20 Apr 2018

Interactive map: explore the world’s most threatened bird paradises

The latest data gathered by the BirdLife Partnership reveals that over 240 areas globally important for the conservation of birds are in imminent danger of being lost forever. Explore some of the most imperiled sites, and discover the threats they face, with our updated IBAs in Danger Story Map

Flying Fish Cove is the capital of Christmas Island, Australia, which is an IBA in Danger
Flying Fish Cove is the capital of Christmas Island, Australia, which is an IBA in Danger
By Margaret Sessa ...

It might be impossible to save every field and forest on the planet, but by identifying the places that are of great significance to the conservation of the world’s threatened birds, we might be able to save enough to secure the future of all the world’s 10,000+ extant bird species.

That’s the thought process behind BirdLife’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) programme, which since the 1970s has strived to identify and document the world’s most vital sites for birds. Today, the list of IBAs stands at over 13,000  - over both land and sea.  If we protect these sites, we can secure the long-term viability of all the world’s birds. Since its inception the IBA inventory has helped to determine national priorities, and inform the designation of hundreds of sites. But unfortunately, many are in grave danger.

An IBA is considered to be in danger when it is determined that, unless something is done to preserve it, it will soon be lost. Since 2013, BirdLife has published a list of IBAs in Danger based on information gathered from BirdLife Partners through Local Conservation Groups, volunteers and experts. The most recent update finds that 241 IBAs are in imminent danger of being wiped out.

By far the biggest danger to IBAs is dams and water management. Nearly one fifth of all IBAs in danger – 47 – are affected by dam building or other water management works. Agriculture development also remains a big danger, threatening 39 IBAs, while irresponsible hunting and trapping affected 23.

When it comes to countering threats and protecting IBAs, BirdLife has seen some noted successes recently. In March, we announced that Lake Natron, world famous as a breeding ground for Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor, now looks to be safe after the Government of Tanzania declared it would abandon plans to open a soda ash mine at the site.

Sticking with the flamingo theme, Mar Chiquita in Argentina, although still under pressure from a number of threats, is on its way to becoming a new National Park due to the perseverance of Aves Argentinas (BirdLife Partner in Argentina). And BirdLife Australia, using the power of its members and other interested people, has been campaigning hard to save several of their most endangered IBAs, including Christmas Island, threatened by mining, and Moreton Bay, which is under pressure by coastal development.

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Unfortunately, giving an area protected status doesn’t always guarantee its safety. Of the 241 IBAs in Danger more than half -- 137 -- are at least partly covered by protected areas, including 59 Ramsar Sites (wetlands of international importance). This is why it is vital that we continue to monitor their status. While some of the sites on the IBAs in Danger list,, such as Doñana in Spain, the Everglades in the United States and Sierra de Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic are the veterans of IBAs in Danger having been on the list since its inception (and have been threatened for much longer), others are relapsing, coming back to the list after some years of relatively hassle-free life. One of these is Tana river delta in Kenya, whose status was improved after years of intensive efforts by Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner in Kenya), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK) and others. However, it now finds itself re-listed again after the announcement of the Kenyan government to dedicate large parts of it to agricultural production.

You can find the full list of IBAs in Danger and what BirdLife is doing to try to preserve them on the BirdLife Data Zone as well as an interactive map with case studies on the IBAs in Danger Story Map.