WHAT THE GLOBAL RED LIST UPDATE FOR BIRDS MEANS FOR SOUTH AFRICA
Posted on the 26th July 2014
BirdLife International Global Red List update for birds: what it means for South Africa. (A media release by BirdLife South Africa).
Johannesburg, 25 July 2014: BirdLife International, the custodian of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Bird Species, has recently completed a review of the conservation status of the world’s bird species. According to Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Head of Science, “the 2014 Global Red Listis crucial not only for helping to identify those species needing targeted recovery efforts, but also for focusing the conservation agenda by identifying the key sites and habitats that need to be saved, including Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas”.
This review is unique from previous years as it included the first of a two-part comprehensive taxonomic review focusing on non-passerines including raptors, seabirds, waterbirds and owls leading to the recognition and addition of 361 new species to the global bird species list. Previously,these birds were treated as subspecies or races of other forms. This revision has seen the number of non-passerines rise to 4 472, a 10% increase from previous years. “Put another way, one tenth of the world’s bird species have been flying below the conservation radar”, said Dr Stuart Butchart.
The new criteria for determining which taxa qualify as species has enlarged the scope of BirdLife International’s conservation focus and brings an added precision to identifying places most important for birds, nature and people; the areas of the planet that we need to urgently protect and save. It is of concern that more than 25% of these newly recognised birds have been listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List, compared with 13% of all birds, making them urgent priorities for conservation action.
Nine species occurring in South Africaare included in the taxonomic splits recognised by BirdLife International, although the majority of these were inconsequential in terms of Red listing processes. Of interest to South Africanconservation organisations is that Hottentot Buttonquail Turnix hottentottus, one of the newly recognised species, is now listed as globally Endangered.
BirdLife South Africa currently utilises the BirdLife South Africa 2014 checklist, based upon the global checklist provided by the International Ornithologist’s Union (IOU), as the basis for its Red List process, resulting in discrepancies between the two organisations. For instance, BirdLife International does not recognise the Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus as a separate species. This parrot is recognised by BirdLife South Africa and, following the precautionary approach, has been included at Endangered in the 2014 Regional Red List for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
As well as assessing newly recognised species, the 2014 global Red List also re-assesses the status of some existing species. Thanks to successful conservation efforts, the Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus,a regionally Critically Endangered bird, is recovering in Europe, but globally it is declining because of poisoning, disturbance and collisions with powerlines, resulting in it being uplisted to globally Near Threatened. The TaitaFalcon Falco fasciinucha, another regionally Critically Endangered species and one of the species on which BirdLife South Africa focuses its research and conservation efforts, has been uplistedto globally Vulnerable.
The 2014 global assessment also raises the importance of several threatened bird hotspots. Many of the newly recognised species are found in South-East Asia, where biodiversity is highly threatened. Parts of this region have already been identified as globally important areas of endemism (holding many species that occur nowhere else on Earth). These areas needimmediate conservation attention to protect the remaining habitat and safeguard the future of Critically Endangered birds.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (or the IUCN Red List) is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plant and animal species and the updated 2014 Global Red List for birds will help set future conservation and funding priorities.