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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 15:03 GMT
British cash helps smallest bird
Cuban swamp   Martin Davies/BirdLife International
The Birama swamp in eastern Cuba, a key Caribbean wetland (Martin Davies/BirdLife International)
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By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

The smallest bird in the world stands to benefit from the enthusiasm of UK birdlovers.

The bird, the bee hummingbird, is endemic to Cuba, which is receiving money raised at a British birdwatching event.

The donation will help protect the largest remaining wilderness area in the Caribbean in eastern Cuba, the hummingbird's stronghold.

Previous donations have helped bird conservation in Brazil and Vietnam.

The money, 135,000 ($193,000) was collected in entrance fees from people attending last year's British Birdwatching Fair.

The fair is held every August at Rutland Water nature reserve in the English Midlands. It is organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

Record attendance

The RSPB is the British arm of BirdLife International, which works in more than 100 countries.

Blue hummingbird   Martin Davies/BirdLife International
Bee hummingbird: The world's smallest bird (Martin Davies/BirdLife International)
BirdLife will use the money, the most ever raised at the fair, for its work in eastern Cuba.

This aims to improve the existing network of protected areas and to secure their long-term conservation.

Other endemic species (found nowhere else) in the area include the Cuban pygmy owl.

The Birama Swamp in eastern Cuba is the Caribbean's second largest wetland. It is critically important for the globally threatened West Indian whistling duck and large concentrations of Caribbean flamingo.

A bird mural painted by UK artists at last year's fair is now on permanent display at the national museum in Cuba's capital, Havana.

The fair's organisers say the money they raise this year will help a project aimed at saving the last lowland forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

One of the fair's organisers, Martin Davies, said: "Indonesia has the highest number of threatened species in the world.

Three years to go

"Nowhere is the crisis facing its birds and forests more severe than on Sumatra, where a shocking 78 of 102 local lowland forest-dependent bird species are listed as globally threatened or near-threatened."

Hornbill in tree   C Artuso/BirdLife International
The rhinoceros hornbill is in serious decline (C Artuso/BirdLife International)
BirdLife says the Sumatran rainforests face "an unprecedented threat to their existence" from logging and from clearance for agriculture and exotic plantations.

Birds at risk include the rhinoceros hornbill, a critically endangered ground cuckoo, and the red-naped trogon.

Other threatened species are orang-utans, tigers, Raja Brooke's birdwing butterfly, and the rare Sumatran rhinoceros.

The world's largest flower, the rafflesia, is also found in the forests.

At current logging rates, the World Bank estimates, all Sumatra's remaining lowland rainforests will have been destroyed by 2005.

Money raised at the 2002 birdwatching fair will help conservation at five sites by trying to reduce or halt illegal logging.

See also:

06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asian birds under threat
08 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Jakarta warned over forest crisis
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