Working for birds in Africa

State of the World's Birds 2004: Indicators for our Changing World

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 13:04 -- abc_admin
BirdLife International, 2004. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. (Printed version available from NHBS, but also available for free download from
page 74

This report is the first to summarise in one place the current state of the world's birds, the pressures facing them and some of the conservation community's responses. As such it is in effect a 'Red Book' for the state of the planet using the best known group of animals, i.e. birds, as examples to show both what has happened, what is still happening and what we are starting (but only starting) to do about it.

Each double-page spread is complete in itself and summarises the informarion on a particular topic. For example the 'Current State' section includes pages on Common species in decline, Declines can be quick and catastrophic, Threatened species occur worldwide, and Many have small ranges; the 'Pressure' section includes Expanding agriculture destroys, Unsustainable forestry is eroding biodiversity, Pollution, Overexploitation and Climate change; and the 'Response' section such as Actions have been identified for all Globally Threatened species, Important Bird Areas safeguard areas, and Wider landscape is important too. All are spelt out using particular examples and are well illustrated with photographs and relevant diagrams, many taken from very recent sources, and they include new analyses where necessary.

There is no doubt that this is an important document which needs to be read and acted upon. We as birdwatchers and conservationists will agree with all of it and many of the principles will be very well known to many of us, as will many of the specific examples quoted; and it is certainly handy to have a summary of all the main factors affecting birds in one place. However, it is politicians and other policy makers who really need to be targeted with it. In many cases it will be fine for them too, but there will be instances where even if the problem is worldwide all the illustrations for a problem are from one part of the world and politicians in another could say 'that does not apply to us'. To take just one example the Unsustainable forestry pages refer almost exclusively to south-east Asia, particularly Indonesia, with no mention of Africa and only a very brief mention of South America. There is no obvious way around this except by producing several documents with relevant, more local examples. For some topics I suspect this will be a good idea and at least in the worldwide web version it would feasible without a huge extra cost.

At £9 it is good value for 72 A4-size landscape pages but you can, if you prefer, see and download relevant (or all) pages from the BirdLife website (r.15 MB) for free, a very laudable initiative.

Peter Lack

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