Posted on the 4th January 2016

(Mark Anderson, the CEO of BirdLife Overberg discusses the ten highlights of BirdLife South Africa's activities during 2015. Wonderful work being done by the entire team. - Ed.)

During the holidays I started working on our 2015 annual report and, while doing so, I struggled to narrow down an extensive list of our achievements to just ten important highlights; these are:
Ten highlights during 2015
1. In August we moved into Isdell House, our new head office in Dunkeld West, Johannesburg. At last we have security, space and a premises which matches our professional work. We are immensely grateful to Pamela and Neville Isdell, the Chamberlain family, the Lewis Foundation, Otto Muller, Nick and Jane Prentice, Gaynor Rupert and the other donors who provided the funds and materials for this project.
2. BirdLife South Africa remains in a favourable financial position and, for the sixth consecutive year, we will end the year with a small surplus. We have a growing number of Golden Bird Patrons, with 28 patrons contributing R1.63 million during 2015. Funding was renewed for a number of positions and projects, and we have initiated a few new projects, including an estuaries conservation position in the Western Cape and a new education/youth membership position.
3. We produced three milestone publications: the revised “Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas of South Africa” directory, “Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas Status Report” and “The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland”. These will guide much of our conservation work during the next few years.
4. BirdLife South Africa continues to communicate with a large number, and diverse group, of people through our bi-monthly African Birdlife magazine, a monthly e-newsletter, our website, and social media. Our Facebook Page and Facebook Group now have 10,000 and 19,000 members respectively. With retail sales and subscriptions increasing during 2015, we increased the print run of African Birdlife magazine. The magazine is now also available in Pick n Pay stores (and sales in these stores have been very good).
5. Our small marketing team has again done very well, with assistance from our pro bono advertising agency, Utopia, and Continental Outdoor Media, in creating awareness about birds, bird conservation matters and our organisation. Some of the major initiatives this year were “Vote for South Africa’s Favourite Bird” (with the Cape Robin-Chat being voted as the favourite) and our Tuluver vulture awareness campaign. The reach of the Tuluver (an anagram for “Vulture”) campaign was 81.4 million people. About 19,000 people viewed the video on YouTube (see
6. We hosted a number of professional and well-attended events. These included the inaugural Flufftail Festival, Flock in Jozi, the Sasol Bird Fair, the Owl Awards, and the opening of Isdell House. The latter event was attended by about 340 people, each of whom received a branded “Love the Rainbird” umbrella (with commissioned Burchell’s Coucal sketches by Leigh Voigt).
7. We undertake research, monitoring and conservation work on a large number of threatened bird species, including albatrosses and other pelagic seabirds, African Penguins and other coastal seabirds, White-winged Flufftails, Lesser Flamingos, Taita Falcons, Southern Banded Snake-Eagles, and Blue Swallows. Our seabird conservation work has expanded to the Indian Ocean high seas (where we are implementing a US$1.5 million Global Environmental Facility funded FAO project), Marion Island (where we have completed a feasibility study on the eradication of mice which are having a major impact on nesting seabirds and two species of flightless moths), and West Africa (where we provide technical advice for the Alcyon Project, a marine Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas project).
8. BirdLife South Africa remains at the forefront of birds and renewable energy work in South Africa, and we are now recognised as a world authority in this field.
9. We are using Biodiversity Stewardship to protect our country’s most threatened Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas, including through the Biodiversity Fiscal Benefits Project. This project is testing the amendment to the Income Tax Act 37D, a revision for which BirdLife South Africa was largely responsible and which allows landowners to derive financial benefit after they commit to formally protect their properties.
10. Our conservation work is not limited to South Africa and, with funding from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, we are supporting BirdLife Zimbabwe, involved in bird conservation work in Mozambique and, in future, we will be expanding our efforts into other countries in the subregion.
It is the collective contributions of a growing number of people, companies and organisations (which includes staff, volunteers, bird clubs, members, citizen scientists, collaborators, donors, etc.) which are allowing us to “give conservation wings” and we are very grateful to have you “flying alongside us”.
All the very best for a happy, healthy and fun 2016, and may it be a year filled with lots of very special birding memories.


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