World Bird News January 2007

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Rare parrot draws in celebrities at ecotourism centre launch


Miss Bolivia 2006 was among those attending celebrations for the opening of a new ecotourism centre in the country. The centre is part of a conservation program focusing on the Red-fronted Macaw Ara rubrogenys, being undertaken by Armonia (BirdLife in Bolivia).
The centre, or Ecotourism Cabin ‘Paraba Frente Roja’ (Red-fronted Macaw), is part of a conservation programme developed by Armonia. The programme is working in a variety of ways to help conserve the macaw; offering technical advice to farmers, drawing up agreements to protect important habitats and working to promote environmental education, in this case through ecotourism.At the launch, Miss Bolivia, Jessica Jordan, outlined her support for the Ecotourism Cabin in front of 45 attendees, many of whom were from nearby communities and the municipality of San Carlos.

Of the programme, Abraham Rojas, Red-fronted Macaw conservation programme coordinator at Armonia said: "We have been working towards finding a way in which the Red-fronted Macaw can live alongside the livelihood activities of the communities in the area. The Ecotourism Cabin will provide us a great opportunity to do this. It will offer sustainable support to the local community, while giving long-term protection to this threatened Endemic species in Bolivia."
Red-fronted Macaw is listed by BirdLife International as Endangered due mainly to habitat degradation in the country. The distribution of the bird is split into a number of vulnerable subpopulations, spread over the Misque, Caine and Pilcomayo rivers in the inter-Andean valleys.
The Ecotourism Cabin is situated in one of the natural habitats of the parrot, alongside other endemic birds like Cliff Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus luchsi and Bolivian Blackbird Oreopsar bolivianus, both of which breed on the cliff face with Red-fronted Macaw. The Cabin will offer visitors a chance to see and learn more about the birds and their habitats at close quarters.
The Ecotourism Cabin, was built with support of Naomi Lupka Trust – Ben Olewine, Conservation des Espèces el des Populations Animales – CEPA and The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

Nature Uganda condemns killing of Kampala’s scavenging storks


Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus nestlings were left to die in the sun on traffic islands in the heart of Kampala, after the city council chose the peak of the stork’s breeding season to cut down their nesting trees.
Council workers had been instructed to cut down trees near electricity lines. But according to Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of NatureUganda (BirdLife in Uganda), the action breached the city’s own environmental guidelines. “Kampala City Council has an environmental officer who should have advised them on the right time to cut the trees. They should have waited until their chicks had grown.”
The Marabou Storks began nesting in large numbers in Kampala, after a near 20-fold growth in the city’s population over four decades combined with rising levels of affluence to overwhelm the city’s rubbish collection services. In 2004, City Engineer Abraham Byandala told The EastAfrican that only 30 percent of the city’s rubbish is collected.
In the 1990s, a campaign to poison the storks was halted after a public outcry. In his 2004 interview, Mr Byandala told the The EastAfrican that if City Hall had the means, it would have “broken their breeding cycle by disrupting their nesting season”.
Whether or not this was the city council’s intention, Achilles Byaruhanga says that because it is now the peak of the breeding season for Marabous, “the actions could devastate the storks’ breeding success”.
Conservationists point out that the scavenging storks are helping the city deal with its rubbish problems. While not universally loved either by city residents or visitors, they are also a tourist attraction. Achilles Byaruhanga says tourism is the second highest foreign exchange earner in Uganda, and having 200 bird species in the city centre is a huge opportunity for Uganda’s tourism industry.
Achilles Byaruhanga says the birds will leave only when the city improves its refuse collection services, taking up residence instead around dumps on the outskirts, where they will continue to perform a valuable scavenging role. “But according to the state of affairs today in the country and in the city, this may take very many years to come. In the meantime, the city council must not act irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

