Giving Conservation Wings with Candice Stevens

Jun 24 2015

Tracy Burrows from Latest Sightings chats to Candice Stevens, Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project Manager at Bird Life South Africa to gain some insight regarding her projects, favourite birding places and more... 

TB: What are your work responsibilities & projects?
I manage the Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project (the Fiscal Benefits Project), a project that would not be possible without the funding received from the WWF Nedbank Green Trust. The Fiscal Benefits Project is a pilot study that aims at testing the use and applicability of certain environmental taxes to advance the aims of the Biodiversity Stewardship initiative nationally. This involves launching the project at key pilot sites across the country whereby private landowners are engaged to determine if they will qualify for specific tax breaks as a result of their commitment to conservation.

TB: Can you list your achievements please?
The Fiscal Benefits Project is a novel initiative that has catalytic potential to increase the effectiveness of Biodiversity Stewardship efforts across the country, thereby, protecting more birds and their habitats. BirdLife South Africa and Candice Stevens are taking the lead and moving conservation into a new arena through the Fiscal Benefits Project and are at the cutting edge of conservation work in South Africa.

TB: What is your favourite bird and why?
I can never choose; I have so many favourites! So I have narrowed it down to having a favourite large, medium and small bird: verreauxs’ eagle, southern carmine bee-eater and blue waxbill respectively. I love verreauxs’ because of their strong, black colour and regal glare. Carmine bee-eaters are just the most beautiful, happy, bright birds and to watch them foraging over the savanna is something I could do for hours. As for blue waxies, they are one of the very first birds I learnt to identify when birding with my grandfather as a little girl in the bushveld so they hold a particular soft spot for me. And besides, they are so cute and round and blue and busy!

TB: Can you tell us an interesting fact about your favourite bird to educate us?
I find raptors absolutely fascinating and they are, in general, mostly listed somewhere on the red data list so my fact is about the verreauxs’ eagle which is one of the world’s 10 largest eagles. Verreauxs’ in one of the few raptors in the world that has such a specialized diet favouring dassies (rock hyrax) in more than 50% of their diet. This has created specific habitat needs for them which is why searching kopjes is a great way to spot them!

TB: Please give us a tip on spotting your favourite bird...
I always listen out for bee-eaters in the summer. Whenever I hear a high-pitched twittering on the wing, I always glance up and I am bound to find bee-eaters wheeling overhead. Blue waxbills are so diagnostic and need very little introduction. As for the verreauxs’, whenever I pass by substantial cliffs and rock faces I scour them in case I am lucky enough to find a pair. If they don’t happen to be around, you are most likely to come across some other birding treasure.

TB: Where is your favourite birding place?
Oh my goodness this is a difficult question...I bird in so many places and South Africa plays host to such a wealth of incredible spots that it is almost impossible to select just one. But I would have to say that Kruger National Park takes a lot of beating when it comes to diversity and all round atmosphere. I particularly love the bushveld and being able to bird amongst so much biodiversity. This makes Kruger a natural favourite for me. Kruger also offers everything from raptors to migrants and everything in between so you never know what you may come across (and I love surprises). Through my work at BirdLife South Africa, I have also been fortunate enough to bird in some of the off-the-beaten-track IBAs (Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas) such as the KwaZulu Natal Mistbelt Grasslands IBA where I have seen rarities such as the Blue Swallow; the little sapphire jewel! When it comes to home favourites though, the Polokwane Nature Reserve in Limpopo is one of the best kept birding secrets. I visit it often and I am never disappointed! You just can’t believe that a little place on the edge of a bustling city would be filled with such fun stuff, like Shelley’s Francolin, Short-clawed Lark and a plethora of other species

TB: What’s it like working for a bird conservation NGO?
In one word: Epic! I am a tax specialist by education and experience but at heart I am a born and bred passionate conservationist and a birder to boot. Being able to use my skill set to conserve our country’s birds and their habitats is a dream come true for me. I get to work with fantastic people and I am part of the awesome IBA Team!

TB: What drives you?
I grew up in a family that appreciates every nuance that the natural world has to offer. I have spent a considerable time in some wonderful and wild places and my passion for preserving natural landscapes, and the variety of life they contain, drives me in what I do.

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