Editorial: News from the BirdLife Partnership, August 2007
Welcome to this month’s BirdLife Editorial: an opportunity for us to summarise events and stories coming from BirdLife International - the world’s largest alliance of conservation organisations.
“One hundred and eighty-nine wonderful and fascinating bird species are on the brink of disappearing forever. Any such extinction diminishes us, and narrows our world,” declared BirdLife’s Dr Leon Bennun this month.
He was referring of course to BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions initiative – a genuinely groundbreaking campaign, already described as the biggest and most wide-ranging bird conservation programme the world has ever seen (Asian rare bird first to benefit from world’s largest bird conservation programme, 16 August 2007).
For those who missed the international coverage, the new initiative –launched at this year’s Birdfair- aims to save the world’s 189 Critically Endangered birds, by finding ‘Species Champions’ who will fund the work of identified ‘Species Guardians’ for each bird - organisations and people best placed to carry out the conservation work necessary to prevent what are otherwise certain extinctions.
The pressure’s on. This year saw BirdLife announce a record number of Critically Endangered birds on the IUCN Red List. The extinction problem is getting worse. Humans are a relative blip in the timeline of life on Earth – yet our actions are currently causing fifty times the extinctions one would expect. In fact the problem could even be underestimated… (Globally threatened birds pay for their sex, 29 August 2007).
Depressed? Don’t be - the key point is that we can do something about this and this is what BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions initiative is all about. There are people, organisations -Species Guardians- with the tools and resources to save these species from extinction – they just need Species Champions to stump up the cash.
And some have done just that, building on the generous support of the Birdfair who became Species Champions for the first four ‘flagship’ birds (BirdLife Species Champions step forward at world’s biggest birdfair, 21 August 2007). Latest Species Champions include In Focus (optics), who will act as Species Champions contributing to White-shouldered Ibis conservation efforts; The Leeds Castle Foundation, who have stepped forward for Blue-crowned Laughingthrush; and NHBS Environment Bookstore, who will contribute much-needed core funds to the initiative. Rare Bird Alert are the most recent, signing up in a similar capacity.
May they keep coming: the Preventing Extinctions initiative needs £19 million in 5 years.
“…where efforts, resources and political will are directed, species can recover.”
Perhaps this is a good moment for a timely reminder of how such investment, resources and commitment can see conservation flourish, even where people had once thought this impossible (Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) declares first national park, 3 August 2007). The same goes for Basra Reed-warbler, recovering in Iraq’s marshes – and in Israel too (Basra Reed-warbler returns... to Israel, 22 August 2007)
Much like the premise of the Preventing Extinctions initiative, the combination of resources and conservationists on the ground, are keys to success in these examples.
Saving species most threatened with extinction is urgent work, but equally so is tackling the cause of ongoing declines – halting declines in birds before they make it onto the Critically Endangered list. Migratory birds are particularly prone to such declines, whether through hunting (A first for the Americas, 31 August 2007), or through factors as yet not fully understood (Contributing factors sought as Red Knot population plummets, 14 August 2007). These are truly global issues – which is why BirdLife, a global partnership, is so effective.
And in case you’re still in any doubt about whether conservation works: Science paper reveals successes of the EU Birds Directive, 10 August 2007. The research shows that Europe’s Birds Directive has clearly helped those species considered to be most at risk, partly through the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for which BirdLife’s inventory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) provides a reference list.
As Dr Stuart Butchart, of BirdLife’s Global Species Programme, said in May’s BirdLife news: “…where efforts, resources and political will are directed, species can recover.”
Step forward the Species Champions…
Jules Howard, BirdLife News Editor
We need your support. Help us save each of the world’s 189 Critically Endangered birds by signing up your company or institution as a BirdLife Species Champion. Together we can turn the tide on extinctions.