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Our planet is in the midst its sixth mass extinction event, with climate change, habitat destruction and other human activities devastating the diversity of life on the planet. But while the crisis is undeniably urgent, there’s also hope. Humans may create huge challenges – but with enough support, dedication and resources, we can also reverse them.


There are some particularly shining examples in the bird world. Our flagship report, State of the World’s Birds, finds that 25 bird species have been rescued from the Critically Endangered category since 2000 thanks to conservation action. And that’s not counting the 21-32 bird species that would have vanished altogether without intervention.  

Many of these recoveries were made possible with the help of BirdLife’s Preventing Extinction Programme. Underpinned by our science, we work by pairing ‘species champions’ – individuals or organisations that provide funding – with ‘species guardians’ – often BirdLife Partners – who can make the action happen on the ground. To date, the programme has benefited at least 483 threatened bird species.  

For example, in 2005 the Azores Bullfinch was Europe’s most threatened bird, with a population of just 40 pairs. SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) helped to restore its native laurel forests, and it now numbers more than 1,000 individuals. On the other side of the globe, the Tahiti Monarch is recovering from just 19 birds through the hard work of SOP Manu (BirdLife in French Polynesia), who have managed to control not one, but nine invasive species.  

Juvenile Tahiti Monarch © Caroline Blanvillain

Sometimes it’s as simple as protecting habitat. In 2017, thanks to support from BirdLife Species Champion Urs-Peter Stäuble, our Partner SAVE Brasil helped to create a 1,688-hectare private reserve for the Cherry-throated Tanager in Brazil’s Atlantic forest. 

Every new project adds to our knowledge and experience, providing skills that are desperately needed to combat the ongoing extinction crisis. Currently, one of our most pressing priorities is to safeguard the Helmeted Hornbill, which has been hunted to the edge of extinction for its highly valuable solid ‘casque’, which can fetch huge prices on the Chinese black market.  

To address this, in 2018 conservationists from across the world – including BirdLife Partners in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong – joined forces to develop a ten-year Helmeted Hornbill Action Plan. Our priorities include mapping trade routes, strengthening law enforcement, educating communities and employing local rangers to safeguard the birds’ forest habitats. Much of this work is made possible thanks to the support of BirdLife Species Champions.  

Cherry-throated Tanager © Ciro Albano
“If a forest occupied by a Critically Endangered species is large enough, properly protected and well-managed, the bird involved should survive.”

Roger Safford, Senior Programme Manager, Preventing Extinctions


How you can help

Become a Species Champion

Do your part to protect a globally threatened bird that means the most to you.

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