Latest Sightings chats to Nicholas Theron


Jul 29 2015

Tracy Burrows from Latest Sightings chats to Nicholas Theron, KwaZulu-Natal Regional Conservation Manager at Bird Life South Africa to gain some insight regarding his projects, acheivements, favourite birding places and more...

TB: What projects are you currently working on, and what are your responsibilities?
NT: My main responsibility is the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in KwaZulu-Natal. These are sites of global significance that are identified due to the threatened bird species that they support. Examples of some of the well know IBAs in KwaZulu-Natal include the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Maloti-Drakensberg Park but there are many less well known sites that support a host of species. Many are not formally protected and are thus vulnerable to threats. Our ultimate aim is to ensure these sites are conserved and managed for the species that occur in them. Without suitable habitat we cannot conserve birds or other biodiversity for that matter. My job is varied from working with landowners to implement Biodiversity Stewardship and formally secure priority sites to awareness and education work. We ensure that the IBA network remains up to date and that it is incorporated into Provincial Conservation plans which allows us to track and where necessary oppose destructive and irresponsible developments that threaten IBAs. An important part of my work is also to update our knowledge of species in IBAs and this leads me to spend time in some wonderful places monitoring rare and endangered species.

TB: What is your favourite bird and why?
NT: No question, it is the southern ground-hornbill. I spent five years working with the species and they are fascinating birds. Each individual has a distinct personality and they are highly intelligent and playful, providing hours of entertainment. Sitting early mornings on rocky outcrops in the Limpopo valley long before dawn listening for their distinctive booming calls is something I will never forget.

TB: Can you please share an interesting fact about southern ground-hornbills?
NT: There are so many. They are the largest hornbill species, the largest cavity nester and the largest co-operative breeder. They live in family groups of up to 8 individuals and the dynamics within these social groups is something truly unique amongst birds.  
TB: A tip on spotting the southern ground hornbill?
NT: The Kruger National Park is the best place. Sadly, the species is becoming rarer in South Africa and they have disappeared from much of their former range. Mkhambati Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape is also a good place with completely different habitat and the ocean forming a dramatic backdrop.

TB: Where is your favourite birding place?
NT: There are so many fantastic places and that is one of the wonderful things about birds, you usually don’t need to go far!  I’m lucky because the Drakensberg and the Sani Pass is on my doorstep. A trip up the Sani Pass is a special experience with the chance to see a number endemic species such as Drakensberg rockjumper and Gurneys sugarbird. Seeing a bird like the bearded vulture with the Drakensberg massif towering above you is truly a wonderful experience.

TB: What’s it like working for a bird conservation NGO?
NT: I get to do what I love and then call it work! Working for BirdLife South Africa is a privilege and it is fantastic to be part of such a dedicated and passionate team of people whose sole purpose is to conserve birds and their habitats.

TB: Lastly, what drives you?
NT: My love for the natural environment.  We face so many challenges but there is also so much to be positive about. It is often the little things and those special moments where you realise how rich our wildlife heritage still is that makes all the hard work worth it.

 

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