Seychelles grabs world attention

The total number of birds considered threatened with extinction is now a staggering 1,210 according to BirdLife International. This was revealed last week by the global authority on birds in its annual evaluation of how the world’s bird species are faring.

However, it is not all bad news: the Seychelles Fody or toktok in Creole, a small yellowish songbird, has been downlisted  from Vulnerable to the Near Threatened category. This effectively removes it from BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Birds listing which highlights the extinction risk of birds using three categories, Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable.  

Seychelles Fody © Martin Harvey

Habitat management and conservation measures on its island homes have encouraged the regeneration of natural woodland and are thought to have been key factors in the substantial population increase of the toktok. Nature Seychelles had recently translocated birds to Denis and Aride Islands where new self-sustaining populations are now established. This has increased the numbers and range of the species.

 “This is a credit to the efforts of Nature Seychelles and others who can now add this species to a significant list of native Seychelles birds that have been brought back from the brink of extinction,” commented Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Species Programme Coordinator in an international press release last week.

For the rest of the world, things are not as rosy.  181 species are now categorised as Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat. New additions include the Purple-backed Sunbeam, a hummingbird found in just 1 km2 of alder woodland in western Peru where its habitat was replaced with eucalyptus.

Another Critically Endangered species is the Uluguru Bush-shrike from Tanzania. It is restricted to the small Uluguru North Forest Reserve, which is suffering from ongoing habitat degradation. A second species restricted to the Ulugurus, Loveridge’s Sunbird, has similarly been uplisted to Endangered.

But, the problems are not only in the developing world. The Black-tailed Godwit, a migratory wading bird whose breeding population is concentrated in Europe, has declined in number by around 25% over the last 15 years. Loss of nesting habitat is its biggest threats.

In North America, the Tricoloured Blackbird breeds only in California. Its numbers have fallen from more than 700,000 birds in the 1930s to over 250,000 in 2005. The speed and extent of this decline means it is now classified as Endangered, the second highest risk category.

A warning as to the ultimate fate that could await  species is offered by a number of extinct birds that appear on the list for the first time. These include three species of monarchs (small songbirds) from French Polynesia.

“We face a huge challenge in improving the status of the 1,210 threatened and 795 Near Threatened species. But the success stories show that concerted conservation action can save these birds from extinction.” says Stuart Butchart.

In the last 2 years, 3 Seychelles birds have been removed from the highest threat category, Critically Endangered, because of conservation actions and research by Nature Seychelles, the Seychelles Government and private island partners.   The successes with the Seychelles Magpie-robin, Scops owl and White-eye prove once again that the country is in the forefront of global conservation and that partnerships are the key to solving environmental problems.

Nature Seychelles, May 11th 2006.

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