World Bird News November 2012

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On the road to a common ground for Ethiopia’s energy plans and conservation of migratory soaring birds

Stakeholders from Ethiopia’s energy sector and civil society organisations recently discussed the common need to promote renewable energy while ensuring that considerations of the risks to migratory soaring birds are made during the planning and operational processes of wind, solar and transmission lines developments. This was during a workshop held in Addis Ababa on 12-13 November 2012 under the auspices of the BirdLife International/UNDP/GEF “Mainstreaming Conservation of Migratory Soaring Birds into Key Productive Sectors along the Rift Valley / Red Sea Flyway” project and hosted by the Ethiopia Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS, BirdLife in Ethiopia). Over 30 participants from across government, energy sector, conservation organizations and environmental regulations agencies learnt of the ambitious development plans for renewable energy and grid development in Ethiopia.

‘’The presence of a big delegation at this workshop from government agencies led by H.E the State Minster for Water and Energy is a clear manifestation of the commitment, desire and will by the government to work together with us to promote green energy and sustainable development that takes into consideration environmental and biodiversity conservation concerns’’ Ato Mengistu Wondafrash, the Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society – (BirdLife in Ethiopia)

They were also informed of the country’s importance for migratory soaring birds using the Rift Valley/ Red Sea Flyway, along which over 1.5 million migratory soaring birds pass twice a year.

The workshop presented a set of tools developed by the Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project to aid the energy sector in understanding potential impacts on bird populations and ways to minimise these impacts. Renewable energy has the potential to deliver truly green development, but if developments are inappropriately placed they can have significant negative effects. Guidance for the wind and solar renewable energy sectors and related power line development were presented, which if adopted could mitigate against risks to migratory species. Further guidance highlighted the integral role that Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has in appropriate siting of renewable energy developments and the need to consider birds and biodiversity within these assessments. A sensitivity mapping tool developed by BirdLife was presented. It will aid government and the energy sector in considering threats to MSBs along the flyway when siting wind farms and other structures and help in identifying areas to avoid.

The workshop was officially opened by H.E Eng. Wondimu Tekle, State Minister for the Ministry of Water and Energy who stressed the need for striking a balance between development and biodiversity conservation and explained the various efforts the government is putting in place to adopt green economy to spur economic growth and reduce greenhouse emissions. As a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species among other international agreements, the Minister emphasised the government’s commitment

Update: Small grants also available for Mediterranean hotspot conservation- apply now

Update: Small grants also available for Mediterranean hotspot conservation- apply now

A new call has been issued for Letters of Inquiry for small grants from the CEPF fund

BirdLife International, in its role as the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for CEPF in the Mediterranean Hotspot, invite Letters of Inquiry from NGOs, Community Groups and other Civil Society organisations for small grants to conserve biodiversity in the Mediterranean Basin hotspot (small grants: under US $20,000).

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a global programme designed to safeguard the Earth’s biologically richest and most threatened regions known as biodiversity hotspots. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. There are 35 CEPF recognised hotspots worldwide so far, the second largest being the Mediterranean Basin.

Together BirdLife International, including its Middle East division and BirdLife Partners DOPPS (BirdLife in Slovenia) and LPO (BirdLife in France), serve as the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the CEPF Mediterranean Hotspot.
The deadline for submission is 15th December 2012

The current call pertains to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Croatia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Montenegro, Morocco, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Tunisia.

First signs of recovery for Asia’s Critically Endangered vultures

The rate of population decline of resident vultures in India and Nepal has slowed, but populations remain low and vulnerable

Populations of three Asian vulture species (White-rumped Vulture, Long-billed Vulture, and Slender-billed Vulture) have declined by more than 99% in South Asia since the early 1990s due to use of veterinary drug diclofenac, prompting BirdLife to classify their status as Critically Endangered. The governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan banned veterinary use of the painkiller diclofenac in 2006 because of its lethal effects on vultures that feed on the carcasses of cattle and buffaloes that had been treated with the drug shortly before they died. This initiative was essential for protecting the region’s endangered vultures but until now the effectiveness of this ban at reversing the vulture declines is unknown.

Good news for vultures?

In a new study in the science journal, PLoS ONE, researchers report the results of long-term monitoring of vulture numbers from surveys across India and Nepal. The latest surveys show that for both India and Nepal and for all three critically endangered species that vulture numbers have remained stable in the last few years. Prior to the ban on veterinary diclofenac the vulture population was decreasing at a rate of up to 40% a year. While the stabilisation in vulture numbers is encouraging only small numbers of the birds remain and they are still vulnerable.

Surveys for vultures were undertaken across more than fifteen thousand kilometres of roads in western, central and eastern states of India and across one thousand kilometres of roads in the lowland regions of Nepal, following the same routes and methodologies of earlier surveys in both countries. Surveys were undertaken by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in India and Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) in the lowland regions of Nepal.

In India:

The study’s lead author, Dr Vibhu Prakash from BNHS (BirdLife in India) commented: “The slowing of the decline in vulture numbers across India for all three Critically Endangered species is the first sign that the government’s ban on veterinary diclofenac is having its desired impact. Continued efforts is still required to protect the remaining small populations including halting the illegal use of human forms of the drug in the veterinary sector.”

In Nepal:

One of the studies authors, Khadananda Paudel from BCN (BirdLife in Nepal) commented: “The slowing of the decline in vulture numbers across Nepal and India is the first sign that the government’s ban on veterinary diclofenac and local initiatives to prevent the use of diclofenac within vulture safe zones is having its desired impact. However we need to maintain the strength of this ban and ensure that the whole Nepal can become a vulture safe area.”

Co-author Dr Richard Cuthbert from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) said: “The stabilisation in numbers of these three Critically Endangered vulture species in Nepal and India is really encouraging as previously populations were nearly halving in number every year. A lot of hard work still remains to ensure the small surviving populations can now begin to recover across South Asia and that other toxic veterinary drugs do not cause similar impacts to diclofenac.”

Efforts to reverse the decline in vulture populations are being coordinated by a consortium of national conservation organisations and multi-national vulture experts. This initiative, Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE), was launched in 2011 to help coordinate research, advocacy and implementation of the actions needed to prevent these birds from disappearing for ever. The second annual SAVE meeting was held in Kathmandu on the 5-6 November 2012 and included representatives from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

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