A woman from Dorset will be recognised with an international award for saving birds in Belize.

Nikki Buxton, 58, originally of Swanage, relocated to the Central American country 20 years ago where she founded Belize Bird Rescue - and has been rescuing parrots and birds in the country ever since.

She is one of the first international winners to be recognised with a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at BAFTA, London, honouring her work to protect wild birds.

Each year, approximately 300 birds, from about 250 species come to her rehabilitation centre, which houses up to 190 birds at a time.

Most are parrots, which have been taken from the wild and sold into the illegal pet trade.

Nikki says about half are handed over by local authorities that have confiscated them, and half are surrendered directly by people keeping them as pets.

The parrots that come into Nikki’s care need attention to get them ready to be returned to the wild.

Sadly, many have their wing feathers clipped, which take a long time to regrow.

Nikki said: “When we first started out, people would say to us that it couldn’t be done - the birds could never be returned to the wild.

"But now what we’re seeing is not only are the birds surviving in the wild – they are thriving - joining wild flocks and successfully breeding.

"It’s worked so well that other organisations in other countries have now adopted this approach.”

On winning the award, Nikki said: “When I found out that I had won this award, it took me a while to process – I couldn’t quite believe it. Having Belize Bird Rescue and the work we do here being validated in this way is just amazing and I feel so honoured.”

Loïs Lelanchon, Programme Manager - Wildlife Rescue, IFAW said: “Nikki’s work to rescue and rehabilitate birds that become caught up in the exotic pet trade is commendable.

"So many animals are captured from their natural environment, and while this has wider biodiversity consequences, for the individual animals involved, their lives in captivity are often short-lived and miserable.

"But Nikki and her team provide a lifeline to help get wild birds back where they belong - in the wild. Hearing about what she has done to protect the endangered yellow-headed parrot in particular, is remarkable.

"Nikki is a deserving winner of the IFAW Animal Action Award”.