Colombia has more bird species than any other country on the planet, with a record of approximately 1,940 species, or 20% of all birds worldwide. This unique avian wealth, includes 275 migratory birds that connects Colombia to the rest of the Americas, highlights the great responsibility that Colombia has to conserve its valuable birds diversity and the habitats they depend upon for their survival.
With this in mind, a coalition or organizations including the Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, and the Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves (RNOA), and Audubon alongside many other stakeholders have come together to develop a new national strategy to address the critical needs of birds over the next decade.
The strategy will build a roadmap with a focus on National Policy that effectively integrates the country's economic, social, and cultural models with the conservation, management, and sustainable use of birds and their habitats.
Birds are facing many challenges to their survival in Colombia, existing efforts are not enough to turn the tide on declines in bird populations. To succeed, we need to develop a new economic development model that sees nature as an asset and promotes a sustainable, healthy and prosperous future. This approach, is extremely relevant to Colombia’s recovery from COVID – both for human wellbeing, economic opportunities for rural communities and advance industries that promote nature base solutions that are essential in the next wave of development in the country necessary to combat climate change, water and food security.
Analysis of the National Bird Conservation Strategy for Colombia
In 2000, Colombia outlined its first conservation strategy for birds; several non-governmental organizations and university study groups, led by the Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, formulated the National Strategy for Bird Conservation (ENCA) with the objective of "improving the conservation of birds in Colombia through their study, protection, and habitat management".
This Strategy, consisted of four specific objectives: 1) develop an information system for the study and monitoring of the population status of birds, 2) establish an environmental education program to increase public awareness, 3) conserving through in situ and ex situ protection and management, and 4) strengthen institutional capacity to develop the strategy.
Each objective included feasibility conditions, responsible parties and expected results that were broken down into goals and actions to be developed. This original publication and implementation stimulated a remarkable growth in scientific investigation, awareness and enthusiasm toward birdwatching and associated industries in the country .
Twenty years later, the Instituto Humboldt, the Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves (RNOA) and the National Audubon Society have joined forces to evaluate the original strategy document lessons learned and build a new comprehensive strategy to address the needs of birds over the next decade. The updated strategy is opening dialogue with multiple stakeholders and audiences from many sectors to ensure this plan aligns with national and local development interests to facilitate a balanced approach to economic development where the needs of birds are considered.
Phase I of the strategy refresh was concluded in February 2021, where the evaluation of the original ENCA (2000-2020) assessing the scope, compliance and development achieved over the 20 years with lessons learned and recommendations informing the new strategy development.
The evaluation revealed important advances, challenges and opportunities including:
- Increased environmental education, information dissemination and increased citizen awareness about birds and their significance for Colombia. Introductions of new data gathering platforms such as eBird and iNaturalist, as well as a vast increase in the availability of educational materials about birds including several guide books and web-based materials.
- Increased storage and availability of scientific data on Colombia's birds (DATAVES, Biodiversity Information System - SIB) and a major increase in scientific publications on their biology, ecology and evolution. However, a clear well defined mechanism to monitor the status of populations and their change over time has yet to be established.
- Creation of new national (122) and regional protected areas (228), such as the Serranía de los Yariguies and Uramba Bahia Malaga national parks, to support important bird species.
- The publication of Colombia’s Red Book of the conservation status of Birds in 2002, updated in 2014. The analysis indicates threats to birds have changed over the past 20 years and there is a need to scale conservation and restoration efforts to meet these challenges.
- Significant capacity development for working on bird conservation, education, research and bird-based Tourism has been developed. However, tangible evaluation and monitoring mechanisms have yet to be developed that measure progress and impact of the objectives.
- The Strategy was fundamental in forming the Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves - RNOA, which brings together 20 organizations and observation groups in more than 10 departments across the country, with about 7,500 members.
- Likewise, participatory science initiatives such as Audubon’s Christmas Bird Counts and the Neotropical Bird Censuses Birds and the Neotropical Waterbird Censuses, have been introduced and grown to include twenty departments across the country delivering vital data to support decision making.
To learn more about the results of this analysis, click here.
Phase II Updating the ENCA 2021/2031
With lessons learned and recommendations in hand the structuring of phase II has begun using the Conservation Standards methodology to support alignment of several other planning processes happening across the hemisphere.
Starting in March 2021, virtual workshops engaging multiple strategic stakeholders were initiated aimed at integrating bird conservation needs with the country’s economic and development agenda. The strategy has identified thematic areas, baseline evaluation methodology, objectives, performance indicators, short, medium and long term implementation actions, and monitoring and evaluation instruments.
The geographic scope of the strategy was defined as: the entire Colombian territory (continental, insular and marine, as well as inland water bodies), including all bird species that inhabit the country at some point in their annual life cycle.
And the Thematic scope: To conserve and sustainably manage the diversity of Colombia's avifauna, the habitats on which they depend and the ecosystem services they provide, through the generation of knowledge, scientific research and its application, the active participation of different sectors, and policy and planning instruments.
And the projection of the Strategy, defined by the vision is: Colombia, the country of birds, knows, values and conserves the avifauna and its habitats.
Likewise, progress has been made in the selection of eleven focal objects of conservation, which are focused on the birds of the different Colombian ecosystems (Savannah and grassland, dry forests and shrublands, high mountain ecosystems (+2500 Paramo), High Andean forests and their wetlands, Premontane and Montane Forests, Lowland forests, Inland freshwater wetlands, Urban Systems, Agroecosystems, Marine, coastal, insular and mangrove), as well as aspects related to sustainability and cultural practices related to birds (Cultural systems associated with bird appreciation and birdwatching).
The process of building the ENCA will continue throughout the rest of the year. Starting in September, sectoral and regional workshops will begin, with the objective of establishing routes for change that will seek to focus actions on resolving threats and problems in the conservation of birds and their habitats in Colombia.
By, March 2022 a National Strategy for the Conservation of Birds for Colombia will be finalized and the communication, advocacy and implementation phase by partners will begin. Specific budgets and projects are been defined with the Colombian Government and wider group of stakeholders to ensure a robust implementation of the Plan.
In addition, Audubon, is also supporting the Ministry of Environment of Chile with its national plan for conservation of birds. Looking at ways to connect our efforts in Colombia with those in Chile for the improved conservation of birds.