Protecting threatened birds
As scientists warn of the pending extinction of thousands of bird species, Rolex Laureates are fighting back.
Introduction by Thomas Brooks

Birds are brilliant! They are the most visible and best-known element of biodiversity, the glorious life of our planet. They fulfil critically important roles in maintaining ecosystems by dispersing seeds, pollinating flowers, eating small animals, and cycling nutrients. They enable multi-million dollar industries for birdwatching and sport hunting. They inspire humanity through the beauty of their plumage and song, and through their fascinating behaviours. They are ubiquitous in our art, culture and icons.

But birds are also beleaguered. BirdLife International, which provides the Red List Authority for the assessment of extinction risk for birds on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, finds that 1,373 species are threatened with a high probability of extinction in the medium-term. This represents nearly one-seventh of all bird species. Given this, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise serve an important role in supporting conservation actions for species as diverse as the endangered grey crowned-crane in Rwanda through to Thailand’s threatened hornbill species.

Thomas Brooks heads Science & Knowledge in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Return of the puffins

Stephen Kress, 1987 Laureate

Liberating Rwanda’s grey crowned-cranes

Olivier Nsengimana, 2014 Young Laureate

Liberating Rwanda’s grey crowned-cranes

Olivier Nsengimana is inspiring his country to protect a bird that is a victim of its beauty.

Barometers of Africa’s health

Lindy Rodwell, 2002 Laureate

Vultures make a comeback

Michel Terrasse, 1984 Laureate

Vultures make a comeback

Michel Terrasse has spent much of life changing public attitudes to these much-maligned birds, which have been reintroduced to the Cévennes in France.

Other Laureates associated with protecting the world's threatened birds