Together with Martin Taylor and Ross Wanless, I worked as co-editor on The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (and the Prince Edward Islands, we should add). But a whole team of 40+ biologists, ornithologists, conservationists, academics and students contributed to the book. Admittedly, the book is long overdue, as the last regional red list was published in 2000. Since then, ecosystems and habitats in the region have been further fragmented and degraded. The Red Data Book aims to employ sound scientific methods based on criteria established by the IUCN (and a lot of math) to assign birds to threat classes. This process takes into account current, historical and predicted future population sizes and trends, breeding success, longevity, threat severity, distribution size, range fragmentation and a whole suite of other determinants to arrive at a conclusion. Once we know where the most pressing problems lie, we can start fixing them. In addition to authoring a few species texts and general editing, my responsibility was also to map the past, present (and sometimes future) distributions of all the species. We opted to use custom maps for each species, at a scale that is relevant to its geographical range. Lastly, I offered to do “just a few small quick-and-dirty line sketches, to liven things up”. The result was 63 intricate illustrations that I hope can convey my passion for this project. Of these, 132 are now listed as regionally threatened, of which 47 are ‘Near Threatened’ and the remainder are at higher threat levels.And make no mistake – this is a time for action! With vulture and penguin populations in freefall, new threats emerging every day, and the number of species in the Critically Endangered category up to 13 (from 5 in 2000), we all have to roll up our sleeves.
Get your copy through BirdLife South Africa. Contact Martin Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange. You can also head on over to BirdLife’s beautiful office: Isdell House, 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West 2196, Johannesburg, and buy one directly. Check out their ornithological library while you’re there.
You can see some of my favourite sketches features in the book here.