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)