Taking Care of the Birds

I’m on my way back to Beijing from the most inspirational meeting about birds I’ve ever witnessed. This week in Abu Dhabi I met birders, conservationists, scientists, government representatives, NGOs and many more people from an array of backgrounds and cultures who share a single passion – for migratory birds.

Convened by BirdLife International and hosted by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, the “Summit for the Flyways” was designed to address the decline in migratory bird populations on all of the world’s flyways, from the Eastern Pacific to East Asia-Australasia and everywhere in between. On all these migratory routes, populations of migratory birds are declining and, according to the “State of the World’s Birds“, launched at the Summit, 1 in 8 of the world’s bird species is at risk of extinction. However, alongside that wake-up call, there was a strong message of hope: conservation works!

Vivian Fu and Yong Ding-Li, two of Asia’s brightest stars in bird conservation, enjoy an early morning birding walk during the Summit of the Flyways.

The Summit showcased inspirational examples of how, when resources are available, bird conservation can be successful.  And passionate people – through local communities and champions – are at the heart of successful efforts to protect birds.  Given that migratory birds respect no borders, the BirdLife family – with more than 120 national partners around the world – is uniquely placed to coordinate efforts to save migratory birds along the flyways.

Alongside other members of the BirdLife Advisory Group, I was honoured to support Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s CEO, to convene more than ten international donors with a view to creating a “Global Alliance for Bird Conservation Action” and, with commitments secured from China’s Qiaonyu Foundation and the US’s National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to host further meetings in 2018 to broaden the alliance, it looks as if we’re well on the way to a step-change in funding for global bird conservation.

Tom Lovejoy, “The Godfather of Biodiversity”, with representatives of the Qiaonyu Foundation.

As Thomas Lovejoy said at the opening of the meeting – “If you take care of birds, you take care of most of the environmental problems in the world” and today I think we can say that, although there is still a huge amount to do to halt and reverse their decline, the future of migratory birds is a little brighter.

See the outcome declaration here.