Hundreds of thousands of people celebrate birds and IBAs during World Bird Festival 2006
“It is fantastic to think that so many people were celebrating the inspiration of birds this October. I’m especially pleased with the growth of participating countries in Africa and Asia,” said Itziar Olmedo co-ordinator of World Bird Festival 2006.
Azerbaijan, China mainland, Vietnam and Rwanda were among the 19 countries participating for the first time in World Bird Festival. Record numbers of African (10) and Asian (18) countries took part and in the Americas, a stronghold for the festival, 23 countries participated.
This year – with the special theme of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – many of the events had a practical focus as well as a celebrating nature. Local conservation groups involved in the protection and management of IBAs took centre stage, but the emphasis was also on the involvement of the wider community, including local and national government, citizen’s groups and businesses.
“It is fantastic to think that so many people were celebrating the inspiration of birds this October. " —Itziar Olmedo , Co-ordinator of World Bird Festival 2006
In Europe, people were encouraged to visit an IBA – nearly 50,000 people in 34 European countries attended 1,400 EuroBirdwatch events, recording 3 million birds in the process. This event, supported by Toyota, is now Europe’s largest birdwatching event.
Eleven birdwatching societies in China mainland took part for the first time and held activities including exhibitions, talks, bird identification courses, birdwatching tours and kite-making competitions. In Taiwan, the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan (WBFT, BirdLife in Taiwan) carried out a synchronized census in 28 unprotected IBAs during which they observed 15,263 individual birds.
Getting children into nature is at the heart of many festival events - alongside making the ever-popular bird-masks, children learned to build bird-feeders and nest-boxes. Alongside exhibitions of new bird paintings and traditional bird art were displays explaining the importance of IBAs. In El Salvador, SalvaNATURA (BirdLife in El Salvador) focused on El Imposible's role as a refuge for resident and migratory birds by hosting six days of celebrations where hundreds of children from local communities took part in activities there.
Birdwatching is a core activity for many festival events. This year some organisers saw the traditional bird walks and bird counts attract representatives from tourism and industry, and the emphasis was as much on the economic potential of biodiversity conservation as the cultural and spiritual value of birds.
“World Bird Festival 2006 gave people the chance to feel part of a global movement for birds and nature,” —Itziar Olmedo, Co-ordinator of World Bird Festival 2006
Some events drew in large crowds. In Mexico, over 10,000 people participated in the activities organised by the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. The second Malagasy Bird Fair took place at the Tsimbazaza Botanical and Zoological Park in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, from 27-29 October. Initial estimates of attendance are over 10,000, almost all Malagasy citizens. Many schools were involved, as well as representatives from the private sector (particularly tour operators and those in outdoor equipment sales), IBA Local conservation Group members from wetland sites, national and international NGOs, local associations, government ministries, embassies and protected area representatives. Many had stands to exhibit what they are doing.
“World Bird Festival 2006 gave people the chance to feel part of a global movement for birds and nature,” said Itziar Olmedo. “The focus on IBAs demonstrates the vital role they play in the conservation of birds and biodiversity - it’s crucial to raise awareness of IBAs for the future of the wildlife and people that need them.”