The RSPB is dedicated to improving the fortunes of species in the UK and across the world. In today’s blog we’ll hear from Andy Evans, Head of Global Species Recovery at the RSPB to learn more about how the RSPB goes about helping species in trouble.

In these blogs, we have already shared stories about our work to conserve iguanas in the Caribbean and rare plants and invertebrates on St Helena. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Securing a future for species is at the heart of what the RSPB does.

Our work to save species extends across all four countries of the UK as well as internationally - in the UK’s Overseas Territories, on the East Atlantic flyway (from the Arctic to South Africa) and elsewhere in the world where we can make a substantive difference. We’re helping a range of species from albatrosses and turtle doves to mountain hares and pine hoverflies.

A long and varied journey
Saving species, otherwise known as ‘species recovery’ can be a long and varied journey but the process is consistent across species. The route taken and the length of the journey will differ between species, and there may be unexpected twists and turns along the way. The end goal is an improvement in the conservation status of threatened or declining species.

The species recovery journey can be broken down into four main steps:

1. Diagnosis – we investigate why species are declining.

2. Testing conservation solutions – we develop and test measures to address the factor(s) behind the species’ decline. Sometimes we have to think creatively. For instance, we found that long line fishing was catching such large numbers of albatrosses that many species were facing extinction. We can’t stop long line fishing but we have developed ways to stop the birds from being caught.

3. Recovery – we find ways to roll these solutions out to as high a percentage of the population of the species under threat as possible.

4. Long-term legacy – conservation solutions have been put into place allowing the species to recover. This recovery may be sustainable, requiring no additional input. However, in some cases, success will be dependent on Government policies that influence nature on land and at sea. In other cases, long-term recovery will be dependent on some level of ongoing conservation management. All in all, this means that we cannot simply walk away once a species has recovered – continued engagement will be required to ensure the species’ recovery remains on track.

Science is key to understanding why species are in trouble and devising solutions to help them. © Tom McSherry (

How do you save a species?
Species can face a wide range of threats – from changes in land or marine use to disease, invasive non-native species and climate change. There is no one size fits all approach to dealing with these threats. Instead, we can delve into the ‘conservation toolkit’ and use an array of options for addressing the problem. The toolkit includes, among many others, science (to diagnose the problem, monitor populations and test solutions), policy and advocacy (seeking to influence decisions that impact on species), direct intervention (on the ground action tailored to specific species, such as the removal of alien invasive species), acquiring and managing nature reserves (to provide species with suitable habitats) and ensuring suitable protection and management of key protected areas.

Having said all that, there’s one element that really is crucial to saving species and that’s working with partners. The scale of the challenge is so great that we must work with other conservation organisations, academic institutions, businesses, governments, individuals, funders and many more groups if we are to make a significant difference for species under threat.

Conservation in action
Lately we’ve been reflecting on the progress that the RSPB and partners are making towards recovering threatened species. We’ve compiled a new report that outlines some of the progress we made for species in 2021 – a collation of stories that show how, together, we are making a positive change for species.

Download the ‘Saving nature in 2021’ report and uncover inspiring species stories from the UK and across the world, including:

• How we’re working with land managers in eastern England to boost turtle dove populations by creating feeding and nesting habitat
• Our efforts to develop a nifty new contraption to help stop seaducks from being accidentally caught up as ‘bycatch’ in gillnets at sea.
• Advocacy efforts to protect the vitally important Tagus estuary in Portugal for migratory waterbirds.
• Conservation breeding and translocation of rare pine hoverflies in Scotland.

Our species recovery work includes supporting land managers to create suitable feeding and nesting habitat for turtle doves in southern and eastern England. © Ben Andrew (

Species recovery work is not without its challenges but together with our partners we can and do deliver great things. Booming bitterns and soaring red kites are testament to the positive difference that species recovery can make to our natural world. We look forward to celebrating more success stories as our work continues to bring about a brighter future for species near and far.

We’re already making plans to celebrate our species recovery stories from 2022 so watch out for more news on that in 2023.

Continue reading
New legal framework and biosecurity measures protect rare, endemic wildlife on Tristan da Cunha
Iguana awareness day – Saving iguanas in the Caribbean Overseas Territories
Fight to save the UK’s only naturally occurring cloud forest receives new funding

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