Protect Europe’s Heaviest Flying Bird

Target: Borja Heredia, Head Avian Species Team, UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

Goal: Promote and increase support for organic farming to help protect great bustard populations.

The European great bustard is an endangered species suffering from intensive agriculture and man-made structures. It is an important species because it has the potential to determine the health of an area’s biodiversity. Spain and central Europe house the largest populations of great bustards, but their numbers have been steadily declining in Ukraine and Russia, especially. Poor management and conservation programs, along with intensive agriculture, have negatively affected their numbers in these areas.

Intensive agriculture uses pesticides and fertilizers that kill off insects in open landscapes, where great bustards live. If these lands use toxic chemical inputs, the bird no longer has insects to eat. Great bustards can be used as a flagship species (or symbol) for areas that use less-intensive agriculture. If we focus on protecting the great bustard, the entire health of open landscapes in Europe will also improve.

Another issue great bustards face are structures that obstruct their way, which often result in fatal interactions. Power lines are hazardous, as great bustards fly in low altitudes and cannot see them. Railway cables, wind parks, and roads are also a problem because they are barriers to movement and fragment landscapes.

To restore populations across Europe like they have done in Germany, conservation efforts must be implemented through decreased use of pesticides and fertilizers, leaving fields fallow, and ensuring that the birds have enough resources to support their young. Sign the petition below to urge the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals to promote organic farming to protect the great bustard population.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Heredia,

The UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals has the capacity and expertise to help protect endangered animal populations. The European great bustard is one such endangered species–Europe’s heaviest flying bird which has suffered declining populations over the past few decades. Intensive agriculture, which uses pesticides and fertilizers, power lines, roads, and railway cables have all contributed to its decline. However, Germany has shown that with successful conservation efforts and collaboration between various stakeholders, it is possible to restore their populations.

Organic farming, a less intensive form agriculture which typically does not use fertilizers or pesticides and allows time for the fields to recuperate, is one solution to the great bustard’s decline. If the UN promotes organic farming through different campaigns and interventions such as encouraging consumers to purchase organically-farmed produce, and helping farmers adopt more eco-friendly farming practices, we can still save the bird’s populations.

The great bustard can be used as a flagship species for open landscapes across Europe. Intensive agriculture kills off insects and plants, which negatively affects the bird’s resources for survival. If we protect it, we are protecting a whole region, simultaneously. I hope that the UN can devise and implement a campaign to promote organic farming, which can be a part of a bigger conservation effort to save the great bustard. I firmly believe that with collaboration across various stakeholders such as land-owners, farmers, conservationists, and hunters, we can help save the great bustard.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Franceso Veronesi 

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