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New Red data book will soon be published

14 Oct
The Red Data book that was last published in 2000

The Red Data book that was last published in 2000. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Within the next 3 to 6 months BirdLife South Africa will publish the new Red Data book of the Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. The issue was last published thirteen years ago in 2000. Prior to that copies were published in 1994 ,1984 and 1976.  For finch enthusiasts the Pink-throated Twinspots , Piedmannikin and the Lemon breasted Canary were all listed as Near threatened in the 2000 edition. No finches were listed in the 1994 issue and in 1984 the Piedmannikin was stated as Indeterminate and the Lemon-breasted Canary as Rare. For our international followers the reason why Lesotho and Swaziland are included in the survey is that these two little countries are both found within the borders of South Africa. It will certainly be very interesting to see which finches may have been listed in the new publication when it appears.  The Rare Finch Conservation Group is on stand bye to assist with conservation work wherever we can

African Birdlife is published by BirdLife South Africa

African Birdlife is published by BirdLife South Africa Photo Eelco Meyjes

For those finch enthusiasts that follow our blog on a regular basis we can strongly recommend that it is well worth becoming a member of BirdLife SA. One of  the many benefits of being a member is that you will receive the outstanding African Birdlife magazine which is published every two months by BLSA. The articles and photographs are truly world-class and cover all bird species found south of the Sahara desert. For more information visit

The above information is shared by the Rare Finch Conservation Group which is  registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation.



Captive breeding work has become a valuable modern day conservation tool

16 Sep
A threatened Southern-Ground Hornbill. Photo courtesy Mabula Ground-Hornbill project South Africa

The threatened Southern-Ground Hornbill. ( Only 1,500 left ) Photo courtesy Mabula Ground-Hornbill project South Africa

Listed in South Africa as Endangered the Southern Ground-Hornbill species was first bred in captivity, to aid modern day conservation initiatives, back in 1999. There are less than 1500 Southern Ground-Hornbills left in South Africa . The Kruger National Park accounts for 700 of these birds. Extensive habitat loss is a major threat which is further complicated by the slow reproductive cycle of the species.  These birds live in groups of two to nine birds, of which there is only one alpha female. ( mean group size 3.6. estimated breeding groups only 417 ) On average she will raise only one chick to fledging every nine years. The female takes up to 10 years to reach sexual maturity and will then lay two eggs. The second and smaller chick will always starve to death. Controlled harvesting of the second chick now also takes place in the Kruger National Park during the breeding season to further conservation work.

Ann Turner : Founder and coordinator of the Mabula Ground-Hornbill project in 1999. Photo courtesy Ground-Hornbill Research and Conservation Project

Ann Turner : Founder and coordinator of the Mabula Ground-Hornbill conservation project in 1999. Photo courtesy MGHCP

In 1999 Ann Turner founded the Mabula Ground-Hornbill conservation project ( MGHCP), at the Mabula Game Reserve in the north western part of South Africa. Along with the invaluable support of Dr. Alan Kemp she and her team established the protocol needed to hand rear and release ground-hornbills back into the wild. Today volunteers come from all over the world to learn how to work with these threatened birds. The project leaders use the very best knowledge available from both the wild as well as captive breeding programmes to ensure every possible chance for conservation success. The conservation work on the Southern Ground-Hornbill is, arguably, the first high profile example in South Africa where aviculturists were able to contribute, in a meaningful way, to the needs of modern day conservation work.

Exciting new photographic guide HORNBILLS OF THE WORLD by Dr. Pilai Poonswad, Dr. Alan Kemp and Dr. Tim Laman

Exciting new photographic guide HORNBILLS OF THE WORLD by Dr. Pilai Poonswad, Dr. Alan Kemp and Morten Strange. Dr. Tim Laman and 61 other world class photographers made their best work available. ISBN 978-981-07-3528-9. Photo Eelco Meyjes 

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is proud to inform its followers that an exciting new photographic guide has been published on all 57 hornbill species in the world. 32 species are in Asia and 25 species are found in Africa. Many of the species today are listed as threatened and where necessary captive breeding work is being used as a tool to support conservation work. The authors Dr. Pilai Poonswad ( Thailand ) Dr. Alan Kemp ( South Africa ) Morgan Strange (Singapore ) are all renowned hornbill experts. Copies of this outstanding new publication can be purchased from or e mail Lucy Kemp for more information. All proceeds from the sale of each book will be used to further their conservation work.

The above information is shared by the Rare Finch Conservation Group which is a registered non-profit organisation.



Maybe the Shelley’s can also help change things for the good

20 Mar

By now most of our supporters know that the threatened and elusive Shelley’s crimsonwing is found in Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and Uganda. Back in 1979 when Sir David Attenburough returned to England from a trip to Rwanda he and a group of pioneering conservationists set up the Mountain Gorilla Project and as they say the rest is history.

