetation on its island”, commented Angelo Caserta.
"The LIFE Priolo project was considered one of the best LIFE projects" —Angelo Caserta, Regional Director, BirdLife International European Division
“Furthermore, the LIFE Priolo project brought significant social and economic impacts to the regional and local economies and was considered one of the best LIFE projects, according to the European Union. All this takes on a special meaning in the International Year of Biodiversity, especially now that the number of threatened species is increasing”.
SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have worked together with others to turn around the fortunes of this species in what is a model for other projects. This is a clear example of conservation action succeeding in turning the tide for a highly threatened species, but it is essential to have better funding instruments to address the loss of species.
The new Action Plan for Priolo aims to ensure that the population will continue to recover over the next 10 years. With strong support from the Azorean regional authorities, allowing a total of 1,000 bird pairs and an area of 350 hectares of native laurel forest to be restored. “It’s an ambitious goal, but looking at the good work which has already been done, we believe that it is possible”, commented Luís Costa, SPEA’s Executive Director.
More information on the LIFE Priolo project here.
Much of the work leading to the downlisting of Azores Bullfinch was undertaken between 2003 and 2008 in the framework of an EU-funded LIFE project, coordinated by SPEA in partnership with the Regional Secretary of Environment and Sea (SRAM), the Regional Direction of Forest Resources (DRFF), the Azores University‘s Conservation and Environmental Protection Centre (CCPA), the Municipality of Nordeste and the RSPB. In 2008, support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Birdwatch magazine (through the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme) allowed the species's global distribution to be mapped for the first time.
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Credits: SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal)