Sir David Attenborough joins the campaign to save Jankowski’s Bunting!

2013-01-15 DA with JB
Sir David Attenborough supporting the campaign to save JANKOWSKI’S BUNTING.

If I was asked to name just one person who had been the biggest inspiration to me over my lifetime, I would have no hesitation.  Sir David Attenborough.  Vivid in my memory from a child to the present day are series such as Life on Earth, Living Planet, Life in the Freezer, The Life of Birds and, more recently, The Blue Planet and Planet Earth.  The significant percentage of my DVD collection that is made up of natural history documentaries narrated by Sir David is testament to the influence he has had on me.  In my view he is simply the greatest broadcaster and communicator of conservation that has ever lived.

As well as teaching me an immense amount about the natural world and nurturing my sense of wonder and awe at the incredible diversity and complexity of life on our planet, Sir David has also imprinted on my DNA the importance of conservation.  The message he delivered at the end of State of the Planet in 2000 has stayed with me:

“The future of life on earth depends on our ability to take action. Many individuals are doing what they can, but real success can only come if there’s a change in our societies and our economics and in our politics. I’ve been lucky in my lifetime to see some of the greatest spectacles that the natural world has to offer. Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy, inhabitable by all species.”

So, as you can imagine, it was with huge excitement that I learned Sir David was to visit Beijing as part of a trip to China to film a new series on the origins of vertebrates.  At the age of 86, he maintains an enthusiasm and passion for the natural world that is impossible not to admire.  His visit was a golden opportunity to discuss the plight of JANKOWSKI’S BUNTING and, of course, he was only too happy to lend his weight to the campaign.  Sir David is already a Species Champion for the Araripe Manakin under the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme, so he knows how vital it is to protect our biodiversity and also, importantly, what is needed to save a species from extinction.

Thank you, Sir David.

You too can support the campaign to save Jankowski’s Bunting by donating here.  We have so far raised over GBP 1,200 towards a target of GBP 10,000.  We are confident that, with modest resources, this bird can be saved.  How cool would it be to think that you were one of only a handful of people in the world that helped save a species from extinction?   

Birding Beijing Becomes A BirdLife Species Champion!

Roughly one in eight of the world’s 10,000 bird species is facing extinction.  To be precise, 727 are classified as “Vulnerable”, 389 “Endangered” and 197 “Critically Endangered”.  See here.  Scientists estimate that the natural extinction rate for birds is one species per 100 years.  In the last 30 years alone we have lost 21.

Threatened birds are spread throughout the world.  China is home to 87, of which 62 are classified “Vulnerable”, 16 “Endangered” and 9 “Critically Endangered”.

Since arriving in Beijing in August 2010, I have been fortunate to see 27 of China’s threatened birds, including 4 “Critically Endangered”  – Baer’s Pochard, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Siberian Crane and Chinese Crested Tern.  Although two of the “Critically Endangered” species were seen on dedicated trips to specific locations where they are almost guaranteed, I have been fortunate enough to find two myself in Beijing – Baer’s Pochard and Siberian Crane.

Watching a Baer’s Pochard on a small reservoir in Beijing, I couldn’t help but think about the threats that this bird faced on its lonely journey north – whether it would find a mate and, given the long-term drought in northeast China, whether it would find a suitable breeding site.  And if it did, would breeding be successful?  It seemed to me a perilous situation for this bird.  At the same time I felt inspired to do what I could to help halt the slide towards extinction of this species and others like it.  I am constantly surprised and encouraged by examples of the resilience of nature, if given a chance.  The contributions of Chinese ornithologists to save species such as the Crested Ibis, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Chinese Crested Tern are all good examples of dedicated efforts giving these species a fighting chance.  I am hopeful that the Baer’s Pochard, and others like it, can be saved with a combination of modest resources, targeted action and dedicated people on the ground.

After exploring how best I could make a difference, I decided that the first step would be to support the Preventing Extinctions Programme by becoming a Species Champion.  BirdLife International is the largest international partnership of conservation organisations and is the authority for birds on the IUCN Red List.  It is therefore well placed to initiate and coordinate action plans, in direct collaboration with local organisations, to help save the most threatened species.  You can see examples of their ongoing work here.

Of course, I have a particular interest in China’s birds and I will soon be launching an appeal for one species in particular that BirdLife needs urgent help to save…  watch this space!