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Exciting future for wildlife on the Isle of Man

Last modified: 10 April 2012

Adult chough on Oronsay RSPB nature reserve

Image: Andy Hay

A new chapter for the conservation of birds and their habitats on the Isle of Man is about to begin with the announcement of an exciting new partnership between the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Manx BirdLife (MBL).

The RSPB already has over 1,300 members on the Island and with previous knowledge of MBL’s work, the RSPB knew this was a partnership which offered the potential for mutual benefit and the opportunity to raise public awareness of the Island’s rich diversity of species and habitats to help safeguard the future of our environment both generally and specifically in relation to key species such as Chough, Hen Harrier and the Manx Shearwater.

Manx BirdLife was founded in 1997 as the ‘Manx Bird Atlas’ and has gained international recognition for collating and publishing the first wintering and breeding bird atlas of the Island’s amazing bird life, which set new standards in its field, cited as an example of best practice throughout Europe. Based on this extensive local knowledge and led by Mr Chris Sharpe with a small team of professional staff and volunteers the charity has subsequently become recognised as the Island’s leading ornithological charity undertaking research, conservation, and education relating to the Island’s bird life.

Chris has been directing the development of the charity for the last 13 years and is delighted to confirm the establishment of this strategic partnership with the RSPB, which is one of Europe’s leading and most widely respected conservation organisations. Chris commented “When we started the charity in 1997 our intention was simple: research the breeding and wintering population of birds on the Island and publish the results. Having achieved that and having taken the decision to continue the charity into the future, changing our emphasis to conservation, some real challenges ensued! Over the last couple of years particularly our workload and our aspirations have increased significantly, sometimes restricting our ability to ‘be all we can be’. With ongoing research commitments, real conservation challenges to face as well as being in the process of taking on the management and development of a significant area of land for the benefit of birds, the relationship we have developed with the RSPB is critical for our next steps. Having had the privilege of leading the charity up to this point, I am delighted that the developing partnership with the RSPB will secure the future for something I hold dear to my heart.  One of my most abiding memories of the last few years has been the support we have received from across the Island’s community, whether that is farmers, the public, Government or business; and I am sure that support sets a sound base for the future.“

The charity’s growth has prompted the need to restructure with several significant new projects and initiatives to be launched or completed later this year. As Chris leaves the Board of Directors, a new extended local Management Board and Advisory Committee have been put in place and a new Chief Operating Officer will shortly be appointed.  The new team retains its strong Manx identity, but will now have the benefit of being integrated into the RSPB where it can draw on the professionalism and expertise of their staff with unequalled skills in conservation.

Dr James Robinson, Director of RSPB Northern Ireland, said, ‘I have known Chris for many years now and have watched closely with admiration the outstanding work he and his team has been doing on the Island.  As Europe’s largest conservation charity, we are delighted to be able to support this invaluable work that continues to be done on the Island and to work together to further develop the important projects Chris has initiated.”

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