ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme invests in conservation at a grass-roots level by helping aspiring conservationists in developing countries to take the lead in researching and conserving their local EDGE species.
The application period is now open for the 2017 cycle of EDGE Fellowships and Bruktawit Abdu, one of our current EDGE Fellows, tells us more about her role working for wildlife.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
At an early age I was fortunate enough to have travelled and camped in some parts of Ethiopia with my family as my father was a conservationist. When I was seven years old, my father passed away due to an accident while on the job. However, my mother loved nature as well so she used to take us on field trips and help us appreciate the biodiversity even in our backyard. So even though I grew up in the city, I really enjoyed nature and wanted to travel a lot. After high school, I used to volunteer at conservation organisations which made me realise that Ethiopia really needs more conservationists as it is losing much of its natural habitat. So I decided to pursue my education in the field of conservation.
How did you hear about the EDGE Fellowship and what were you doing before you became an EDGE Fellow?
I previously came across the EDGE website a couple of years ago. However, the director of the organisation that I currently work for brought it to my attention again last year. Before the Fellowship, I had started working at the BirdLife partner in Ethiopia (Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society). I am still based there and I work on assessing the ecosystem services provided by various sites that are important for migratory birds in Ethiopia.
Which animal or areas do you specialise in or work on?
I have been working on different groups of birds for a few years now where I was able to get experience on raptor migration, bird ringing and waterfowl census surveys. However, more recently I focused on researching a single bird species (Liben Lark) which is Critically Endangered.
What is the focus of your EDGE Fellowship and what made you want to study in your current field?
The focus of my EDGE Fellowship is the White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi). It is a very elusive species currently known to migrate between Ethiopia and South Africa while breeding only in Ethiopia. Not much is known about the biology of the species as it is quite hard to observe in the field. And what’s more it is Critically Endangered. Thus I want to find out what we can do to improve its status. I am also very interested to understand more about this mysterious species.
What is the best thing about your job/role?
Working on conservation and being out in the field studying birds is very thrilling. And with this project it will be even more satisfying as I will get the chance to work with the community to learn more about the White-winged Flufftail. It will also be helpful to look for solutions to benefit both the community as well as the Flufftail.
Have there been any particular highlights during your Fellowship so far?
So far the main highlight of the Fellowship has been the conservation tools training course in Madagascar. I was able to learn lots of things about different aspects of conservation including the social aspect which is also very essential. In addition to the course, I had the pleasure to meet and be friends with young and enthusiastic conservationists working in different parts of the world.
How important do you think the Fellowships are to support conservation, especially local conservation?
I believe that the Fellowship is very helpful for young conservationists who need the training and guidance to further their career. Besides providing the necessary resources to conduct their work, it helps Fellows to think of bigger projects to work on by strengthening their network and increasing their exposure to the international community of conservationists and donors.