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Reverse the Red

Recently Birdlife International announced that three of Africa’s beloved raptors have now been included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The Secretary Bird, the Martial Eagle, and the Bateleur, have now been placed onto the list.

Martial Eagle | Tyron Dall

But where does the problem lie?

Well part of the problem might lie in how so many people perceive birds.

Last year I had the opportunity to go to the Kruger National Park for a week. I can vividly remember a certain day where we encountered an impatient driver who was not in the park for birds. We decided on one of the days to take a drive from Satara, where we were staying, and explore some of the more northerly areas of the park. On the way back we came around a corner on one of the small dusty side roads, and right in the middle of the road was a majestic Bateleur. It was feeding on something on the road and we simply parked the car to enjoy the close up sighting of this bird, that is both beautiful and powerful all at the same time. A car came round the corner and impatiently stopped behind us, I can imagine that they probably started to look around to see what we were looking at – wondering which of the Big 5 we had managed to spot. When the saw that we were looking at a bird on the road – not a furry animal, but just a boring bird – they started to demand that they drive through. As the drove through speedily, our Bateleur that we had been enjoying, took off and flew away.

Bateleur | Tyron Dall

I wonder what their response would have been if we had been looking at a leopard or a lion on the road? Would they have been more patient? Would they simply have come alongside us and enjoyed the special sighting? Although I don’t have that answer, I would dare to suggest that their response would have been different. Most people that you speak to know about the conservation status of animals such as Rhino and Elephants, but how many people know about the conservation status of the birds of our country?

In Birdlife South Africa’s 2018 State of South Africa’s Bird Report, they noted that 856 bird species had been recorded in South Africa, but of that a staggering 132 of the species are threatened or near threatened. Even more worrying was that the number of species in the critically endangered category had increased from 5 to 13 since the year 2000! That means that there are 13 species that are one step away from going extinct! (