This summer, the British Birdwatching Fair will celebrate its 30th birthday – marking three decades of global conservation impact. Every year proceeds from the event, dubbed the ‘Glastonbury of birdwatching’, go towards a conservation project, chosen and managed by BirdLife. The result: millions of pounds raised towards saving some of the world’s most threatened species and sites, and the formation of some of our cornerstone projects…
1989: Stop the Massacre Campaign
Birds that benefit: Migratory birds in the Miditerranean, focusing on the European Robin Erithacus Rubecula
Amount raised: £3,000
ICBP (International Council for Bird Preservation, rebranded BirdLife in 1993) aimed to tackle hunting and trapping with the first Birdfair project. Birdfair supported an education programme lead by BirdLife Malta, which generated huge publicity in Malta.
1990: Helping Save Spain’s Doñana National Park
Amount raised: £10,000
Doñana wetlands faced its biggest threat with the proposal of a huge tourist development: “Costa Doñana”. This campaign halted the development and financed a visitor centre.
1991: Danube Delta Project
Amount raised: £20,000
The Danube Delta’s wetlands escaped the threat of drainage when the new administration declared it a World Heritage Site and a Ramsar Site. However, wardens lacked basic equipment. Birdfair funded the provision of essential kit.
1992: Spanish Steppes Appeal
Amount raised: £30,000
Spain’s sweeping grasslands faced destruction by large-scale irrigation schemes funded by the EU. The Spanish Steppes Appeal was one of the first truly effective examples of European-level collaborative conservation across the newly re-modelled BirdLife International Partnership.
1993: Polish Wetlands Project
Amount raised: £40,000
Birdfair supported the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP) to update its directory of wetland Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) and seek protection for these areas. The funds have also helped Poland’s first reserve in the Swina Estuary protect Aquatic Warblers.
1994: Project Halmahera
Birds that benefit: Standardwing Bird-of-paradise Semioptera Wallacii
Amount raised: £41,000
In 1994, Halmahera was the largest Indonesian island not to possess any National Parks or other protected areas. Birdfair funded research to pinpoint priority areas for protection. Sadly, civil unrest in the area disrupted the process, but BirdLife clung on, and the first National Park was declared in 2004.
1995: Moroccan Wetlands Project
Amount raised: £45,000
Sandwiched between sea and desert, the wetlands along the Moroccan coast are a lifeline for migrating waterbirds. But they are also under pressure from human use. Birdfair funded the better management of key sites along this route.
1996: Ke Go Forest Project
Amount raised: £50,000
Ke Go is the one of the few remaining blocks of lowland forest in Vietnam. In 1996, with the publicity and financial backing of Birdfair, it was declared a nature reserve. BirdLife continues to fight the ever-present threat of illegal logging.
1997: Mindo Important Bird Area Project
Amount raised: £60,000
In 1997, with the help of Birdfair, Ecuador’s species-rich Mindo cloud-forest was declared the first IBA in the whole of South America, launching BirdLife’s IBA programme in that continent.
1998: BirdLife International Threatened Birds Programme
Amount raised: £120,000
With one in eight bird species threatened with extinction, Birdfair funded research to gather information on their populations, creating the landmark book Threatened Birds of the World, crucial in informing conservation action.
1999: Rescuing Brazil’s Atlantic Forests
Amount raised: £130,000
Forty-three of Brazil’s 103 threatened bird species depend on its dwindling Atlantic forests. 1999’s Birdfair project aimed to preserve them. Successes included Murici forest being declared an Ecological Station.
2000: Save the Albatross Campaign – Keeping the World’s Seabirds off the Hook
Birds that benefit: Seabirds including the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans(Vulnerable)
Amount raised: £122,000
Albatrosses are the most threatened group of seabird, and one of the biggest threats is death on the baited hooks of long-line fisheries. Birdfair funded the launch of the Global Seabird Programme, which paved the way for BirdLife’s highly successful Albatross Task Force.
2001: Eastern Cuba – Saving a Unique Caribbean Wilderness
Amount raised: £135,000
Cuba hosts 350 bird species, including the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird. Birdfair funded vital research, providing field equipment and setting up Cuba’s IBA network, which attracted funding for the entire Caribbean.
2002: Saving the Last Lowland Rainforests in Sumatra
Birds that benefit: Red-naped Trogon Harpactes kasumba (Near Threatened)
Amount raised: £147,000
Birdfair funded Burung Indonesia (BirdLife Partner) to identify priority areas of Sumatra’s dwindling lowland rainforest for protection. After intense lobbying, the government issued the very first forest restoration license to preserve one such forest from logging and plantations.
