The state of conservation in the region is no better reflected than in The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, which assess the extinction threats that plants, reptiles or birds face. Birds are appropriate indicators of ecosystem health because they are popular and well studied, and the availability of significant, long-term datasets in South Africa makes birds a good choice for early-warning system for climate change impacts and other systematic, ecosystem-wide threats to broader biodiversity. The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland is an updated and peer-reviewed conservation status assessment of the 854 bird species occurring in South Africa, including the Prince Edward Islands, Lesotho and Swaziland, undertaken in collaboration between BirdLife South Africa, the Animal Demography Unit of the University of Cape Town, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute. The revision of The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland was sponsored by Eskom.
This publication is long overdue, as the last regional red list was published in 2000. Since then, ecosystems and habitats in the region have been classified and assigned their own threat levels, which has painted a rather disheartening picture; many habitats are under significant threat or in a bad state of fragmentation and/or degradation. Given the widespread degradation and destruction of our natural resources, which both humans and our indigenous bird species are dependent, it was imperative that the extinction risks faced by the region’s bird species were assessed, as there was a high likelihood that birds would have been significantly affected.
The IUCN Red List uses quantitative criteria based on population size, rate of decline, and area of distribution to assign species to one of seven relative extinction risk, ranging from ‘Critically Endangered’ to ‘Least Concern’.