There was a time in India when we used to hear the melodious chirping of sparrows in our gardens and on our balconies and terraces. They used to visit us regularly. This is one of those childhood memories that we cherish the most.
But this shall not be so in the times to come. India is signatory to all major international conventions relating to conservation and management of wildlife, including endangered species of birds: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
Despite successful bird conservation initiatives around the world, it is extremely worrying that the number of critically endangered birds in India continues to increase.
According to the Great Backyard Bird Count 2015, India reported 735 bird species, the second highest number after Ecuador which reports 784 species. Of these, more than 70 bird species are critically endangered in India.
While it is fashionable in India to talk about conserving tigers, lions, elephants, rhinoceros or even dolphins, there are hardly any organised efforts to save our little friends, the birds.
Major threats being faced by the bird species and their habitat in the country include rapid urbanization, widespread deforestation leading to loss of natural habitat, poaching, indiscriminate use of harmful pesticides and chemicals and mushrooming of mobile towers. All of these have contributed to the declining of bird species in the country.
“Save Birds,” an initiative undertaken by Dainik Bhaskar Group every year, aims to create awareness to help and save birds during the summer season. It motivates people to place bird baths — sakoras in Hindi — at their homes and terraces so that birds can have grains and water.
This year, the initiative started in the beginning of May and continued till end of June. The initiative was kicked off with World Sparrow Day celebrations on March 20 in Mahim Nature Park, Mumbai. Recognising our efforts in this campaign, the Department of Post for the Government of India released a special cover with special cancellation.
Integrated approach: Awareness backed by on-the-ground activities
We believe that media has an important role to play in addressing the nation’s social and environmental problems, helping the government to achieve inclusive growth and enrichment of natural capital.
Given the magnitude of our reach, we took an integrated approach of both making people aware about saving birds and engaging them in hands-on activities in the form of organising school-level art and craft workshops; awareness sessions; and meetings at religious places, housing societies and colonies.
Targeted at people from all walks of life and in different geographies, the initiative was executed in 34 Indian cities spanning 10 states. Under the aegis of this campaign, Dainik Bhaskar distributed nearly 0.92 million sakoras, in addition to coordinating following activities:
- Arts and crafts workshops in 446 schools and colleges to spread the message of importance of saving birds and its relevance with respect to conservation of bio-diversity, as well as to teach school children how to make bird feeder out of waste materials.
The workshops were hugely successful in motivating children to make bird feeders based on the “best out of waste concept.” A special information booklet in three languages was also printed and distributed as part of Information education and communication aspect of the initiative.
- Awareness building sessions were conducted in 886 residential colonies and 203 parks. This time, our initiative also reached out to religious gurus in various temples, mosques and gurudwaras, thereby amplifying the reach of our message amongst the devotees of different religions.
The barometer of any social campaign’s success is dependent not only on mere awareness building, but also on ground implementation backed by measurable outcomes. For this reason, our group — apart from driving the campaign extensively through print and social media — also partnered with credible NGOs such as WWF India and the Nature Forever Society to use their volunteer bases and technical expertise in the areas of bird conservation.
The inclusive nature of such kind of partnerships promotes a sense of ownership and enhances the overall sustainability of the campaign.
Driving social media engagement
With an objective to amplify the reach of our campaign, thereby engaging more people in a meaningful manner, we used social media platforms in conjunction with our editorial-driven campaigns. An exclusive Save Birds Facebook page reached a half million people:
- The page drew more than 45,000 likes, 14,000 of whom are engaged on a weekly basis through posts and photo sharing.
- More than 9,000 readers have so far shared pictures of birds visiting their bird feeders and bird baths.
- An exclusive Whatsapp-8109200900 was created and an engaging photo contest was organised wherein people were urged to install bird feeders/baths at their homes and then click pictures of birds visiting them having food and water.
- More than 5,000 photos were received for the contest, and the 10 best pictures from each city were rewarded.
We hope our efforts will go a long way in helping our friends survive and make a comeback.