2003: Saving Madagascar’s Fragile Wetlands
Amount raised: £157,000
This project engaged local people, working with governments, communities and businesses to draw up legal agreements. These have now expanded into two Protected Areas.
2004: Saving Northern Peru’s Dry Forests
Amount raised: £164,000
Sandwiched between the Andes, the Sechura Desert and the Pacific Ocean, this isolated region is one of the top ten most biologically unique areas of the planet. Birdfair funded several successful conservation projects here.
2005: Saving Gurney’s Pittas and their Forest Home
Birds that benefit: Gurney’s Pitta Hydrornis gurneyi (Endangered)
Amount raised: £200,000
Gurney’s Pitta was thought to be lost, so their discovery in Myanmar’s lowland forests was a fantastic event – but also an urgent one, with the forest threatened by clearance for oil palm plantations. Birdfair-funded fieldwork advanced our understanding of this bird.
2006: Saving the Pacific’s Parrots
Amount raised: £215,000
Birdfair funded conservation across the Pacific region, focusing on six threatened parrot species. A major success involved Rima Lorikeets being re-introduced to their original home island of Aitu, where they now thrive.
2007: Preventing Extinctions Programme
Amount raised: £226,000
Birdfair helped start BirdLife’s initiative to save Critically Endangered birds, linking Species Champions (organisations or individuals providing funds to save a species) with Species Guardians (leading targeted action on the ground).
2008: Preventing Extinctions Programme
Amount raised: £265,000
Building on 2007’s success, a further six Critically Endangered birds were highlighted, and the search for Species Champions to “adopt” them proved very successful.
2009: Preventing Extinctions Programme: “Lost and Found”
Amount raised: £263,000
Birdfair funded work to establish whether 15 “lost” species survived in the wild – thus informing conservation decisions. A successful example was the search for the Fiji Petrel, which uncovered eight individuals.
2010: Southern Ethiopian Endemics
Amount raised: £243,000
Ethiopia’s endemic birds are increasingly threatened. Birdfair funded the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (BirdLife Partner) to work with locals to preserve the Liben Lark’s tiny grassland range.
2011: Flyways Programme – African-Eurasian Flyway
Amount raised: £227,000
In its first year of Birdfair support, the BirdLife Flyways Programme focused on birds breeding in Europe but overwintering in sub-Saharan Africa. Birdfair helped raise awareness, and a new Flyway Action Plan was spearheaded.
2012: Flyways Programme – East Asia-Australasian Flyway
Amount raised: £200,000
2012’s project empowered Partners across East Asia to protect key wetlands, used by 50 million migratory waterbirds but encroached upon by human expansion. The Gulf of Martaban in Myanmar was declared a Ramsar site.
2013: Flyways Programme – Americans Flyway (Prairies to Pampas)
Amount raised: £270,000
Across the Americas’ grasslands, traditional ranching is giving way to intensive livestock rearing. 2013 focused on supporting Partners in South America’s Southern Cone, with initiatives such as “bird-friendly” beef certification, and protecting important grassland sites.
2014: Saving the Seas and Oceans
Amount raised: £280,000
Oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface, yet conservation actions for marine areas lag behind those for other environments. Birdfair funded action by BirdLife Partners looking to increase marine conservation. The project also included efforts to protect Antarctica and the High Seas.
2015: Protecting Migratory Birds in the Eastern Mediterranean
Amount raised: £320,000
Roughly 25 million migratory birds are killed illegally each year as they cross the Mediterranean. BirdLife International worked to reduce this by advocating for the strengthening of protective laws throughout the region.
2016: Saving Africa’s Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas
Amount raised: £350,000
Forest loss is a severe problem across the African continent. In 2016 Birdfair focused on Tsitongambarika Forest, which has a huge number of endemic species, making it biologically extraordinary, even by Madagascar’s lofty standards.
2017: Saving Paradise in the Pacific
Amount raised: £333,000
On the French Polynesian island of Rapa Iti, invasive non-native species are decimating populations of native birds. Money from Birdfair will help BirdLife to remove invasive species in order to restore the islands.
2018: A Haven for Argentina’s Flamingos
Amount raised: TBC
This year, we’re turning Birdfair pink – to celebrate plans to create what will become Argentina’s largest National Park, and a safe haven for over a million waterbirds.
Birdfair will take place from the 17th – 19th of August at Egleton Nature Reserve, Rutland, UK.