Liben Lark: conservation

Bird extinctions aren't something given much publicity. Compared to the Saudi Gazelle (declared extinct in 2008), Javan Tiger (extinct 1976), or the extremely recent Eastern Cougar, which was declared extinct (technically) in 2011, the loss or depreciation of birds is given relatively little coverage. Which is a pity, if you consider the more-than-10000 species of birds in the world. As a percentage of the world's wildlife population, with a strong following from wildlife enthusiasts around the world, and a direct influence on ecosystems the world over, a potential bird species extinction is considered every bit as relevant to conservation concerns as that of the endangered panda.With this in mind, it is more than a little distressing to consider the Liben Lark. Tipped to be Africa's first ever extinct bird species, the Liben Lark has seen its natural habitat degraded drastically over the past decade. Coupled with a perceived skewed sex ratio, the Liben Lark has seen a steady decline in population for a long time - with the drop being especially notable between 1973 and 2002, as the area of its grassland habitat decreased by around 30%. Now counted as a mere 100 birds, total, left in mainland Africa, the Liben Lark has been garnering support from conservation agencies and bird watching societies. Restricted largely to a grassy plain in southern Ethiopia, the danger of this bird becoming completely extinct within our lifetime is now considered a sobering reality.The Lipen Lark is a 14 cm bird with a large-head and short, thin tail. Sporting a pale buff stripe down the centre of its crown, its body colouring resembles black and brown scaling.

2009 saw key stakeholders creating an intersectoral committee for the management and restoration of the Liben Plain (the Liben Lark's natural habitat) - opposing further agricultural expansion into the area, and working with conservation organisations to preserve this diminished ecosystem. The British Birdwatching Fair also managed to raise £242,000 towards this initiative, last August - the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society will be utilising these funds to educate locals in the conservation of their local wildlife and landscapes.

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