The Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK) have been central to this project, and in 2005 they were joined by the RSPB, who have been involved ever since. With the generous financial support of the UK Government through its Darwin Initiative, the project has expanded over time. As the results of the research increasingly suggest that hunting outside the breeding grounds is the most likely cause of decline, so the project has widened in geographical scope, now also involving researchers and conservationists in Russia, Turkey, Syria, Sudan, India, Iraq and Iran.
In 2009, the vast wealth of knowledge that the project has generated was put to valuable use in the production of an international Species Recovery Plan. With the further support of BirdLife Species Champion – Swarovski Optik – efforts will now focus on reducing hunting pressure in Syria, Iraq and Iran during the spring and autumn migration. To do this requires knowledge of where the birds are when, so the project now relies on a small number of birds fitted with satellite transmitters. As well as undertaking vital research, the project has also focussed on developing young scientists and conservationists in a number of countries, particularly Kazakhstan, where each year a number of promising students are given intensive training and then join the research team in the field. This has proved tremendously successful, and several of these students are now working full-time in conservation.
The Sociable Lapwing project provides a superb example of the ability of the BirdLife International Partnership to coordinate its activities: tags fitted by researchers working for the BirdLife Affiliate in Kazakhstan (ACBK) transmit data to scientists working for the UK BirdLife Partner (RSPB), who then forward the coordinates of the birds to field teams such as the Turkish BirdLife Partner Designate (Doga Dernegi), who use them to locate birds in the field on their southwards migration! This is a truly international conservation effort.
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