Archive by Author

Conservation comes head-to-head with oil companies in Virunga National Park (DRC)

12 Jan

Devastatingly, two UK-listed oil companies — SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum — are planning to drill for oil in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. SOCO is currently drilling in other areas of the DRC, namely the North Congo Basin, whilst Dominion is most known for its oil plants in Tunisia, North Africa.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is currently calling on these companies to abandon potential drilling in the park, which will impact heavily on years of conservation work and the healthy biodiversity systems of the area. Similarly, the United Nations’ (UN) cultural arm, UNESCO, has appealed to Congolese President Joesph Kabila to abandon his support of oil activity  in the area.

The breathtaking beauty of the Virunga National Park, DRC, where oil companies plan to drill for oil.

Virunga National Park, the DRC’s first World Heritage Site, is home to the popular mountain gorillas and similarly many other fish, reptile and bird species. As such, the effects of oil activity could be devastating, particularly on the livelihood of the endangered Shelley’s Crimsonwing finch, which is believed to inhabit various high-lying areas of the Virunga National Park.

The RFCG therefore calls on the international conservation community and finch enthusiasts to condemn oil drilling efforts in Virunga National Park and other World Heritage Sites. How heartbreaking it is to see man’s wallet destroying the efforts of conservation and biodiversity!

Become a virtual birdwatcher on the rarefinch blog

9 Nov

Since we started blogging on 23 September 2010, nearly 500 people from around the world have stepped through the doors of our the Rare Finch Conservation Group (RFCG) blog! To date, three authors contribute to our blog on a weekly basis and our site has been well-optimised to appear on page one of Google. We’ve received valuable feedback from French, German and Spanish birdwatchers. Thanks to all who have helped make our blog a success in its short time online.

Here’s how YOU can become a VIRTUAL BIRDWATCHER and help save the Shelley’s Crimsonwing Finch at

Read | Subscribe | Become Involved | Donate at


READ our information-rich articles posted in a reverse chronological listing on the Home Page. Our articles are written by and sourced from a variety of reliable industry professionals and conservationists making our blog the official online space for threatened finch species in Uganda and Africa. For easy navigation, these are categorised on the right hand side of your screen under “Read More About”.

Our blog posts are categorised for your easy navigation


SUBSCRIBE to email updates of our blog by clicking ‘subscribe’ on the right hand side of your screen under the “Receive Emails Of Latest RFCG Blog Posts”. This is not a spam subscription and you can unsubscribe at any time. The purpose of subscriptions is for you to have up-to-the-minute updates on all that the RFCG is doing.

BECOME INVOLVED by writing to us at or by posting comments on the bottom of the blog posts that catch your attention most. You do not have to be a wordpress account holder or blogger to post comments. We encourage readers to help in whichever ways they can. Additionally, you can share the RFCG’s blog posts via email/Twitter/Facebook etc. by clicking on the “Share” button at the bottom of blog posts.

Become involved by commenting on our blog posts

DONATE to our non-profit organisation at:

The Rare Finch Conservation Group
Nedbank South Africa (pty) ltd
Account no. 1933 198885
Branch Code 193 305 Sandown
South Africa


Happy virtual birdwatching everybody!

Hope on the horizon: Reported sighting of Shelley’s by Spanish birdwatcher

3 Nov

A big thanks to Alberto Garcia Rios from Spain for getting in touch with us at the RFCG. Rios and a few friends have recently returned from a birdwatching trip in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (a proposed fieldwork site for phase three of the RFCG’s research). Rios reports that he saw a bird that had a striking resemblance to the Shelley’s Crimsonwing Finch. This information is invaluable to the RFCG, and it inspires us to continue searching for and researching this CITES 1 bird. Should you or any friends have had similar experiences, please contact the RFCG at:

You can read the details of Rios’s email below:

