Archive for BirdLife International

BirdLife Bulgaria supports rewilding of Rhodope Mountains

The Rhodope Mountains, located southeast of Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, comprise a beautiful and wide mountain range known locally as the Mountains of Orpheus, reputed to be the birthplace of the mythical musician. Continue reading

Champions of the Flyway 2014 race helps mobilise falconers to save migratory raptors in Georgia

On 1st April 2014, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), BirdLife Partner in this Israel, gave its Georgian homologue a good news: the Society for Nature Protection in Georgia (SABUKO) would be the first recipient of the 30,000$ (24,157 euros) raised during the Champions of the Flyway race organised in Eilat, Israel, 1 – 2 April 2014. Was it an April Fools’ Day prank? Fortunately not! Continue reading

New project to repair and protect the Berlengas archipelago’s rich ecosystem

Only 30 people live in the Berlengas archipelago off the Portuguese coast, yet there is a lot of activity to report from these small islands. Included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), Berlengas is known to be home for several species of marine birds and for hosting a diverse ecosystem. Continue reading

Tackling illegal trapping in Cyprus

“I wouldn’t want to be a bird because it is so difficult”, said a young girl in a school in Cyprus. She had just been a migratory bird herself, whilst taking part in a board game created by BirdLife Cyprus, as part of their illegal bird trapping communications campaign. The realisation of a little Blackcap’s plight clearly made a big impression on her.

In Cyprus, the illegal trapping of birds is a chronic and gut-wrenching problem. On this island every year millions of migrating birds stop for a rest on their arduous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea only to find they cannot take off again. Their feet are stuck in glue, which trappers have heedlessly pasted onto sticks. The birds suffer an agonising death from thirst and exhaustion, or at the greedy hands of the trappers. Or just as inhumane is the death in fine ‘mist’ nets where every attempt to escape causes further entanglement. Based on the last systematic sample, there were over 13km of mist nets estimated on Cyprus in the autumn in 2013 and an unknown number of limesticks, many accompanied by bird-calling devices that imply a safe resting spot for the weary migrants but actually lure birds to their death.

The reason: ambelopoulia. A local ‘delicacy’ consisting of trapped Blackcap and other tiny songbirds, eaten whole – legs, beak, entrails and all. A plate of a dozen ambelopoulia sells for between €40 and €80 in law-breaking restaurants.

Blackcap © Neill Hunt, from the surfbirds galleries.

The majority of Cypriots do not consider bird trapping a serious issue, despite it being illegal by national legislation since 1974. But with 152 different bird species implicated, of which 78 being classified as threatened; and more than 2.5 million birds killed every year it becomes clear that an ecological disaster is taking place under the radar.

So a major shift in public opinion is needed: with funding from the MAVA Foundation, BirdLife Cyprus embarked on a zero-tolerance communications campaign to shift public opinion against ambelopoulia and trapping. In Cyprus it is quite ground-breaking to be disseminating in-your-face environmental messages, and BirdLife Cyprus is taking their campaign right into the public eye. They have placed huge Make the Change: Say No to Ambelopoulia posters on billboards on major highways and in notorious trapping areas, and pushed further with national media coverage in the lead up to the spring hunting season.

The campaign is dispelling the myth that bird trapping is still the harmless, small-scale tradition it perhaps used to be: in fact it is a lucrative and industrialised business earning mafia-like criminal networks a total of around €15 million illegally each year, according to the state Game and Fauna Service. “This initiative funded by the MAVA Foundation gave us the platform we needed to jump to a new level in our communications campaigning”, said Martin Hellicar, Research Coordinator, BirdLife Cyprus. Martin and the team are focusing their messages on the huge scale of the organised slaughter and the reckless non-selectivity of the criminals’ trapping methods. When informed, the public are largely against it.

BirdLife Partners recognise that long-term commitments are needed to solve such a chronic problem as illegal killing, so it is important to cut the recruitment of the next generation. As well as pushing for political and consumer change, BirdLife Cyprus’ communications campaign is finding a way into the trapping communities through school visits. Sadly, many children there have seen nets and limesticks in use. “At one particular school”, said Natalie Stylianou, Media Officer for BirdLife Cyprus, “the first mention of the word ambelopoulia caused one young boy to immediately rub his belly and lick his lips.” It is a difficult arena, but one that the team are making a big difference in.

With the initial MAVA foundation funding, the team first produced educational materials and the success of this catalysed further funding for an educational package including a cartoon animation in which a friendly blackcap clearly explains his plight, and the aforementioned board game.

BirdLife Cyprus have developed a Strategic Action Plan against illegal bird trapping that, for the first time, brings together all relevant stakeholders to agree a common framework. “We have now managed to persuade them that we need a game-changer”, said Martin. Political will to address this issue has been the major challenge in recent years, but encouragingly, the Strategy has the support of the European Commission (EC), whom BirdLife Cyprus have been keeping updated with reports, and the EC are keen to see the adoption of this Strategy by Cyprus.

