By Gemma Karstens-Smith, OTTAWA CITIZEN
In Canada, the population of some bird groups — such as waterfowl and raptors — have grown over the last 40 years, a conference heard Saturday. Others, particularly aerial insectivores such as swallows,— have seen their populations plunge.
Photograph by: J.Lascurain , THE CANADIAN PRESS
The international organization’s recent report “State of the World’s Birds” painted a grim picture, however, saying that 1,313 — or one in eight — bird species are currently threatened with extinction.
In Canada, the population of some bird groups — such as waterfowl and raptors — have grown over the last 40 years. Others, particularly aerial insectivores such as swallows,— have seen their populations plunge.
Part of the difference is conservation, said George Finney, president of Bird Life Canada. Wetlands conservation over the last 25 years has been successful in restoring the numbers of ducks and geese across the country, while banning pesticides such as DDT brought back raptor populations, Finney said.
“Once we’ve identified an issue and invested in it, we can do good things,” he said.
That investment is key, Fowlie said.
“(Conservation) shouldn’t really be seen as a cost. It should be seen as an investment, because, to not keep nature healthy, the long term costs are going to be far, far greater.”
In a panel Saturday, several experts discussed the importance of conservation and some of the challenges conservationists face.
Valerie Hickey from the World Bank’s Agriculture and Environment Services talked about the need to work not only with non-profits organizations and governments, but with the private sector.
“Their bottom line depends on being able to access the resources nature provides,” she explained.
Wendy Paulson, director of the Bobolink Foundation, said she believes nature needs to be more important, especially to young people.
“I think the biggest challenge facing conservation today is indifference,” she said. “And indifference is based on ignorance.”
Paulson wasn’t the only speaker to emphasize the need for education. Many of the five-day conference’s workshops discussed the best ways to engage people, young and old.
Canadian literary legend Margaret Atwood brought a new learning tool to the table — a project where people take inspiration from a bird to write a story or poem. Powered by Wattpad, an online library available on computers, phones and tablets, Birds in Storytelling mixes education and entertainment. Each piece is dedicated to a bird, and includes a link for readers to go learn more about the feathered being.
“Birds are an integral part of life,” Mike Clarke from the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told delegates from 120 nations Saturday.
You can’t save birds without rebuilding their ecosystems, Clarke explained. Those ecosystems support other animals, as well as humans.
“Through birds we can contribute to the global sustainability challenge,” he said.