18 Dec 2019

Explore the latest threatened bird habitats we can’t afford to lose

Our list of Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas in Danger is so much more than a number. Each year we update this list and produce a Story Map, enabling you to immerse yourself in the unique tales of some of these areas. Find out what has happened to last year’s spotlight IBAs in Danger and discover new incredible but imperilled habitats in our latest instalment.

© Richard Whitcombe
© Richard Whitcombe
By Cressida Stevens

Protecting the world’s birds is a huge undertaking, but we are equipped with two invaluable assets:  a powerful team of the world’s top ornithologists, and a collaborative network of passionate conservationists the world over, allowing our efforts to reach some of earth’s most far-flung bird hotspots. From this vantage point, our approach puts bird conservation into more manageable pieces, by identifying Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), and then further distilling these to pinpoint the IBAs in Danger – the places in most dire need of saving.

The list of IBAs in Danger list is never static: new sites come under threat and old sites get removed, either due to successful interventions or sometimes, because the site is irreversibly lost. Our scientists work continuously to keep the list of the world’s most important and at-risk sites up-to-date, so that every bird species is accounted for. Currently, the list stands at 255 sites, with the majority of these in Europe and Central Asia (113), followed by Africa (59) and the Pacific (32). All of these sites are also Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), allowing coordinated action with other KBA Partner organisations extending beyond the BirdLife Partnership.

One such site that is currently receiving support from the KBA Partnership is Atewa Forest in Ghana, which is threatened by a planned bauxite mine – but conservationists are advocating passionately to save it and a petition is gathering thousands of signatures across the world. Situations like this can appear dire, but political interventions such as these have paid off elsewhere recently.

A major conservation win was achieved in the Gediz Delta in Turkey. Gediz Delta is designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention for its internationally important populations of waterbirds, including 15,000 pairs of Greater Flamingoes Phoenicopterus roseus. It was in grave danger when the National Wetlands Committee of Turkey accepted a proposal for excessive urban development of the Delta. However, after two years of deliberations, the Administrative Court of Izmir has cancelled this decision, so conservationists can breathe a sigh of relief as the future of this star wetland seems secure from harmful developments.

Flamingo haven Gediz Delta was saved from the construction of a mega-bridge © Doğa

You can dive into more detail with some of these places in our Story Map. In last year’s episode, we put the spotlight on the Pacific IBAs in danger, and since then our Partners have reported back to us stories of success in these places. For example, SOP Manu (our French Polynesian Partner) have got the community on board with a goat control program after much consultation on the islands of Ilots Rocheux de Rapa et Marotiri. Here, invasive species pose a threat to precious birds such as the Rapa Fruit-dove Ptilinopus huttoni, but since the control program took off in October 2019, this threat is now being tackled.

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Other Pacific successes include a petition with over 50,000 Australian and international signatures  contributing to the rejection of an application for mining exploration on Christmas Island, and on Vallées Maruapo, Papehue, Hopuetamai et Orofero, thanks to control of Little Fire ants Wasmannia auropunctata, Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer and Common Myna Acridotheres tristis, the number of Tahiti Monarch Pomarea nigra is the highest it has been in 20 years

This year, our Story Map takes us across to the other side of the ocean with a focus on the Americas, from the jungles and grasslands of Cuenca del Aguapey in Argentina, up to Canada’s Fraser River Delta in the snowy surrounds of the Rocky Mountains.

In Chile, the Mataquito River estuary IBA lacks any sort of formal protection, leaving it exposed to a multitude of problems including river contamination, feral dogs and disturbance from recreational motorcycle use. However, filled with passion and pride for the Chilean Flamingos Phoenicopterus chilensis, Black Skimmers Rynchops niger and other special species that live there, the local community have been stirred to conduct surveys and establish initiatives to safeguard them.

Local people are making important commitments in Argentina too, where deforestation has decimated large expanses of natural grassland. Many globally threatened bird species including the Strange-tailed Tyrant Alectrurus risora and the Black-and-white Monjita Xolmis dominicanus are suffering as a result. But there is hope: many farmers are now engaging in the Grassland Alliance and practising sustainable agricultural methods allowing conservation of this crucial habitat.

There is so much more for you to discover within our Story Map. For example, how is tea being used to protect the wildlife-rich forests of San Rafael in Paraguay? And what will become of the many endemic bird species of the Dominican Republic, when the Minister of Environment himself is promoting the practice of environmentally harmful avocado farming there? Go ahead and explore the charms and challenges of these precious places below, and be sure to check in again next year, to uncover how these stories develop.


Take a look at the map below, or check it out in its full glory here