Conservationist tracks bird family struggling to survive

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A A A

A British conservationist has become the first individual to view all 32 of the extraordinarily beautiful family of birds know as Pittas in the space of one year, as part of a drive to save many of them from extinction.

The Pitta Pittida family are falling victim to deforestation in part of the world where their existence is already fragile, according to the campaigning organization Birdlife International, which has been lobbying the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, which concluded last Friday, for action on the issue.

Only three known ornithologists worldwide have viewed all of the Pittas in a lifetime, but Chris Gooddie’s resolve to tick them off in the course of one year was part of his mission to draw attention to the threat to a family originally known in parts of Asia as the ‘Jewel Thrushes’ by dint of their extraordinary beauty.

The Gurney’s pitta Pitta Gurneyi, a bird fabled among ornithologists and distinctive for its blue crown, is on the verge of extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Birdlife is particularly concerned about a proposed rubber plantations in Thailand in which 1,280 sq kms of lowland forest is to be cleared, severely affecting the Gurney.

Eight more of the family are vulnerable and five near threatened. In total, 44pc of the Pitta family is of concern to conservationists. Gooddie, whose obsession began with the discovery of a Noisy Pitta Pitta versicolor bouncing along the lower reaches of an Australia mountain range 15 years ago, has since become dedicated to raising attention to the plight of the birds and the destruction of forests which sustain them.

His journey, captured in a book he has written of his experiences, entitled The Jewel Hunter, has revealed threats to some members of the family that had not been previously known of. Near the city of Bislig, on the east coast of Mindanao in the Philippines, Goodie discovered that the Philippine government’s ban on logging – an industry which had begun restoring the local eco-system through selective logging, having initially stripped the area of 97 per cent by over-exploitation - had prompted a free-for-all among illegal loggers which is contributing to vastly more deforestation and environmental devastation. Species including the Black-headed tailorbird, Mindanao miniature-babbler and Blue-capped kingfisher will now seem doomed to die off in this area.

Other wanton destruction of birds Gooddie stumbled upon almost casually. A guide who helped the Briton to find the recently rediscovered Sumatran Ground-cuckoo in the remote south-west of the Indonesian island had only turned to eco tourism because he couldn’t earn enough money by catching and selling the same bird. The Ground-cuckoo sells for roughly 35,000 Indonesian Rupiah (£1.80) and catching one was taking the guide three to five days. “Once he discovered that he could earn ten times that figure each day by guiding bird watchers through the forest, his hunting days were over,” said Gooddie, who also discovered Sumatra’s two endemic Pittas – Graceful Pitta and Schneider’s Pitta – on that leg of his mission.

The fragility of the Pitta family is only too apparent in the recent life story of Schneider’s, which was thought to be extinct having not been observed for over 50 years, between 1936 and 1988, until a British ornithologist, Phil Hurrell, rediscovered a male, and then a pair, near the summit of Mt Kerinci, Indonesia’s highest volcano. The Black-faced Pitta Pitta anerythra was not seen from 1938 to 1994 and also thought to be extinct.

Gooddie, 47, who resigned his sales directorship of a successful professional audio company to attempt the feat, has twice run the London Marathon twice to raise funds to protect the remaining forests in which Gurney's Pitta clings to existence. He discovered that particular species at one of only two sites where it is know to exist on the verge of extinction – in southern Thailand. It also known to survive in Tenasserim, Southern Myanmar.

All of publisher Wild Guide’s profits from Gooddie’s book for to Birdlife International, the RSPB's international partner. “I wanted to escape and embark on this trip, the idea of which had for a long time tantalized me,” said Gooddie. “It’s a mission accomplished but new missions gained where preserving this family is concerned.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star