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Endangered species will be the stars of the show at the Sasol Birds and Birding Fair. On the bill are lectures, games and photography workshops.
BIRD watchers are in for a treat, with a feast of feathered friends on show at the Sasol Birds and Birding Fair at Johannesburg Zoo.


The wattled craneEndangered species: a wattled craneThe fair, an annual event, runs from 27 to 29 May this year.

Of particular interest will be the endangered species that are housed at the zoo. Among the stars of the show will be the wattled crane, southern ground hornbill, blue crane and scarlet ibis.

The zoo hosts the bird fair to raise public awareness of the importance of birds, explains Candice Segal, the zoo’s brand and communications manager. And it seems this approach is working as the fair usually attracts about 3 000 people over the course of the three days.

“The highlights of the fair are the exhibition, bird workshops and lectures that [are] presented by experienced birders,” she says. There is a selection of lectures, as well as a beginner bird photography workshop.

On 27 May, schools will attend the education day. Learners will be able to handle or touch live animals and birds, and will be taken on a tour of the zoo.

Photography workshop
On Saturday and Sunday, the photography workshop will run from 9am to 2pm. Topics to be discussed will include: getting started; equipment recommendations for new bird photographers; what camera settings to use to achieve the best results; exposure, exposure compensation and working with histograms; basic composition; basic field techniques; and photographing birds in flight.

Lectures on the bill include: creating a bird-friendly garden on Saturday at 10am; the differences between swallows, swifts and martins at 12pm; desert birds and climate change at 2pm; and the changing bird species of Johannesburg – what is here and what is no longer here – at 4pm.

There will be three lectures on Sunday: weaver demography relating to climate change, wetlands, citizen science and ringing at 10am; migratory birds of prey at 12pm; and bird territories at 2pm. All workshops and lectures are free and arranged on a first-come, first-served basis.


Children will be able to interact with zoo birdsChildren will be able to interact with zoo birds“The zoo, in partnership with Sasol and Birdlife South Africa, holds this event because it has been found that the zoo is a suitable environment as it is also an opportunity to showcase different kinds of bird species,” says Segal.

Richard Hughes, the manager of sponsorship at Sasol, says the company is “thrilled” to be involved in raising awareness of conservation issues and showcasing South Africa’s bird population.

“In so doing, we entice South Africans to experience these feathered friends through various platforms. These include through sponsorship of natural history publications such as the popular Sasol Birds of Southern Africa, bird guides and birding weekends in national parks throughout South Africa.”

Mark Anderson, the chief executive of BirdLife South Africa, adds: “Birds are amongst the most visible, and mobile, animals in our environments and are a critical component of any ecosystem. BirdLife South Africa believes that through the conservation of birds we can conserve the broader environment.”

Also on offer will be entertainment for children. There will be a migration game taking place twice each morning and afternoon on both days.

This year’s fair will focus on the barn swallow, which was named Bird of the Year 2011 by Birdlife South Africa. Barn swallows are small, migratory birds. They spend the summer months in South Africa, having migrated from Europe and Asia.

They are not endangered but their numbers are decreasing as they are vulnerable to land-use changes, habitat degradation, loss of wetland habitats, poisons and climate change.

The zoo has been hosting the Sasol Birds and Birding Fair for the past nine years. Entrance is R35 per person. Johannesburg Zoo is on Upper Park Drive in Forest Town.

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