Developing conservation capacity in India

The RSPB has worked with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in India since the early 1990s and started formal support in 1997.

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The focus of our work has been the establishment of the Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN) who strive to protect India’s 466 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) through conservation.
With 12 per cent of the world’s bird species (over 1200), seven Endemic Bird Areas (EBA) and five Secondary EBAs, India is a birding hotspot. It has a long history of environmental protection through strong environmental laws and community conservation, but this is rapidly being eroded as the need to support over one billion people has led to unprecedented economic development. The result is a systematic loss in biodiversity, which ironically often impacts on the poorest communities.
BNHS is the BirdLife partner in India and the oldest non-governmental organisation in Asia, even older than the RSPB having started in 1883!  They have a strong background in research and science and boast one of the finest natural history collections in Asia. The RSPB are working with them to further develop their conservation activities and to this end helped establish the IBCN in 1997. This is a collaboration of organisations and individuals throughout India who are concerned with bird conservation. BNHS through the IBCN produced the IBA book in 2004 which details 466 sites. Of these, 267 are protected but the challenge is to safeguard the 199 non-protected IBAs.


  • Strengthen the Bombay Natural History Society as a national environmental NGO.
  • IBCN evolves as effective national conservation body with BNHS at its heart to monitor birds and manage IBAs.
  • Help BNHS to effectively protect India's birds and their habitats.
  • Help BNHS to save India's vultures and to ban diclofenac from veterinary use.
  • Help BNHS to save Jerdons courser.
  • Expand BNHS presence to a more national level and increase membership.
  • Develop BNHS policy and advocacy capacity.
  • Environmental education developed nationally through Conservation Education Centres.

Key Dates

  • RSPB formal support from 1997.
  • Establishment of the Indian Bird Conservation Network-IBCN (1997).
  • Production of IBAs of India book (2004).
  • Darwin Initiative project (£95,000) to strengthen IBCN to safeguard key sites (2005-08).
  • BNHS 125-year anniversary (2008).

Planned Work

We are currently working with BNHS to try to halt the catastrophic declines in Gyps vultures since the mid-1990s. This large-scale project is advocating the removal of the deadly drug, diclofenac, whilst at the same time managing vulture breeding centres to help re-establish healthy populations.
Other work involves the Critically Endangered Jerdon’s courser whose last remaining pairs in the world are found in a small area in Andhra Pradesh. The work focuses on research into the elusive nocturnal bird's ecology and awareness for the need to protect its scrub jungle habitat.


BNHS income has tripled since 2002 largely through project funding with more than 20 projects ongoing. Our investment in the Corporate Marketing Division is also yielding impressive results. Membership remains around 5,000 but as BNHS takes on a more national presence this should increase.
The recent Darwin Initiative project orchestrated by BNHS has helped to build the capacity of the Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN) to become more engaged in practical conservation work on IBAs and Globally Threatened Species. The employment of an Advocacy Officer based in Delhi has greatly increased their ability to react to threats across the country.

Species affected (not UK birds)

India supports more than 1200 bird species with 72 globally threatened and 42 endemic species. BNHS with RSPB funding are currently working on Gyps vultures and Jerdon’s courser.


  • Bombay Natural History Society
  • Indian Bird Conservation Network



  • RSPB's core support is £65,000 a year and other donors include CEPF, Darwin, MacArthur Foundation.


Coast on a stormy day

Ian Barber

Senior Partner Development Officer , Asia
Tagged with: Country: India Country: International Project status: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Education Project types: Organisation development Project types: Site protection Project types: Species protection