World Bird News December 2012

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Up in smoke: charcoal production threatens almost a tenth of Somalia’s avifauna

Up in smoke: charcoal production threatens almost a tenth of Somalia’s avifauna

When African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) forces took control of the port city of Kismayo in Southern Somalia in September, they found an estimated four million sacks of charcoal waiting to be exported. A further four million sacks were stockpiled in and around the city, and at the village of Buur Gabo, near the Kenyan border.African Finfoot is one of the species threatened by illegal charcoal exports from Somalia (fveronesi1; flickr.com)

Much of the charcoal going out of Kismayo is believed to have come from the Jubba valley, part of an Endemic Bird Area (EBA) shared between Somalia and Ethiopia, which includes six Important Bird Areas (IBAs) on the Somali side of the border. All the charcoal at Buur Gabo is thought to have come from the mangroves and Acacia forests of the Laag Badaana (Bush Bush National Park) IBA, which is contiguous with the Boni Forest Reserve on the Kenyan side of the border, part of the East African Coastal Forests EBA. Further stocks of charcoal subsequently found at Badhaadhe, to the north of Laag Badaana, are also likely to have come from the national park.

Between them the Jubba forests and Laag Badana are home to more than 50 bird species not found anywhere else in Somalia, representing 9% of Somalia’s recorded avifauna, and their survival in the country is threatened by the scale of charcoal production.

The UN and the Somali government have banned the export of charcoal, which provided the main source of income for the al-Shabaab militants who previously controlled Kishmayo. The Somali government ban on charcoal exports dates back to 1969, and Somalia’s new president has re-emphasised that he does not want either the Somali ban, or the UN one, lifted. But exports have resumed because the port is under control of forces that are beyond the control of the president.

Now that the charcoal is moving, mangrove and Acacia trees are once again being cut down. Reports indicate that many people involved in charcoal production are well aware that the damage to their environment and livelihoods is likely to be irreversible, but see themselves as having no economic alternative.

It is thought likely that the fragile Acacia dry forest ecosystems in particular will be unable to recover, while Laag Badana holds the most important remnant of Somalia’s mangroves, which are under extreme pressure elsewhere from exploitation and coastal development.

Giant graffiti to help save threatened birds in Bulgaria


In the framework of its on-going Life project aiming at protecting raptors, BirdLife in Bulgaria (BSPB) decided to use creativity to better catch public attention, starting with a giant graffiti in the heart of Sofia.

Save the raptors project (2009–2013), aims at protecting Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca and Saker Falcon Falco cherrug in key Natura 2000 sites in Bulgaria. Both species are threatened by electrocution, habitat destruction and illegal poisoning and poaching, causing a decrease of the populations. To tackle the issue, BSPB developed the conservation project Save the Raptor. Project activities, including insulation of hazardous electricity poles, installation of artificial nests and guarding of nests and winter feeding, already permitted a small increase in both species.

But the activities did not stop there. Four volunteer artists offered to support the project, and the result, a 20 metre high graffiti depicting the majestic and globally Endangered Eastern Imperial Eagle, is impressive. Placed on an outdoor wall at a public school in down-town Sofia, which also supports the project, the giant graffiti is visible to anyone walking by.

In order to immortalize and share the good moments of the collaboration between RSPB and the artists, a short film of the making of the graffiti was produced.

By using innovative communication tools and contemporary art, BSPB aims at reaching young people and at leaving a long lasting mark of its 5-years Save the Raptors project.

BirdLife Europe warmly welcomes this creative initiative and congratulates the artists and BSPB for their innovative project.

Landmark move to protect albatrosses in the Western and Central Pacific just announced

After long deliberations stretching across four days, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) have agreed to measures that could result in significant reductions in the deaths of albatrosses, which accidentally get snagged on long line fishing hooks and then drown.

