Thursday, 16 August 2007

World's largest bird conservation programme launched

The BirdLife Species Champion initiative will be launched officially at this year's British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water (August 19-21). Aimed at saving the world’s 189 Critically Endangered birds species, it is the largest bird conservation programme of its kind and is expected to cost £19 million over five years.

The Bengal Florican, one of the world’s most threatened birds, will be first to benefit from this new conservation approach. With less than 1,000 individual birds remaining, the Bengal Florican has been given just five years before disappearing forever from its stronghold, the floodplain of the Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia. Since being re-discovered in Cambodia in 1999, Bengal Florican numbers have plummeted due to unregulated land conversion for intensive agriculture.

Species like the florican will benefit from the groundbreaking new ‘Species Champion’ approach. ‘Champions’ are being sought for Critically Endangered bird species, to fund identified conservation programmes that will aim to pull each species back from the brink of extinction. The ‘Species Champion’ for Bengal Florican is the British Birdwatching Fair 2007 itself, which will contribute toward conservation works being undertaken by ‘Species Guardians’ working in Cambodia. Three other Critically Endangered birds will also benefit: Belding’s Yellowthroat (Mexico), Djibouti Francolin (Djibouti), Restinga Antwren (Brazil).

“It is a fantastic privilege that Birdfair can act as Species Champion for the Bengal Florican,” said Martin Davies, co-organiser of the British Birdwatching Fair. "Visitors to the fair can take heart in knowing that their contributions will directly help the survival prospects of birds that otherwise would certainly disappear from the planet forever.”

“Critically Endangered birds can be saved from extinction through this innovative approach,” said Dr Mike Rands, Chief Executive of BirdLife International. “We know the priority conservation actions needed for each species – what we need now is the support of companies, organisations or even individuals –Species Champions.”

Photo: Bengal Florican by Allan Michaud