Hi, My name is Alberto García Ríos,birdwatcher from Spain. I recently arrived from an independent birding trip to Uganda with another two fellow birdwatchers from Holland and Germany. On the 15 of September we walked in Mgahinga Gorilla N.P. the way up to the Gorge Trail to the Rwenzori Turaco area. On the way down, as I walked with our guide and driver Paul Kaggwa (Terrain Safaris Lmt) at higher altitude than the bamboo belt (2500m a.s.l.), I saw a small black winged reddish bird flying low across the trail and disappeared in the vegetation. Unfortunately I was the only person who saw the bird and we could not relocate it. I read some trip reports claiming Shelley´s at that N.P. It was next day when we arrived at Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort and I saw the poster with a photo of a Shelley´s Crimsonwing in the hand when I was 100% convinced that this was the bird. I hope my information is of any help for you and for the species.

Yours Alberto García Ríos Ibiza,Spain

Reader response about the Shelley’s

22 Oct

A big thanks to RFCG blog reader, Sven from Germany, for his contributions and insights. Feel free to comment.


Hi Malcolm, (hi Eelco),

Thanks a lot for sharing your observations and thoughts about Shelley’s. The bottleneck hypothesis is an interesting one. I am trying to fully understand it; are you saying the bird might originally have inhabited a much larger habitat including environmental characteristics that it would be much better adapted to (such as more open habitat?)?

I find two aspects quite remarkable:
1) Shelley’s, although placed in the same genus Cryptospiza as the other three crimsonwing finch species, really is a “phenotypic outlier”. From their outer appearance, reichenowii, salvadorii and jacksoni seem to be much closer to each other than to Shelley’s. I know that it is dangerous to hypothesize about genetic relatedness from the outer appearence, but it is tempting to assume that Shelley is genetically further apart from the three others than we believe. May be it is even a separate sepcies? The best answer to this would be a molecular genetic study. One might prick a feather from one of the next netted Shelley’s and have it investigated by a molecluar genetic lab in comparison with genetic material from the other three species (which will be easy to collect).
This would certainly cost some money, but I think the results would be very interesting.

2) How likely is it that you are placing your nets at places that are simply not visited by the birds, although they are there? This may be a naive question from someone who has never been to a tropical rain forest. To me, the footings and photos of the habitat look as if there was an impenetrable thicket and some clearings/paths where it is possible to place mist nets. I understand that many finches will visit open spaces in the rain forest to feed on grass seeds. But assume Shelley’s diet does not involve grass seeds and it just stays in the most impenetrable part of the rain forest. Hence, you would net such a bird only as a very rare exception, but it might still be there in good numbers.
Just a thought, might be nonsense….

And last, I just wanted to add that there is at least one other known photo of a Shelley’s. It was published in “Les Oiseaux du Zaire”, the capture of the photo says that it was photographed in the Virunga National Park on the 10th March 1974.

Best regards from Germany,


PART II: Can you speak the language?

19 Oct

The Rare Finch Conservation Group (the RFCG) has received an overwhelmingly positive response from you, the readers of our official blog. Thank you! We are pleased to announce that both German and French writers have kindly offered to spread the word in their respective languages, alerting foreign readers about our fieldwork in Uganda to find the Shelley’s Crimsonwing Finch.

We are still looking for volunteers in other foreign speaking languages to assist us with our international awareness campaign. This might include:

  • Notifying us about the journals/magazines/publications/websites in your country which are focused on finch conservation, birdwatching, bird keeping and biodiversity within natural finch habitats.
  • You might then choose to write up a review in your mother tongue (French, German, Italian, Swiss, Spanish etc.) of the Rare Finch Conservation Group (RFCG) and our fieldwork in Uganda, searching for the Shelley’s Crimsonwing Finch.
  • We are trying to raise US$ 25 000 for phase three of our research and you might wish to appeal to the foreign finch community to donate financially or provide the RFCG with skills/knowledge (e.g. telemetry equipment, forest habitats).
  • Perhaps you have visited Uganda or other parts of central/eastern Africa and want to write a review of the tourism facilities there for passionate birdwatchers.

Anyone who believes they can make a contribution with their writing skills must please contact Eelco Meyjes at for more information. Let’s make this a truly international campaign for the well-being of finch conservation.

%d bloggers like this: