Threatened species can be saved

D. Hansen/

Action at individual sites, or in the wider environment, can go a long way to achieving conservation goals. Sometimes, however, the problems facing individual species call for more targeted responses. Often this starts with research to understand an observed decline. This may identify specific actions that need to be taken, such as control of predators or provision of nest sites. Translocations of populations, or reintroductions from captivity, may often be viewed as a last resort, but can be remarkably successful.



Key messages and case studies

Conducting research to understand conservation needs
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The first priority in trying to address population declines in a species is to understand the causes of decline. Where these are not immediately apparent, targeted research may be necessary. Such research needs to look at species at all stages of their life-cycle—in migratory species for example it may be factors at wintering grounds or on migration routes rather than at breeding sites that are causing problems (Investigating the causes of Sociable Lapwing declines, Stable isotope analysis reveals the wintering grounds of the Aquatic Warbler, Using satellite tracking to discover the wintering grounds of Northern Bald Ibis). While sometimes it becomes evident that there are multiple causes of a decline, sometimes a single factor is found to be responsible.

Managing specific populations and addressing threats
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Species-specific conservation interventions for highly threatened species may take a variety of forms, from protecting nests (Nest protection and brood manipulation has helped the Mauritius Parakeet to recover), creating artificial nest-sites (Bermuda Petrel is being conserved through translocation and provision of artificial nest-sites), providing supplementary food (Supplementary feeding for vultures in Nepal, Back from the brink: four Critically Endangered species saved from extinction), translocating birds (Translocating Rimatara Lorikeets to Atui, Cook Islands), eradicating invasive species (Restoring island ecosystems by eradicating invasive alien species, Eradicating introduced mammals from Clipperton Island led to dramatic recovery of seabirds, A 27,000km voyage of conservation has helped safeguard some of the world’s most imperiled seabirdsHabitat restoration has led to the recovery of the Azores Bullfinch), mitigating incidental mortality in fisheries (Simple changes to fishing methods can get seabirds off the hook , The Albatross Task Force is bridging the gap between conservationists and fishermen) or launching species-specific campaigns and awareness-raising to tackle specific issues (Raising public awareness to save the Yellow-eared Parrot , Education will be key to safeguarding Asia’s most imperiled birds).

Re-introducing birds where necessary
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Captive-breeding is generally regarded a last resort, to be fallen back on when all other attempts at conservation have failed. The ultimate aim of captive-breeding projects is always to support conservation of species in the wild. Reintroduction is usually a difficult, expensive and time-consuming undertaking, but can be successful (Reintroduction of Californian Condor: the role of captive breeding, Captive breeding and release of Crested Ibis: linking Japan and China, Rat eradication and captive breeding have helped save the Campbell Islands Teal from extinction).

Species can be saved from extinction
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Where threats are tackled through directed interventions, conservation can succeed. Some species have been brought back from the brink of extinction in spectacular fashion. At least 16 species would undoubtedly have gone extinct in the last decade alone without the conservation action they received (16 species would have gone extinct in the last decade without conservation action). However, action is urgently required for many more species; BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme is tackling this by greatly increasing actions directed specifically at highly threatened birds (Species Guardians and Species Champions: taking and funding action for the most threatened species).