Europe and Central Asia
1 May 2018

The Natura 2000 Awards 2018

By Gui-Xi Young

Awards season in Europe is about to start! And while film lovers are gearing up for the world’s most glamorous movie stars to hit the red carpet in Cannes next week, nature lovers are eagerly awaiting for the ‘green carpet’ event of the year – the European Union’s annual ‘Natura 2000 Awards 2018’ on 17 May.  

The Natura 2000 awards reward excellence in the management of the EU”s Natura 2000 network - the world’s largest coordinated network of protected nature sites. They recognize the invaluable work conservationists do here to ensure the survival of Europe’s most important habitats and threatened species. The most prestigious prize of the evening is undoubtedly the ‘European Citizen’s Award’ which is selected by public vote. This year’s nominees list is a veritable family album of BirdLife conservation successes – 8 out of the 25 shortlisted projects involve the work of our partners.

And the BirdLife nominees are…


BirdWatch Ireland: Protection and conservation action for Roseate Terns on Rockabill Island

BirdWatch Ireland have pulled off a real star turn with a remarkably successful Roseate Tern project on tiny Rockabill Island off Dublin’s coast. This is the species’ most important breeding site in all of Europe, supporting 47% of the European population. Rockabill is therefore strategically important for the survival of this globally threatened species, particularly in light of its dramatic decline since the 1970s. BirdWatch Ireland has led conservation actions on Rockabill for the past 29 years, and over the last five years it has focused on ensuring optimal habitat conditions for successful breeding – from the mass installation of wooden nest boxes to the watchful eye of wildlife wardens throughout the summer season. This work has seen populations skyrocket from just 152 pairs to 1,597!

Roseate terns on Rockabill island © BirdWatch Ireland


BSPB (Bulgaria): Of geese and men: Reconciling the interests of farming and conservation

On Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, BSPB has shown how nature conservation and farming can coexist peacefully and prosperously. Here, two lake sites - Durankulashko ezero and Shablenski ezeren – shelter up to 90% of the wintering population of Red-breasted goose Branta ruficollis, the world’s most threatened goose species. The geese, however, forage in the cereal fields close to the lakes, badly damaging the crops of local farmers. To resolve the rift between geese and men, BSPB began working with local farmers to encourage them to manage their land in a goose-friendly manner, leading to the launch of a very popular EU agri-environmental payment scheme which compensates farmers for damages to their crops. The pilot project was so successful it was extended to cover almost 85% of the foraging areas and instances of disturbance and killing has been significantly reduced.

Red-breasted geese, Bulgaria © Mladen Vasilev


BSPB, HOS (Greece), & RSPB (UK): Joint conservation efforts along three continents to save the sacred bird

BSPB, HOS and RSPB have been recognised for their cross-border cooperation to protect the magnificent Egyptian vulture on its long perilous migratory journey across three continents. Though the Egyptian vulture has long been revered as a sacred bird in many countries and cultures, in recent years it has come under numerous threats such as poisoning, electrocution by powerlines, nest robbery and other forms of disturbance. One of the main targets of the project was reducing the problem of illegal trade of Egyptian vultures and eggs in the Balkans; project partners worked together to train customs officers to deal with this type of wildlife crime and encourage cooperation with international bodies such as INTERPOL. As a result, a notorious poacher was successfully caught and convicted in court.

Egyptian Vulture © Kalin Botev


CSO (Czech Republic): Cooperating over wildlife conservation in the Czech-Polish Krkonose/ Karkonosze Natura 2000 Site

Nature knows no borders and on the Czech-Polish border, experts from CSO have been assisting their Polish neighbours to better protect the wildlife of the Krkonoše Mountains. With its special mosaic of tundra, forest and meadows and unique mixture of arctic/alpine and mountain/lowland species, these mountains are one of the most important wildlife and biodiversity sites in the region. However, in the past, conservation action has been limited by the lack of cross-border cooperation. In response, this project aimed to identify and coordinate several common conservation objectives – from joint teams for wildlife monitoring, and a common birds database to parallel forest and meadow management procedures to benefit species like the Red-breasted flycatcher and Corncrake.


RSPB: Shiant Isles recovery project

Off the coast of northwest Scotland, RSPB has been working hard to recover the Shiant Isles from the rat invasion threatening the islands’ status as an important breeding habitat for thousands of seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, shags and kittiwakes. Indeed some species, such as Storm petrel, have not bred on the tiny uninhabited isles for some time because the rats prey upon seabird chicks.  Project staff, with a team of volunteers, implemented a large scale rat eradication program over the winter of 2015-16 which has been greatly successful. 18 months later, there are still no signs of rats on the island. Petrels are actively being encouraged to return with speakers mimicking the calls of a colony. Watch this space…


SEO/BirdLife (Spain): Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity

Alarmed by surveys indicating that just 10% of Spanish people had heard of Natura 2000, SEO/BirdLife Spain set out to rectify the situation and help bring people closer to nature. After all, how can you protect something if you don’t know it exists? And so, they began collaborating with the Spanish news agency Agencia EFE on a range of communications activities designed to raise interest and awareness of Spain’s Natura 2000 network. A spectacular television documentary series was filmed and aired to huge popular interest and acclaim, with almost 5 million viewers tuning in over the whole series. By the end of the project the number of people who knew about Natura 2000 in Spain had more than doubled.


BSPB: The Salt of Life: a tale of the lake, salt, birds and people

Busy BSPB has also been working with the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation to communicate to the public the cultural, socio-economic and ecological importance of the Atanasovsko Lake Salt-works. The project aimed to show how salt brings life to the area in more ways than one – socio-economically and ecologically. The ‘salt of life’ has created jobs and brought in important revenue. At the same time, flourishing coastal wetlands, hosting rare lagoons, attracts over half of all European birds. Thanks to creative initiatives, including a travelling exhibition, an annual ‘Salt of Life Festival’ and walking trails, hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians have rediscovered this unique part of their national heritage. 

Atanasovsko Lake Salt-works © BSPB


MME (Hungary): Partnership to stop the poisoning of imperial eagles

Hungary is home to two thirds of the total EU population of Eastern imperial eagle.  MME is leading the fight to protect the magnificent species from the threat of illegal poisoning in twenty Natura 2000 sites and surrounding habitats around the country. Between 2005 and 2011, 44 imperial eagles were killed in Hungary from poison illegally laid out by livestock farmers targeting wolves. In 2012 MME began a five year project with a an ambitious list of conservation actions, including the creation of a specialized dog-unit trained to sniff out poisoned eagles, the recruitment of volunteers to guard nests and a massive public awareness campaign to inspire greater understanding of the problem and its impact of the species. Thanks to these initiatives, the number of poisoning cases decreased dramatically and in the last two years of the project the breeding population increased by 36% – an important 25% increase of the EU’s total population.


And the winner is…

Congratulations to our partners for this very special recognition. The whole BirdLife family will be behind all of you on awards night. Public voting closed on 22 April but stay tuned to find out who the winner is on 17 May.


Gui-Xi Young, Editor & Campaigns Officer, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.