Post #60 of 100

Bird Protection Quebec is the oldest non-profit, bird conservation society in Canada and will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary in January 2017. It is also among the world’s oldest such organizations. Its founding was only a dozen years after the founding of the National Audubon society in the USA. The name Audubon is familiar to most North Americans, but have you heard of any of the following organizations? The list below represents some of the world’s earliest conservation societies that focus specifically on birds, most of which were founded in reaction to the devastating effects of plume hunting and other 19th century practices that led to large scale bird population declines.

The World’s 10 Oldest Bird Conservation Charities

#1. Great Britain – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) – established 1889
The RSPB was founded by philanthropist Emily Williamson in protest to the cruel practices of the plume trade as well as the reduction of bird population numbers. Initially known as the Plumage League, all of the initial members were women. The organization attempted to spread the word to the fashionable (wealthy) women who wore the outlandish hat fashions of the day, that their adornments required the  inhumane slaughter of millions of birds and to persuade them to change their habits.

#2. Germany – Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) – established 1899
NABU was founded by Lina Hähnle, the wife of a wealthy business man, in 1899 as the Bund für Vogelschutz (BfV). She remained at the head of the organization till 1938. The society’s early growth and impact on bird conservation is largely  due to her influence and drive. Although a nature protection movement was already present in Germany, her involvement encouraged more women to become involved. Within the first year her enterprising methods brought membership to 3500 and the creation of the organization’s first sanctuary. She continued to grow membership through low yearly fees for both adults and children and in 1902 published the society’s first magazine. It promoted awareness about the plume trade and by year’s end the membership had increased to over 6000. Several years later she took to advertising among the noble classes and that section of society was well represented in the membership. Even heads of state such as the King of Sweden and US president Wilson were members. Her humble nature despite her family’s wealth is legendary. She is said to  have traveled by streetcar even in her old age in order to converse with “ordinary” people and persuaded more than one fellow rider to become a NABU member!

#3. The Netherlands – Society for the Protection of Birds (VBN) – established 1899
The Society for the Protection of Birds (VBN) was also founded to directly combat the impact of the outlandish hat fashions of the day on bird life. Within a few years the organization also began to address hunting practices and promoted the positive value of birds for agriculture.

#4. Australia – Australasian Ornithologist’s Union – established 1901
The Australasian Ornithologist’s Union was founded by a group of amateur ornithologists. It had 137 initial members of which 6 were women and 10 overseas members. The driving force behind its formation was Archibald James Campbell, an Australian civil servant and author of Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds. It was a useful reference during a time where field guides as we know them today were not available to amateurs and Oology (egg) and skin collection was still a common practice. The society’s official journal, The Emu, began publishing articles and pictures about the plume trade, and its photographs depicting starving Egret nestlings, whose parents had been slaughtered to harvest feathers for the millinery trade, were republished internationally to promote awareness about the repercussions of the plume trade.

#5. USA – The National Audubon Society – established 1905
While the National Audubon Society was officially formed in 1905, its actual history is somewhat older. The first Audubon Society chapter was formed in 1896 by cousins Harriet Hemenway and  Minna Hall in Massachusetts who were outraged by the Plume trade.  Within several years there were Audubon societies in a growing number of other states. These state organizations formed a loose national affiliation which led to the first National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. – Pelican Island, in Florida, in 1903. In 1905 the inception of a national organization of local Audubon chapters saw the incorporation of the National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals.

#6. Dennmark – Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (DOF) – established 1906
The Danish ornithological association was founded in 1906 by Hans Christian Cornelius Mortensen (a teacher and ornithologist) and Eiler Lehn Schiøler ( a wealthy banker and amateur ornithologist). Mortenson is known as the first to use bird banding for scientific purposes to monitor bird migration.

#7. France- la Ligue Française pour la Protection des Oiseaux – established 1912
The LPO was created in response to the slaughter of Puffins in Britanny, where relentless hunting reduced their numbers (from 20,000 to 2000 individuals) within a short period because of “hunting safaris” organized by the Compagnie des chemins de fer de l’Ouest. As a result of the efforts of the LPO, the area was made a sanctuary. The Puffin eventually became  the society’s symbol. The LPO also advocated against the plume trade.

#8. Argnetina – Aves Argentinas (AOP) – established   1916
AOP was founded by a number of prominent scientists and scholars interested in bird conservation and is the oldest such organization in Latin America.

#9. Canada – Bird Protection Quebec – 1917
Bird Protection Quebec was was founded in Montreal on January 4th 1917 on the heels of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty between Canada and the  United States. Its founders included both men and women, many of them educators, all of them passionate about birds. It’s first president was Lewis McIver Terrill, one of the city’s foremost authorities on birds. The driving force behind the BPQ’s founding, early organization and educational efforts is credited to Edith Morrow, a Kindergarten teacher and knowledgeable birder. Read more about BPQ history here or get the book.

#10. Estonia – Estonian Ornithological Society (EOS) – 1921
The organization was founded under the leadership of Professors Johannes Piiper and Henrik Koppel (Rector of the University of Tawith) and had an initial membership of 15 bird enthusiasts.

Note: The above information has been included where the date of founding could be verified on the organization’s website, the organization is bird specific in its activities and has been continuously in operation since its inception.