MAROON PIGEON
P. Jones  /  BirdLife International
Although facing extinction, the Maroon Pigeon has yet to receive significant protection of its key habitat: the remaining lowland rainforest on Sao Tome, an island nation of the West coast of Africa.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/8/2004 10:53:23 AM ET 2004-03-08T15:53:23

One third of the 1,200 species of birds around the globe threatened with extinction have yet to receive any significant protection, according to a report released Monday by BirdLife International, a leading conservation group.

And even the two-thirds receiving some help haven't all been success stories. "For only 4 percent of species is the benefit judged to be 'significant,'" according to the report. The estimates were based on reviews by 100 species experts.

In a statement accompanying the report, BirdLife Director Michael Rands said the findings are "firm evidence that we are losing birds and other biodiversity at an alarming and ever increasing rate.”

BirdLife said its report, titled “State of the World’s Birds,” brings together for the first time in one document the existing research about the status and distribution of the world’s birds. Some of its key findings include:

  • One in eight of the world’s known birds -- or 1,211 species in total -- faces extinction.
  • More than 7,500 sites in nearly 170 countries have been identified as important bird areas.
  • Agricultural expansion and intensification threaten 50 percent of important bird areas in Africa.
  • 64 percent of globally threatened birds, most of them in the tropics, are threatened by unsustainable forestry.
  • Non-native invasive species threaten 67 percent of the endangered species on oceanic islands.
  • In total, 129 bird species have been classified as extinct since 1500.

Some success stories
The report also highlights some success stories, which it says show what can be done to save species from extinction.

For example, it says the short-tailed albatross was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in small numbers on Torishima, off Japan, in the 1950s.

BLACK-FACED SPOONBILL
Martin Hale  /  BirdLife International
The Black-faced Spoonbill, an endangered speices, has benefited from a network of protected sites in in eastern Asia. As a result the known population has grown in a decade from a handful to more than 1,100 individuals.
Since then, habitat management in the Pacific and improved commercial fishing methods that do not accidentally hook birds have helped numbers recover to around 1,200 pairs.

The black robin, endemic to the Chatham Islands off New Zealand, was reduced to just five individuals in 1980 -- the smallest population of any bird species for which precise numbers were known.

It was pulled back from the brink of extinction through nest protection and supplementary feeding and now numbers around 250.

Indicator species
The report noted that as indicator specides birds also play a vital role in highlighting the health of the broader planet.

"Global biodiversity is declining, but accurate measures are hard to come by," noted Leon Bennun, the report's senior editor. "Birds are excellent environmental indicators, and 'State of the World's Birds' shows that what they are telling us is that there is a fundamental malaise in the way we treat our environment."

BirdLife International, a global alliance of conservation groups, released the report at the start of a conservation conference in Durban, South Africa.

The report is online at www.birdlife.org/action/science/species/sowb.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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