BirdLife South Africa is very grateful to those who were involved in the production of this video: Mel Tripp (director and script writer), Flume Digital (production, editing and sound mix), Mario Fazekas (images) and Guy Gibbon (bird calls). The video will be flighted 330 times on eight DSTV channels during August, including on M-Net Premiere, M-Net Action, Kyk Net, Super Sport Blitz and Nat Geo. All of the above was provided to BirdLife South Africa for free!

During the past few months the human population of nearly eight billion people has been brought almost to its knees by a microscopic virus, an invisible nemesis whose origins are rooted in a fundamental disconnect between people and the environment. In many ways Covid-19 is symptomatic of a much bigger, systemic disaster, with potential consequences too dire to contemplate. We believe that the decisions we make and the steps we take as humanity in the next few months and years are critical and will determine our prospects for survival into the future. The virus has caused untold chaos and misery and exposed the fragility and artifice of our present way of life. But in doing so it has also presented us with a golden opportunity to contemplate our predicament and plot a new and better way forward.

BirdLife South Africa may be a localised, birdcentric conservation organisation, but with the help and support of donors and in collaboration with BirdLife International, other conservation NGOs and various government agencies, we believe we can contribute to solving some of the big-picture issues. In fact, in many ways we already are. BirdLife South Africa’s primary function is to design and implement research and conservation programmes, bringing science to bear in identifying core areas of habitat and resilient ecosystems and in addressing the key factors threatening the birdlife of the region. Our current portfolio of conservation projects addresses many important aspects of the interplay between birds, their habitats and the people who also live in those habitats. Perhaps more than anything, the coronavirus has taught us to examine carefully our relationship with nature, to consider and accommodate the long-term environmental implications of our decisions when we make them, and to use science to light the way forward.

It’s worth remembering that while the canary is still singing, the coal-mine is still safe. Conserving our birds and their habitats is not a nice-to-have; it’s a strategy for survival.

Many aspects of BirdLife South Africa’s work are relevant to solving the problems that threaten all life on our planet. As an organisation, we

  • are reviewing the role that vultures play in limiting the spread of diseases, some of which may be harmful to humans, and we are actively promoting the birds’ conservation, including in Vulture Safe Zones;
  • work with government and fisheries to set sustainable catch limits for commercial fishing operations, to the long-term benefit of both people and birds;
  • advise government on how to limit the impacts of wind farms on birds, thereby facilitating the roll-out of truly clean renewable energy sources and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels that contaminate the air we breathe and the water we drink;
  • are actively involved in the protection of the threatened Highveld grasslands and are lobbying against unsustainable mining and agricultural practices in these areas;
  • are working to secure some of the country’s most critically important Strategic Water Source Areas;
  • are striving, through education, tourism and outreach initiatives, to generate jobs and build useful capacity as inclusively as possible;
  • are monitoring, through SABAP2 and other citizen science projects, birds as the proverbial ‘canaries in the coalmine’. Being uniquely widespread and conspicuous, birds make excellent indicators of ecosystem health, and properly functioning ecosystems are fundamental to our own health as individuals and as a species.

The spectre of Covid-19 has exposed glaring flaws in the human condition, but society’s response to it has shown that we are capable of slowing the juggernaut of progress and making rapid and sweeping changes to our way of life. The speed and scale of these changes, stacked against monumental odds and achieved at tremendous cost, tell us that further reinvention is possible. Surely, with the right incentive, we can restructure and realign ourselves to live with and through nature rather than pitting ourselves against it? All that is required is the realisation that this is the one and only way of the future. Throughout human history, birds have been symbolic of freedom, renewal and hope. At BirdLife South Africa we are dedicated to keeping that hope alive.

The eight documents below summarise some of the work that BirdLife South Africa is doing to make the planet a better place for both humans and for nature. If you’d like to assist, please email us at