24 Sep 2018

State of Africa’s Birds

BirdLife Africa’s new study shows the sustainable path for a continent striving to grow and develop

Gray Parrot
By Mercy Kariuki

Africa is a continent that is expanding fast, both population-wise, and in terms of wealth and technology. At first glance, this latest review of the continent’s birds presents a pessimistic reflection of this expansion. Nowhere is this clearer than the much-loved Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus. In the past two decades, Ghana alone has lost an estimated 90-99% of its Grey Parrots, with areas that formerly acted as major roosts now standing eerily quiet, depleted by the illegal pet trade. “Killer powerlines” in Sudan are leaving millions of electrocuted birds scattered along their routes. And Tanzania’s Mara wetlands are being burned to aid hunting and access to the river. Overall, agriculture poses the biggest danger to threatened birds, with logging coming in second.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The report also shows us the significant headway that Partners across Africa have made in combatting these threats. In 2016, BirdLife’s advocacy succeeded in getting the Grey Parrot uplisted to Appendix one by CITES (the convention on international trade of Endangered species), meaning all international trade of the bird has been outlawed.

However, tackling these problems isn’t as simple as just writing laws. On a continent where rural communities still experience a great deal of poverty and inequality, people depend on the natural resources that surround them. The important part is empowering communities to manage these resources sustainably. Because allowing them to run out would not only destroy habitats, but increase poverty and inequality for the coming generations.

Today, the smoke is beginning to clear over the Mara wetlands as local conservation groups such as South and North Mara Water Users Association are forming papyrus-weaving groups, passing on their knowledge in order to inspire more sustainable use of the wetlands’ lush resources. At Lake Natron, a Tanzanian flamingo paradise, nearly 100 citizens have received Land Rights Training, empowering them to reject proposals from destructive companies such as soda ash mines, and make informed decisions about how to earn an income from their land.

These are just a handful of examples – the report shows that there’s no shortage of these initiatives underway. The challenge now, however, is to scale them up, as many are still constrained by lack of staff and finances. At least it’s clear that the seeds for change have been planted.

Download the State of Africa's Birds reports here:
State of Africa's Birds English 
État Des Oiseaux D’Afrique