Akkadium’s Director of Studies for Wildlife, Jennifer Anderson, gave a public lecture on birds of prey to a packed audience at Thrapston U3A last week, at the group’s October meeting.
Jennifer’s fascinating talk covered many aspects of raptor physiology, natural history, behaviour and conservation, but her most important message was a sobering one. Although birds of prey perform a critical role in our ecosystems, many species now face unprecedented threats to their survival.
Natural habitats and essential prey species are rapidly diminishing, Jennifer explained, and raptors face increasing levels of deliberate persecution in many parts of the world.
Recent research shows that over half of the worlds raptors are in decline, and 18% of species are currently threatened with extinction.
With the impact of climate change also looming on the horizon, the outlook for birds of prey seems bleak.
“Birds of prey are magnificent and powerful creatures, but they need our help now more than ever,” said Jennifer, a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London.
“The more we learn about the needs, behaviours and distribution of raptors, the more empowered we’ll be to lead and support change. We need to protect their habitats, end persecution, and give them a fighting chance to survive the challenges ahead.”
To help raise awareness of the issues facing birds of prey, Jennifer leads a pioneering raptor education programme with Akkadium College, speaking in schools, communities and corporations around the UK.
She is also the programme leader of Sky Hunters: Discovering Birds of Prey – the world’s first fully online course that focuses exclusively on raptors.
“Education is one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to facing global challenges,” said Jennifer, “but it needs to reach people where they are.”
“Digital technologies, social media and online courses are making lifelong learning accessible to more and more people. Through the Sky Hunters course I get to play a small part in that movement, and that’s really important to me.”
Jennifer has another good reason to be excited this week. She has been elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society, in recognition of her ongoing contribution to education in wildlife conservation and natural history.
Dr James Patterson, Head of Akkadium’s School of Natural Sciences, and a Linnean Fellow himself, welcomed the news.
“Becoming a Fellow of a scholarly institution like the Linnean is a significant honour for anyone,” he said.
“Jennifer is a passionate ambassador for wildlife, and especially birds of prey. The educational work she’s doing with Akkadium is really inspiring, and I expect her influence will go from strength to strength. We’re proud to be a part of her important mission.”