IBA Caretaker Network
The network is a keystone of the IBA conservation programme. In order to promote grassroots involvement in the conservation of sites important for birds (IBA), BirdLife has been establishing national networks of IBA caretakers or Site Support Groups for many years and in all continents.
Active in Africa, Asia and in Latin America, the IBA Caretaker approach proved to be very effective under different political systems. However, it really originated in Europe where more than 23 countries as diverse as Spain, The Netherlands, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Ukraine are involved.
Since 2005 the caretaker network has spread into the Caucasus region where BirdLife is implementing this program through respective partner organizations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
IBA Caretaker Network in Armenia
In Armenia, the Armenian Society for the Protection of Bids (ASPB) runs a (patron) network of IBA caretakers, a system of volunteer groups based atArmenian Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas. These caretaker groups vary in size and the scope of work, depending on ther time availability, number of people involved and, to a large extent, on the character of the site.
Some of the IBAs are along the military-political borders and activities such as research and monitoring are limitted. In cases when IBAs form part of the protected area, a lot of work is being done by the managers of these areas.
Who are IBA Caretakers?
The IBA caretakers are local community leaders, living at or near IBA sites and able to carry out and/or promote the conservation and monitoring of species and habitats at "their" sites. They use birds to leverage the environmental interest in the community and address threats at site level. They are recognized by decision-makers at all levels because they are a crucial source of information.
The IBA caretakers come from a variety of backgrounds: they are local teachers, naturalists or members of local NGOs, hunters, foresters or staff of protected areas, villagers and farmers, students and kids, - but they all share a zeal to protect biodiversity of "his/her" site and committed to work with the national NGO (BirdLife Partner).
They are highly motivated and very knowledgeable about "their" sites, habitats and species, they are excellent team builders and enjoy full respect at local level, they are "alarm bells" and eco-detectors of any local threat and they simply care for the area they live in!
The task of each IBA caretaker is to monitor bird populations at IBAs, identify threats affecting them, liaise with local authorities and communities, and carry out direct conservation actions. Their educational and promotional skills are on the increase.