Five BirdLife partners scooped up awards for project work to protect Europe’s precious natural heritage at the annual Natura 2000 Awards ceremony in Brussels last night.
In the April edition of our monthly newsletter from Europe & Central Asia, we proudly reported that BirdLife national partners had swept up nearly a third of the nominations for the EU’s prestigious Natura 2000 Awards. These awards recognize excellence in the management of the EU”s Natura 2000 network – the world’s largest coordinated network of protected nature sites – and acknowledge the invaluable work conservationists do to ensure the survival of Europe’s most threatened species and critical habitats.
With eight out of the twenty-five shortlisted projects involving the work of BirdLife partners, hopes of taking home at least one trophy were quietly high. The winners were announced at a big ceremony in Brussels yesterday evening, attended by European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella.
Not one, not two, but three of the night’s six prizes were awarded to BirdLife partners!
SEO/BirdLife Spain – Winner of Natura 2000 ‘Communication’ Award 2018
Our Spanish partner SEO/BirdLife deservedly triumphed in the ‘Communication’ category for the landmark project ‘Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity’. Before the start of this project, just 10% of Spanish people were aware that Natura 2000 even. Collaborating with the Spanish news agency Agencia EFE, SEO set themselves the goal of vastly raising public awareness of Spain’s Natura 2000 network. A spectacular television documentary series was filmed and aired to huge popular interest and acclaim, with almost 5 million viewers tuning in over the whole series. By the end of the project the number of people who knew about Natura 2000 in Spain had more than doubled.
MME/BirdLife Hungary – Winner of Natura 2000 ‘Conservation’ Award 2018
Our Hungarian partners were one of the delighted recipients of the prestigious ‘Conservation’ award which went to an ambitious project to tackle the problem of illegal poisoning of Eastern Imperial Eagles in Hungary. Two thirds of this enigmatic raptor’s total EU population live in Hungary, but between 2005 and 2011, the species took a hard hit with a reported 44 individuals killed by poison illegally laid out by livestock farmers targeting wolves. Between 2012 and 2016, MME led eight other partner organisations in an epic bid to ensure the species’ recovery. The ambitious list of conservation actions included the creation of a specialized dog-unit trained to sniff out poisoned eagles, the recruitment of volunteers to guard nests and a massive public awareness campaign to inspire greater understanding of the problem and its impact of the species. Thanks to these initiatives, the number of poisoning cases decreased dramatically and in the last two years of the project the breeding population increased by 36% – an important 25% increase of the EU’s total population.
BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria, HOS/BirdLife Greece & RSPB/BirdLife UK – Winnter of Natura 2000 ‘Crossborder’ Award 2018
Nature knows no borders and three of our partners – BSPB, HOS and RSPB – have been recognised for their cross-border collaboration to protect the Egyptian vulture from threats such as poisoning, and electrocution along its flyway. Another goal of the project was to combat the illegal trade of Egyptian vultures and eggs in the Balkans; project partners worked together to train customs officers to deal with this type of wildlife crime and encourage cooperation with international bodies such as INTERPOL. As a result, a notorious poacher was successfully caught and convicted in court.
Hearty congratulations to our BirdLife partners on the stunning success of these projects and the much-deserved acknowledgement of their tireless conservation work!
Gui-Xi Young – Editor & Campaigns Officer