“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before”. This statement is so true: there are few places in the world where man has not exerted his influence, and unlike birds, left something behind or irrevocably changed the environment.
However, there are at least some places where man’s impact has been limited. This may through the establishment of nature reserves, national parks and the proclamation of areas as RAMSAR sights – actions that make a commitment to conserve and protect these places.
BirdLife International’s Important Bird Areas Programme is a similar project. In this worldwide initiative, sites identified as being of conservation importance, based on scientific criteria, are monitored and actively protected by various means. The beauty of the programme is its simplicity: in order to conserve birds you first need to conserve the areas where they feed, breed and find security – in short, safeguard their habitat.
BirdLife South Africa has started a program to actively monitor and protect South Africa’s 122 IBAs. Mark Anderson, Executive Director of BirdLife South Africa has made it clear that the IBA programme will become one of the core activities of the organization. For example birding routes will be designed with IBAs in mind, communities living near IBAs will be educated about their value, and the Policy and Advocacy Division will endeavour to care for them by enhancing their protection status where needed.
But in order to make a success of the programme, we need help of all conservation minded people. For example, the IBA Programme needs supporters who will identify threats (for example mining applications) to IBAs, atlasers who will collect data for the country’s, and birders to participate in CWAC counts. Please consider becoming involved.
But you might ask where the IBAs in South Africa are? A Google Earth linked IBA interactive map, which shows the boundaries of the IBAs has been published on the BLSA website (http://www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/iba/149-google-map). By zooming in on a specific IBA and changing the map to a satellite image, the geographical details of the IBA can be seen.
You also have the opportunity to provide us with your details and tell us how you would like to become involved in the programme.
It is through the IBA Programme we can limit the influence of man on the most important bird habitats in the world. Birds leave the environment unchanged after building their nests, so let us follow their example.