11 Apr 2017

7 projects led by young conservationists that are changing the avian world

Today winners have been announced for CLP and Birdfair project awards, all initiatives led by young conservationists. Discover their inspiring work in this roundup.

Projects led by young conservationists are making a difference to birds around the world. Photo: Slaty Egret © Birdwatch Zambia
Projects led by young conservationists are making a difference to birds around the world. Photo: Slaty Egret © Birdwatch Zambia
By Billy Fairburn & Charlotte Klinting

BirdLife is actively working to support young people in conservation through two separate programmes: the BirdLife/Birdfair Young Conservation Leaders and the Conservation Leadership Programme. We are pleased to announce the final projects selected for the 2017 awards!

Through the awards, the teams enter a process of valuable capacity development, with access to expert advice, establishing collaboration partnerships, and teams are invited to attend a 2-week training course on managing conservation projects.

The winners of the BirdLife/Birdfair grants will also benefit from being part of the CLP Alumni network, which comprises more than 2500 people, many of whom continue to contribute to conservation in their various fields. By being part of this network, more funding and training opportunities also open up to the grantees, e.g. a writing skills course, fundraising and leadership training, additional travel grants, and more.

BirdLife/Birdfair Young Conservation Leaders winners

Saving vultures in Nigeria

Hooded Vulture conservation in Nigeria © Nigerian Conservation Foundation

Vulture numbers are plummeting across Africa, with some populations in West Africa having lost 99% of their former numbers. A team of young conservation leaders from the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (BirdLife in Nigeria) are setting out to stem the decline in Gashaka-Gumti National Park.

They are gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes of the declines of vultures and other raptors at this Important Bird Area in Danger, and raising awareness in surrounding communities through a conservation soccer tournament.

Safeguarding wetlands in Rwanda

Project team members © ACNR

In Rwanda, Akanyaru and Nyabarongo wetlands are unprotected Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Danger, under increasing pressure from unplanned agricultural intensification and expansion. This is leading to wetland degradation and biodiversity loss. A team from Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda (BirdLife in Rwanda) are seeking to raise awareness, build capacity and inform national policy for wetlands management.

The team will map the current status of the two wetland sites, train local stakeholders in IBA monitoring techniques, and work with decision-makers in Rwanda to ensure their findings inform the sustainable management of Nyabarongo and Akanyaru wetlands. The team leader Gilbert Micomyiza said: “We truly believe that his award is a valuable support to our career as young conservationists and will surely contribute to sustainable conservation of the two IBAs in Danger in Rwanda”.

A clean slate for the Slaty Egret

Slaty Egret © Birdwatch Zambia

The Slaty Egret Egretta vinaceigula (Vulnerable) is a Southern African Endemic bird, with a global population of just 3,000 to 5,000 individuals – the majority of which breed are known to breed in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. However, there are promising signs that the Slaty Egret also breeds in neighbouring Zambia, with large flocks often seen at some sites with recently fledged juveniles.

One such site is the Barotse floodplain (an Important Bird Area) where a team of early-career conservationists from Birdwatch Zambia (BirdLife in Zambia) is aiming to definitively prove that egrets are breeding. If they are successful, then their findings will have important implications for the management of the site.    

Conservation Leadership Programme 2017 Award winners

This year additional funding from the Global Trees Campaign and Arcadia’s marine fund have enabled CLP to ensure the presence of marine and plant projects among the selected.

“This year we have projects ranging from marmosets to murrelets, from aquatic ecosystems in India’s Eastern Ghats to the Atlantic Forest, and from Borneo to the Black Sea, the spectrum of species and habitats – and the geographical spread of projects – are remarkably diverse. Our award winners will be conducting research into river tigers and reefs, red-handed howlers and helmeted hornbills, and delving deeper into the domains of diving ducks, dolphins and dragon trees“, said the CLP Awards Announcement.

The following are only the winners working on bird conservation. Discover the full list of projects here.

Velvet Scoter conservation in Georgia

Velvet Scoter © Nika Paposhvili

The project on “Conservation of Velvet Scoter on Tabatskuri Lake in Georgia” focuses on the Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca, listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and only found at this particular lake as a result of population reduction from overfishing, habitat destruction and illegal hunting.

This project aims to gain detailed information on its spatial distribution, its population size and breeding success based on which to provide objective recommendations to the stakeholders for conservation. The result of the project will provide a base for restoration and protection of Velvet Scoter populations in Georgia. Read more...

Advancing Hornbill conservation in Malaysia

Hornbill team © Sanjitpaal Singh

In Malaysia, a project on “Conservation of Bornean Hornbills” aims to create nest boxes and restore natural tree cavities for the hornbills, as they are secondary hole-nesters and do not create these cavities themselves. This work will take place within Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, contributing to habitat restoration.

The team leader, Ravinder Kaur, had a moving message upon hearing the news: "Words failed me at that moment when I read the email, and instead, I reacted by tapping my team mate's shoulder incessantly while pointing at the email. Truly our proudest moment. This is a great opportunity to advance our careers and hornbill conservation in Malaysia". Read more...

A restoration plan for Craveri's Murrelet

Craveri's Murrelet © Yuliana Rocío

In Mexico, invasive mammals are threatening the Craveri’s Murrelet Synthliboramphus craveri (Vulnerable) on the islands where this small seabird comes to breed, which has caused colony extirpation in some areas. The objective of this project is to assess the breeding status of the species and identify the presence of invasive mammals on historical and potential breeding islands.

It will also focus on biosecurity to protect against the introduction of invasive species and create a restoration plan. Read more...

Learning more about the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Surveying China's mudflats © Chengyi Liu

Lastly, our very own Spoonie is also being supported by the CLP awards; in the Leizhou Peninsula in China, where a small percentage of the global population of Spoon-Billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (Critically Endangered) come to winter.

The project aims to establish knowledge of their wintering ecology, distribution and population in this particular area and evaluate the potential risks to Spoonie, as well as reaching out to local communities. Read more...

What's next for young conservationists?

CLP continues to fund internships within BirdLife to support young people’s professional development and the call for next application round for the Team Awards will go out in the autumn.

Looking to 2018, Birdfair funding will enable BirdLife to support three projects to protect Important Bird Areas in the Pacific.

The Young Conservation Leaders Awards programme has been further strengthened with support from the Jensen Foundation, allowing us to also support the conservation leaders of the future in Asia in 2018.