South Africa ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the world with a recorded 858 species gracing our skies and seas, including 31 birds found nowhere else on earth. From the charismatic African penguin to the iconic ground-hornbill, South Africa is truly a birder’s paradise.
But a number of our species are under threat from habitat encroachment and human intervention. The MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet Fundraising Programme works with some inspiring organisations whose efforts are helping to conserve these birds for our future generations.
The southern ground-hornbill is considered Vulnerable throughout Africa by the IUCN, but within South Africa specifically, this classification has been up listed to Endangered. It is estimated that there are only around 1,500 ground-hornbills left in South Africa. Their decline is mostly due to habitat loss from the agriculture industry but also poisoning.
The Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project is working to slow the decline by assisting in rearing second-hatched chicks that usually die of starvation in wild nests before releasing them back into the bush. Some of these chicks are also reintroduced into areas where they have become locally extinct after the area’s initial issues have been taken care of. They also work to spread public awareness about the threats facing the species as well as conduct research on their behaviour and genetics in an effort to better understand how to protect them.
Birdlife South Africa is part of the BirdLife International Partnership. With 125 bird species being listed in the Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, the conservation of these birds is one of their most important responsibilities. BirdLife South Africa focuses their work on protecting ‘Important Bird Areas’ which hold large numbers of threatened species. They also work together with local communities on environmental education, training birding guides and managing birdwatching routes.
To date, the work of Birdlife South Africa has helped to reduce the mortalities of albatrosses and petrels from long-line fishing by 85%, alongside many other notable achievements.
Based in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve in Port Elizabeth, SAMREC’s mission is to rescue and rehabilitate seabirds with the end goal of releasing them back into the wild as quickly as possible. Focusing on the conservation of African penguins, their aim is to try help reverse their declining population numbers. It is estimated that in the last 50 years the African penguin population has declined by a shocking 91%, with researchers predicting that the species will be extinct in the wild by 2025.
African vulture conservation is a difficult task because the factors facing this threatened species are extremely varied. Birds are poisoned by farmers or poachers who either lace animal carcasses to intentionally kill vultures or poison them by mistake as the birds ingest poison intended to kill other animals when scavenging. A single poisoned elephant can kill hundreds of vultures. Even power lines pose a major threat to vultures.
VulPro is a major player in helping to protect vultures. They rescue and rehabilitate vultures that are found in the wild before releasing those who are able to survive. They are also involved in conservation breeding of vultures and reintroduce these individuals into the wild to supplement the Cape vulture population. An important aspect of what VulPro does is to create educational and awareness programmes and assist with mitigating farmer-vulture conflicts that are threatening the survival of the species.
Based in KwaZulu-Natal, the African Raptor Trust is an NGO that provides legal and financial framework for non-profit work undertaken on behalf of raptor species in need. It supports vital aspects of raptor conservation including the rescue and rehabilitation of injured and sick birds of prey, raptor research, conservation breeding and raptor education and public awareness outreach. There are 81 raptor species, but human activities have threatened their survival, with just under a quarter of raptors listed as Rare, Threatened or Endangered.
SANCCOB works towards the protection of Southern Africa’s coastal birds. To date they have helped to treat over 85,000 seabirds, many of which are classified as Vulnerable. Perhaps best known for their work with oiled penguins, they have pioneered many oiled penguin rehabilitation procedures, saving thousands of birds in the process.
With an estimated 25,000 breeding pairs left in the wild, the population is at approximately 2.5% of the estimated figure of one million breeding pairs, recorded in the early 20th Century. But according to UCT’s Animal Demography Unit, the African penguin population is 19% higher today than it would have been, thanks to SANCCOB’s efforts. They are also highly involved in rescuing and rehabilitating injured and vulnerable sea birds and spreading public awareness of their plight.
Support these worthy causes and help to ensure the survival of our birds by signing up for a free MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card. A percentage of your purchases at partner stores will be given back to your chosen organisation.