“We are close to having everyone put their name to an agreed new start, and from every angle begin to make a real difference in the number of birds slaughtered,” said Martin.

In May 2014 with funding from the MAVA Foundation, BirdLife organised a workshop involving a group of 26 representatives from conservation NGOs in the Mediterranean (including 13 BirdLife Partners- that’s over 10% of the whole Partnership) with one common thought in mind: we will work together to protect migratory birds in the Mediterranean. “The strength of the BirdLife Partnership lies in the power of many,” said BirdLife’s Director of Conservation, Richard Grimmett. “Things can change. Give them a chance and the birds will come back.”

Referring to the regional support BirdLife has provided through the Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean project, Martin says:“We are a little island besieged by illegal trappers, so to know you are not alone is really important.”

Seasonal help needed for tropical sandpiper

Birdlife International has raised 76% of the funds needed to restore six stunningly beautiful Pacific islands next year but still need your help.

Help Birdlife International now

Pacific islands are under siege by invasive species introduced by humans. As a result, a staggering 81 bird species are threatened with extinction today.

Removing these introduced invaders is the immediate priority for BirdLife International.

The situation remains dire in French Polynesia, where most native birds are at immediate risk of extinction. These remote, scattered archipelagos have a high number of endemic birds, many of which are globally threatened. The primary cause is invasive species which are pushing these unique birds toward extinction.

Your generous support will be used to pay for hiring boats, helicopters staff and purchasing the equipment needed to ensure our years of careful planning is expertly implemented. Your support will allow the Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove, Tuamotu Sandpiper, White-throated Storm-petrel, and Phoenix Petrel populations to recover. Safe from predators.

Please make a gift for nature this Christmas, and help us to restore the Gambier Archipelago to its former glory.

Organisations supporting this project include SOP Manu (BirdLife in French Polynesia), the European Union, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the British Birdwatching Fair, the Canadian T/GEAR Charitable Trust and Bird Studies Canada, Island Conservation and Bell Laboratories.

Better days for European Rollers in Serbia

European Roller is a modern symbol of nature conservation in Serbia. In the first half of the 20th century, the species was very common in the lowlands, as well as in hilly areas and river valleys of central and eastern part of the country. Continue reading

Disaster in the Sundarbans

A tanker and another vessel have collided, spilling more than 350,000 litres of oil into the waters of the Sundarban tidal mangrove forests in Bangladesh.

An oil and mud soaked kingfisher at Mrigamari canal, Sundarbans, Bangladesh.(Tanim Ashraf)

“It is hard to separate emotions from the facts when a member of your family dies. A part of you dies with them. Dealing with the oil spill in the Sundarbans is no less than this — a wound that time may not heal.”

Sayam Chowdhury is the Principal Investigator of the Sundarbans Finfoot Research Project and knows this amazing part of Bangladesh well.

Credit: Helal Sujon

Credit: Helal Sujon

The Sundarbans is the largest delta covered with mangrove forests and vast saline mud flats in the world. It contains large swaths of protected areas that host a diverse wildlife, including Bengal Tiger, river dolphins as well as threatened birds such as Masked Finfoot.

“The oil is entering the narrow creeks and accumulating along the banks where Masked Finfoot and other waterbirds forage. If the crabs and small fish are dying then it is very likely that finfoot will be the next, as those are their main food items”, said Sayam Chowdhury,

Credit: Helal Sujon

Credit: Helal Sujon

“Also, if the birds are covered in oil and it gets into their eyes, they are less likely to escape predation, their body temperatures may drop, they may not be able to hunt, and will likely starve to death. This is true for more than 100 species of waterbirds, including 8 species of kingfishers and at least 10 species of birds of prey. Only the short-term possible effects are listed here. The long-term impact of this spill on the bird life of the Sundarbans is unimaginable.”

The oil spill clean up is almost wholly dependent on locals in the area, and whio have no equipment, training, or protection.

Credit: Helal Sujon

The Sundarbans, which extends across southern Bangladesh and into India, is home to around four million people, most of whom make their living directly from the great forest and it’s labyrinthine waterways.

Lima: a failure to build momentum

The UN climate talks crept into the early hours of Sunday morning – more than 30 hours after the scheduled close – as Peruvian Environment Minister Pulgar Vidal begged governments to “give hope to the world”. Continue reading

European Medicines Agency asks the European Commission to address vulture-killing drug

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has supported the arguments expressed by BirdLife regarding the risk that the veterinary use of the drug diclofenac represents to vultures. Continue reading

Creating a Pacific Sanctuary

Pacific islands are under siege by invasive species, carelessly and un-naturally introduced by humans, and which are causing devastating problems for nature and people. Continue reading