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One in five birds at risk of extinction, says BirdLife

A songbird trapped in a mist net by poachers

DESPITE conservation successes in the EU, nearly one in five birds are still at risk of extinction, BirdLife Cyprus said.

The organisation said that the European Red List of Birds, produced by the European Commission and BirdLife International, revealed shocking data: farmland degradation, habitat loss and climate change to blame.

The Red List, that follows the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) methodology, is widely recognised as the most authoritative and objective system for assessing the extinction risk of species.

The key findings in the report are  that 18 per cent of the 451 species assessed are threatened at EU27 level. This means 82 species, of which 11 are critically endangered, 16 are endangered and 55 are vulnerable.

Some 13 per cent of the 533 species assessed are threatened at European level. That makes a total of 67 species, of which ten are critically endangered (the highest threat level).

“Among them are some iconic and popular birds such as the Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarious), historically recorded as accidental visitor in Cyprus,” BirdLife said.

The study also found that 18 species were endangered and an additional 39 vulnerable.

A total of 29 species have been uplisted since 2004 (formerly considered to be of ‘least concern’ but are now threatened or ‘near threatened’ in Europe).

These include species such as the European Turtle-dove, which uses Cyprus as a stopover during migration, but also as a breeding ground, the Meadow Pipit, many of which can be seen in winter in Cyprus, the Black-legged Kittiwake, another accidental visitor to Cyprus, and the Common Pochard, also a visitor.

“Some species that were identified as being in trouble a decade ago have still not improved, such as the Egyptian Vulture, a raptor seen in Cyprus during autumn migration,” said BirdLife

“The report contains alarming statistics, but simultaneously illustrates the importance of well-targeted actions towards biodiversity protection,” it added.

BirdLife said that humankind depends on biodiversity both economically as well as socially, through the services it provides.

“The new European Red List is a call to arms for the conservation of our natural world, as it clearly shows the need for constant vigilance and increased action if the loss of biodiversity in Europe is to be prevented. It is shocking to see many species that used to be common, now listed as threatened.”

BirdLife did say that it was hopeful and inspiring to see some species recovering, that are targeted by conservation efforts and supported by key tools such as the Birds Directive and the LIFE programme.

It said the LIFE Oroklini project, for the restoration and management of Oroklini Lake, was an outstanding example in Cyprus of the positive results the Nature Directives can have.

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