100 years of BirdLife International

Posted: 15th September 2022

Photo: Dimitar Demerdzhiev

This week, hundreds of conservationists from across the BirdLife partnership have gathered in Cambridge and London for the BirdLife100 World Congress, marking the organisation’s centenary. BirdLife partner organisations are among the recipients of ELP grants, supporting the programme’s vision to restore land and seascapes across Europe for the benefit of people and nature. 

Leading through partnership 

Over the last 100 years, BirdLife has established itself globally as the largest NGO partnership for nature conservation. The partnership is comprised of over 115 national organisations from all continents working to make the world a better place for species, sites, society and systems by linking up birds, habitats and people. One of the most inspiring aspects of BirdLife’s work is their partnership model, whereby they help to build the capacity of local organisations, while collectively achieving positive change for nature and people. Their data shows that since 2013, for example, 726 globally threatened bird species have directly benefitted from the work of the BirdLife Partnership, and over 2,000 sites for nature have been protected – including 2 million hectares of rainforest.  

Three Egyptian vultures surround a carcass..

BirdLife protects birds and their habitats through forming strong partnerships for nature and people. Photo: Bogdan Boev.

BirdLife is also one of the ten partners that make up the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, alongside the University of Cambridge and eight other leading biodiversity conservation organisations.  

Seven European BirdLife partners are part of the ELP network of funded projects. Grants from the ELP for Restoration Landscapes and Planning Projects are supporting BirdLife’s local partners to deliver landscape-scale restoration. Martin Harper, Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, says of BirdLife’s collaboration with the ELP: 

“We are proud to be part of the Endangered Landscapes Programme, both as a CCI partner organisation and to have so many BirdLife partners leading landscape restoration projects funded by the ELP – from the grasslands of Georgia to the migratory flyways of Bulgaria. We are in the ‘Generation Restoration’ decade, and strong partnerships like those within ELP-funded projects have never been more important to make sure that we reach global targets to reverse biodiversity loss and effectively tackle the climate crisis.” 

A bird sits on some bare trees in front of a lake in the winter.

Several BirdLife partner organisations are part of the ELP grant network. Photo: Khatia Basilashvili.

Below are two examples of projects supported by the ELP and led by BirdLife partner organisations. 

Restoring ecological networks in southeast Bulgaria 

Led by the BSPB (Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds), BirdLife’s partner organisation for Bulgaria, this project will address habitat fragmentation in the formerly closed international border region between Turkey and Bulgaria, from the Rhodope mountains in the West to the Black Sea in the East. By restoring water sources, grasslands, natural deciduous and riverine forests the project will support a vast 810,000 ha network of viable ecosystems that are resilient to climate change and rich in biodiversity.  

The project area is one of Europe’s biodiversity hotspots, hosting 81 IUCN Red List species. It is a stronghold for jackals and wolves, as well as breeding populations of the eastern imperial eagle and an important site for globally threatened migratory species such as the greater spotted eagle and red-footed falcon. However, the area is facing numerous threats including grassland conversion for agriculture and commercial forestry, leaving wildlife and local communities vulnerable to forest fires.  

Eagle eye view of a landscape of rolling hills with some trees.

Land conversion to agriculture and forestry are among the threats to the landscapes of southeast Bulgaria. Photo: Dimitar Gradinarov.

Reviving the steppes of Georgia’s Kakheti region 

This project, implemented by SABUKO – BirdLife’s Georgian partner organisation, aims to conserve and restore steppe and semi-arid landscapes between the Iori and the Alazani rivers in South East Georgia and restore iconic wildlife, ecosystems and cultural values unique in Europe. The landscape is heavily influenced by livestock grazing: the steppe has been used for millennia as winter pastures by semi-nomadic transhumance pastoralists with tens of thousands of sheep, but a combination of climate change and increased stocking densities is causing the degradation of the pastures. The project’s aims will be achieved through the scaling up of grassland restoration to 25,000 ha and by working alongside semi-nomadic shepherds to reconnect habitats and wildlife corridors essential for the elusive Caucasian leopard over 100,000 ha of the landscape. 

A herd of sheep on the right hand side of the image, and two people dressed in black on the left on a cold looking winter day.

One of the major threats to the Kakheti region of Georgia is overgrazing. SABUKO is working with farmers to create sustainable solutions to benefit nature and people. Photo: Tornike Bubashvili.

During this milestone week, BirdLife will be announcing their organisational strategy for the next ten years – addressing the nature and climate crises. Despite the success of the BirdLife partnership to date, our natural world is still in peril. One thing to be grateful for, however, is that BirdLife’s enthusiasm and collaborative power for enacting change is as strong as ever. 

To read more about the work we fund, please visit our Projects page. You can find more information about the BirdLife100 World Congress here

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