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Birds make huge contribution

- By Wits University

South Africa is home to an exceptional nine percent of the world’s 10 000 bird species, some 845 species of which 38 species are found only in this country, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Being a bird haven also contributes hugely to the South African economy, said Mark Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of BirdLife South Africa. He was delivering the keynote address at the graduation ceremony for graduands of the Faculty of Science on 31 March 2014 in the Wits Great Hall.

Anderson said birdwatching contributes around R1 billion to the South African economy annually and is a barometer for change: “Birds tells us of rapidly changing climates and important habitat changes.”

Anderson urged graduands from all spheres to become “citizen-scientists” and join organisations such as BirdLife SA to experience the wonderful world of birds and their importance to South Africa and the world.

to Anderson’s address.

About Anderson:

Mark Anderson is the Chief Executive Officer of BirdLife South Africa. He has been interested in birds, mammals and conservation ever since he was a schoolboy growing up in Pretoria. He developed his passion for the environment during frequent visits to the bush in South Africa.

He studied at the University of Pretoria, where he obtained a Masters Degree (cum laude) in Zoology. His uncompleted PhD is on large terrestrial bird conservation in the eastern Karoo.

Anderson worked as an ornithologist with the Northern Cape Department of Tourism, Environment and Conservation, and was later appointed to the position of Specialist Scientist. He was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of BirdLife South Africa in October 2008.

The focus of Anderson’s work in the Northern Cape was mainly on the monitoring of the populations of birds, especially threatened and range-restricted species, including waterbirds, raptors, and large terrestrial birds. Since 1991, he has been involved in various aspects of the study and conservation of flamingos, but he has also conducted research and conservation work on a variety of other birds.

Anderson is regarded as a world authority on the biology and conservation of Old World Vultures which he has been studying for the past 20 years. He also initiated a project on African fish-eagles along the Vaal River where these eagles are used as bio-indicators of the health of the river. He has also supervised several Honours and Masters theses.

Anderson has received numerous awards for his work, including a Wildlife and Environment Society scroll, two BirdLife South Africa Owl Awards, the Gariep Raptor Conservationist Award and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Vulture Conservation Award.

He is a prolific writer and has written more than 200 popular and scientific articles, as well as several chapters in books. He is a member of many environmental and scientific associations and organizations.