2016 was a very busy year for the Avitourism & Special Projects Programme, which has been involved in the East Atlantic Flyway Initiative, partner development work in southern Africa and the State of South Africa's Birds Report and regional Red List publications, as well as the revived BirdLife South Africa Bird Guide Training Project. We are exceptionally grateful to our funders and collaborators for the support they have provided in 2016 and look forward to building on 2016's successes in the year ahead.
The Special Projects Programme spent a lot of 2016 working on activities relating to the East Atlantic Flyway Initiative and the newly formed East Atlantic Flyway Task Force. The task force has been mandated to consult with BirdLife Partners and plan, help fundraise for and coordinate the implementation of the initiative from the Nordic countries to South Africa. In addition, it will be coordinating monitoring efforts along the flyway and will collaborate with existing programmes such as the Arctic Migratory Bird and Wadden Sea Flyway initiatives. The Special Projects Programme played a large role in the development of policy documents and a framework for the East Atlantic Flyway initiative and helped to coordinate the activities of BirdLife Partners in the southern hemisphere.
The programme continued with its partner development work in southern Africa with a focus on BirdLife Zimbabwe and, to a lesser extent, BirdLife Botswana and Associação do Ambiente e Conservação de Moçambique (AACEM). BirdLife Zimbabwe, despite facing extreme economic and socio-economic challenges, is still operating and completing important conservation work, particularly on vultures. Corporate governance has improved dramatically, Julia Pierini has take on the role of chief executive officer on a permanent basis, no staff have been retrenched and the organisation has aligned its conservation focus with that of BirdLife International. In an attempt to coordinate BirdLife Partners facing common problems, a regional IBA workshop was held at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and attended by BirdLife Botswana, BirdLife South Africa, BirdLife Zimbabwe and Birdwatch Zambia, as well as the BirdLife Africa secretariat. The purpose of the workshop was to review IBA work and the capacity of Partners in the region, undertake country conservation planning and develop concept notes for projects to address cross-border threats in the several transfrontier parks shared by BirdLife Partners. Feedback from those involved indicates that the workshop was a success. Several multi-country proposals, together totalling in excess of R150-million, were completed. They cover a wide range of subjects, from vulture conservation in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to the development of birding tourism in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, the reduction of seabird by-catch and the building of capacity in Angola and Namibia, the removal of mice from the Prince Edward Islands and the addressing of climate change issues in SADC.
Closer to home, the Special Projects Programme collaborated with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on the development of an online platform for hosting species accounts contained in the 2015 Eskom Regional Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. All content has been uploaded and the text is being edited. This system will enable species accounts to be updated when peer-reviewed papers are published and technical reports and field surveys are completed. This will lead to greater integration between the regional and global Red List processes and to a more dynamic regional process, with updates being produced every two or three years. Funding from the West Rand Honorary Rangers and SANBI has enabled us to begin preparation of the 2017 State of South Africa's Bird Report, which will be completed in 2017.
2016 saw the reviving of the BirdLife South Africa Bird Guide Training Project with support from the Rare Bird Club and the Italtile Foundation. Ian Owtram took up the post of training manager and revised the training course and material in line with the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. Trainee bird guides from the Zululand area of KwaZulu-Natal were the first to participate in the course. We are looking forward to this project growing in stature in 2017.Martin Taylor
Avitourism & Special Projects Programme