The natural habitat where both the threatened mountain gorillas and the elusive shelley’s crimsonwing reside is extremely lush and virtually anything that the locals may wish to plant will grow. Given this temptation , as seen in the informative above YouTube video clip, it is extremely important for the Rare Finch Conservation Group ( RFCG ) to help educate the locals, on the value of EcoTourism to protect their environment for future generations.

Part of the vision of the  RFCG  is to promote the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda , with its 43 finch species which includes the threatened Shelley’s crimsonwing finch, as the world’s top destination for finch enthusiasts.

The RFCG strongly believes in upskilling the local community wherever it is possible and creating a new EcoTour industry for finch enthusiasts is part of that vision. In August the RFCG will be taking its first group of seven guests from Australia to Bwindi. All profits generated from the trip will be donated to the Rare Finch Conservation Group to further the research work needed on the threatened Shelley’s crimsonwing finch that desperately needs attention.

For more information on the pioneering conservation work that the RFCG is doing please contact  or visit our website at

Neville Brickell is one of our true unsung conservation heroes

23 Jan

Neville Brickell as a natural history film maker in the early sixties

As a highly dedicated stills photographer and filmmaker on birds, both in the wild as well as in captivity, Neville Brickell spent a lot of his early days going around to schools teaching young children, in what was then known as the province of Natal in South Africa, all about our magnificent birds. Later over the years he also had many popular as well as scientific articles and books published on various bird species found in the Southern African region .


The outstanding The complete book of Southern African Birds first published in 1989. Example of Neville Brickell's writing and photography on the Bronze Mannikin ( Spermestes cucullatus )

Often spending many weeks at a time in the wild, gathering data, photographing  and filming birds, Neville was both a true ornithologist as well as an aviculturist , and was an enthusiastic contributor to both disciplines of natural history. He once told me that, in those early years , he wouldn’t dare mention to the birding club guys that he was also an aviculturist because birders, in general, did not approve of people that kept birds in captivity, no matter what the reason was.

 How times have changed as things progressed…when birding worldwide, as a recreational pastime, suddenly took off in the eighties and nineties publishers desperately wanted and needed reference photographs and data on dozens of different bird species. Neville was in the right place at the right time, and was able to help many a book publisher ( Often readers of these magnificent coffee table books were unaware of the fact that the source material was sometimes obtained from aviculturists who had often studied, photographed or filmed some of the birds in captivity )

The authoritative Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa 6th edition published in 1993. The first edition was published in 1940

So valued had the role of the aviculturist become that Professor Gordon Lindsay Maclean , who had been given the unenviable task in 1993 to compile the content for the sixth edition of the most authoritative book on birds in Southern Africa namely:  Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa , approached Neville Brickell and other aviculturists to provide him with nesting and incubation data, when this information sometimes was not available from birds in the wild. Finally the two important natural history disciplines of ornithology and aviculture started to work together to advance the knowledge of bird conservation. 

In 2005 Neville Brickell was one of the founder members of the Rare Finch Conservation Group and once again he made an important contribution , along with his fellow RFCG members Fred Barnicoat and William van Rijn, by providing significant input to help establish what is arguably the world’s most comprehensive website on threatened finches. Neville Brickell is, without doubt, one of our modern day conservation heroes and now spends his well deserved leisure years in a retirement home
The Rare Finch Conservation Group has no full-time staff members and every member of the group volunteers their skills and services in the interests of advancing finch conservation work. The RFCG is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation . It is totally dependent on donations and sponsorships for its future survival . The RFCG is currently raising funds ( US$ 25,000 is needed ) to finance its planned Phase 3 field research work in Uganda.  For more information on this pioneering conservation group please contact

Benson Bamutura successfully completes birdguide course in Kampala,Uganda

30 May

Benson Bamutura, RFCG field manager

The Rare Finch Conservation Group recently sponsored Benson Bamutura, who successfully managed the Phase 2 field research work at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in 2009 /10 for the RFCG, to attend a specialist Bird Guide course in Kampala. We are extremely proud to announce that Benson is now qualified to work as a bird guide on international birding safaris to Uganda .

The RFCG  is currently trying to raise funds to finance its planned Phase 3 field research work in Uganda .  In the meantime Benson can now work as an official bird guide, within the tourist industry, to help make ends meet for him and his young family. The RFCG strongly believes in helping to improve the quality and lives of the people that it works with in Uganda.  And we certainly look forward to the day where Benson can once again be contracted as our field manager to head up our Phase 3 field research work, to try and find the elusive Shelley’s crimsonwing finch .

If you would like to make a donation, no matter how big or small, to this very worthwhile conservation project then simply click onto the PayPal button below. All donations will be acknowledged in writing . The RFCG is registered as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on sponsors and donors for its current and future success. For more information on the RFCG please contact Eelco Meyjes at

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