The meeting, held in the Philippines, announced that all longline vessels in the South Pacific will now be required to use two seabird bycatch mitigation measures in areas overlapping with albatrosses. Vessels must choose from a choice of either bird streamers, also known as tori lines, which scare birds away from the hooks; adding weights to hooks to make them sink more quickly; or setting hooks at night when most birds are less active.

The move brings the WCPFC, which is the world’s largest tuna commission, in-line with the measures adopted in Atlantic in November 2011 and the Indian Ocean in April 2012.

Scientists estimate that upwards of 300,000 seabirds are being killed every year by longline fisheries; it’s believed this is the primary reason behind 17 of the world’s 22 species of albatrosses being threatened with extinction.

Home to globally important populations of 14 albatross species, including Antipodean, Chatham, Buller’s, Salvin’s, Shy and White-capped, the Pacific Ocean is home to large fleets of longliners fishing for tuna. Tuna longliners typically deploy several thousand hooks every day, attached by branchlines to a main line that can be more than 100km long. Seabirds, especially albatrosses, are vulnerable to becoming hooked when they take the bait, and are drowned as the line sinks.

Dr Cleo Small, from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and BirdLife International, said, “This move is great news for albatrosses worldwide, including some UK albatross species such as the wandering albatross, which fly right around the world in the non-breeding period and can be victims of bycatch from the longliners that fish in the South Pacific. Without such measures, these beautiful birds could be lost forever.”

Although an understanding of the scale and nature of this threat has been known for a long time, the development of measures to reduce bycatch has been slow. BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme has been particularly active in devising and testing technologies and fishing practices to reduce the problem and be part of the solution; the Albatross Task Force, founded by the organisations, works directly with fishermen and fishery managers in eight bycatch hotspot countries worldwide to reduce the number of seabirds being killed.

The news from the WCPFC today follows the strong set of measures put in place last April when the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) agreed that fishing vessels must use two out of three measures to reduce bycatch when working in areas where albatrosses occur.

Karen Baird, from Forest and Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) was at the negotiations. “Global fisheries have a duty and responsibility to fish sustainably and to minimise their impact on non-target species, such as seabirds and sea turtles. This measure is a very welcome move towards this goal: if implemented this could reduce the number of albatrosses killed by 80%. Now that these measures have been adopted in the Atlantic, Indian and South Pacific oceans, we hope that the North Pacific and East Pacific will follow suit.”

Panama Bay developers threaten to break the chain of shorebird stopover sites

Panama Bay developers threaten to break the chain of shorebird stopover sites

One of the most important coastal wetlands in the Americas is under threat. The Upper Bay of Panama, an Important Bird Area, is a vital stopover site for migrating shorebirds. Up to two million individuals of 30 species use it on their way south after breeding.

The bay was declared a Ramsar site (Wetland of International Importance) in 2003, and included in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in 2005. In 2009, over 80,000 ha of the Panama Bay Wetland became a National Protected Area. However, in May this year, legal protected status was withdrawn because of pressure for urban and resort development, including hotels and golf courses. At the same time, regulations on mangrove cutting have been relaxed. Developers are reported to be at work within the Ramsar site boundary.

The bay provides essential ecosystem services to the people of Panama. It acts as a “nursery” for fish and shellfish, contributing $86 million a year to the country’s economy in commercial fishing revenues. The wetlands and mangroves also filter and purify sewage and industrial effluent, preventing them entering the marine food chain, and act as a buffer protecting the city from flooding and extreme weather.

Act today and write your concerns to the Panamanian government.

BirdLife Partner the Panama Audubon Society and a coalition of local and international environmental groups including National Audubon (BirdLife Partner in the USA) are taking legal action for protected status to be restored, and working with local communities to make sure their voices are heard.

“If these wetlands are lost, you break the chain of wetlands shorebirds need for successful migrations”, says Rosabel Miro, Panama Audubon’s executive director.

“This sets a dangerous precedent, not just for Panama but for the entire region”, warned Matt Jeffery, senior manager of National Audubon’s International Alliance’s Program.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2012 |  World Bird News December 2012

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