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1,000 Lights Turned Off

A thousand street lights will go out tonight between 20:00 and 23:00 in five municipalities of Madeira, as part of a campaign to protect Cory’s Shearwaters from excessive artificial light. An initiative promoted by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA).

“With one night’s blackout, we will create a safe path in the sky so that birds can fly towards the sea safely, but more than that, we will demonstrate that reducing excessive artificial lighting can save birds,” the organisation said in a statement.

According to the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), the period between 20:00 and 23:00 is the most critical, as it corresponds to the period in which juvenile shearwaters leave their nests.

The municipalities of Funchal, Câmara de Lobos, Santa Cruz, Machico (on the south coast of the island of Madeira), and Santana (on the north coast) are partners in the project, which stems from a fundraising campaign called Noite Com Vida, under the ‘LIFE Natura@night’ program.

“A thousand street lamps will go out in Madeira, one for every 10 euros of donations raised in the Night With Life campaign,” clarifies SPEA, which also invites Madeirans to join the initiative, turning off the exterior lighting of their homes and buildings during the “mega blackout.”

“Every year, in Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands, light pollution leads to hundreds of juvenile seabirds becoming dazzled, falling to the ground and potentially being injured or even killed,” warns SPEA, stressing that “light pollution affects not only birds but also countless species and even human health.”

The Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds considers that today’s “mega-blackout” is a way to “make light pollution visible” and warn of the importance of studying its impact, as well as working with municipalities and companies to implement more efficient, more adequate and better targeted public lighting.

Until the 5th of November, the Save a Seabird campaign will remain active in the region, and volunteers and technicians from SPEA will travel around the island in search of birds that need help in reaching the sea.

Samantha Gannon

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