Spotlight on conservation success stories
Azores Bullfinch © Simon Cook/
The pressures on the world’s flora and fauna and the habitats where they live are considerable. Recent assessments show a continued, steady overall decline in wild species’ populations with accelerating levels of extinction risk. The enormity of tackling this biodiversity crisis can often seem overwhelming—however, for birds, there are numerous inspiring success stories that demonstrate that, given sufficient resources and political will, species can recover and habitats can be restored. The BirdLife Partnership has been responsible for many of these interventions and continues to find innovative ways to safeguard biodiversity that maximise the benefits to and involvement of local communities and stakeholders.


Effective conservation depends on targeting those species and habitats of greatest importance and most immediate risk. The identification of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) has helped focus conservation energies and inform the designation of protected areas (In Africa, recognition of the value of IBAs is resulting in the designation of new protected areas, Identification of Lo Go Xa Mat as an IBA in Vietnam resulted in its being declared a national park). Timor-Leste, for instance, recently established its first national park by linking together three IBAs, bringing much-needed protection to globally threatened species such as Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea and Timor Green-pigeon Treron psittaceus (In Timor-Leste, in 2007, three IBAs were linked and protected as the first National Park). In Europe, BirdLife’s IBA inventory has been adopted as a ‘shadow list’ in creating a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EU Birds Directive (In the European Union there has been slow but significant progress in the legal recognition of IBAs). In many regions, the inventory has been used to develop ‘shadow lists’ of potential Ramsar sites (wetlands of international importance) while, worldwide, ‘gap analyses’ comparing the locations of IBAs with those of existing protected areas have helped countries implement the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA).

Through the Herculean efforts of conservationists, numerous species have been rescued from the brink of extinction. At least 33 bird species would have gone extinct in the last century, including 16 during the last 15 years, without dedicated conservation action (Without conservation action, 16 bird species would have gone extinct over the last ten yearsCaptive breeding and release of Asian Crested Ibis: linking Japan and China, Back from the brink: four Critically Endangered species saved from extinction). BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme has appointed over 50 ‘Species Guardians’—local organisations or individuals responsible for implementing the conservation actions necessary for saving the world’s most Critically Endangered birds (). For example, in the Azores, SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal)—the Species Guardian for the archipelago’s endemic Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina—has had spectacular success in reversing the species decline through habitat management and restoration (Species Guardians and Species Champions: taking and funding action for the most threatened species). Success is also being achieved in addressing wide-scale threats such as habitat loss (Habitat restoration has led to the recovery of the Azores Bullfinch), infrastructure development (Safer powerlines for Hungary's birdsCampaign to save the Rospuda Valley in Poland from a proposed road development), hunting (Hunting ban reversed decline of White-headed Duck in Spain), and fishing. BirdLife and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have established a team—the Albatross Task Force (ATF)—to instruct fishermen on how to reduce seabird bycatch. Working across southern Africa and South America, the team has already had a dramatic impact. For example, in South African waters there has been an 85% reduction in albatross mortality since the project began (Working with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations reduces albatross declines, The Albatross Task Force is bridging the gap between conservationists and fishermen).

Conserving biodiversity and eliminating poverty are linked global challenges. Working alongside those who will ultimately benefit most from conservation, BirdLife and its Partners have been able to achieve lasting conservation success. At Mount Oku IBA in Cameroon, a BirdLife initiated community-managed forest project has resulted in significant forest regeneration, whilst also improving local agricultural practices and generating additional sources of income (Community conservation action is showing success on Mount Oku, Cameroom). As well as providing these livelihood benefits, restored ecosystems can also play a key role in mitigating against the worst impacts of climate change (Healthy forests are benefiting local livelihoods in Pakistan).

To access case studies on these, and many more, conservation success stories, please click on the following links.