Important Bird Areas in the Americas recognised as crucial for shorebirds


Conservationists have met in Ecuador to announce the formal designation of the latest in a list of sites highlighted as being of global importance for shorebirds.
The announcement was made during the meeting of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) and Waterbird Conservation Councils.
The meeting represented the first meeting of the Councils in South America, with the intention being to expand the Waterbird Conservation for the Americas initiative to address the full hemisphere including the interests of 29 nations.
The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) is a partnership of organisations working to protect shorebirds and their habitats by conserving key sites across the Americas. The meeting was hosted by Aves & Conservacion (BirdLife in Ecuador).
Lagunas de Ecuasal, a coastal lagoon, was first listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) in 2004. The area has now been announced as a WHSRN Site of Regional Importance, the first to be identified in Ecuador. It joins those of eight other nations in a regional effort to conserve migratory birds at important sites across the Americas.
Sandra Loor-Vela, Director of Aves & Conservacion, said: "Ecuasal’s designation is a great opportunity to demonstrate that conservation can be carried out in conjunction with major economic activities. We are very excited that land owners and managers within Ecuasal are supportive of such efforts on their land.”
Lagunas de Ecuasal is an artificial wetland system that has become an important site for many resident species. It also constitutes a unique refuge for migratory birds, especially in August and September when large flocks of shorebirds can be found along the water edges and dams.
Upon hearing of the site’s designation as a Site of Hemispheric Importance, Nicolás Febres Cordero Gallardo, Site Manager for Ecuasal operations said: “We are proud that it will be recognized globally and that it will benefit from the support of the international community in its conservation.”
The site is thought to hold two percent of the global population of Wilson’s Phalarope Steganopus tricolor – up to 32,000 birds.
"We are delighted that the Ecuasal owner, Nicolás Febres Cordero Rivadeneira and the site managers, will continue to help promote such amazing diversity and decidedly contribute to the conservation of these wonderful birds.” said Sandra Loor-Vela.
Another IBA, the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri, U.S. was also announced as a WHSRN Site of Regional Importance at the meeting.
“Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent site to recognize as part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.” commented John Cecil, Director of the IBA Programme at Audubon (BirdLife in the U.S.). “Squaw Creek is an outstanding site for shorebirds in Missouri and hence has also been designated an Important Bird Area by Audubon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does an excellent job managing the habitat for shorebirds.”

115,000 RSPB supporters sign petition condemning Malta's bird shooting and trapping shame


It is time the Maltese government faced up to its illegal bird hunting and trapping shame and honour its bird protection commitments says a 115,000-strong petition from RSPB supporters which was delivered to the Maltese prime minister's doorstep yesterday by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and BirdLife Malta. The Maltese prime minister has refused three previous invitations by the RSPB and BirdLife Malta to accept the petition personally.
The handing in of the petition to the Maltese government coincides with an analysis by BirdLife Malta showing that birds from 38 countries, including the UK, have been shot or trapped across the Maltese Islands.
The petition, which had to be left on the Prime Minister's doorstep calls for Dr. Lawrence Gonzi and his government to “respect the EU bird protection laws, make sure those laws are enforced and stop spring hunting in Malta.”
During a press conference, at St. James Cavalier, Mr. Alistair Gammell, Director of International Operations at RSPB, explained the Prime Minister had refused three written requests to meet, leaving no option but for the organisations to deliver their message personally and discuss the annual carnage. Mr. Gammell expressed his surprise at the Prime Minister’s persistent refusal considering his willingness to meet the hunters to discuss their priorities. He said: "Asking Malta to respect EU laws is entirely reasonable."
Lying midway between Europe and Africa, Malta is a key staging post for birds migrating between the two continents in spring and autumn.
Joseph Mangion, BirdLife Malta’s President, said: “Fourteen bird species have been recorded in Malta that had been ringed in various parts of the UK. In many of these cases, the birds were found because they had either been shot or trapped – thus highlighting the plight of migratory birds from all over Europe. None of these 14 species are on the list for permitted hunting in Malta, and only two of the species can be lawfully trapped until a transition period expires in 2008 when trapping must end completely.”
Alistair Gammell added: "Spring hunting is extremely damaging, killing birds just days before their nesting will begin in the UK and across Europe. It cannot be tolerated by anyone who cares about nature, and it is a matter of continual concern to many of our million members.”
Malta is widely regarded as the worst offender against the EU Birds Directive of all the European Union's 27 member countries. While changes in Maltese hunting legislation were a step in the right direction, the Maltese government has continued to allow spring hunting of turtle dove and quail and the spring trapping of finches – both activities in clear breach of European law – since it joined the EU in 2004.
BirdLife International’s 2005 assessment of bird species in decline lists illegal hunting as the major contributor to the decline of one-third of the 129 species listed.
The European Commission opened infringement procedure against Malta in June 2006. Despite pressure from the EU and conservation organisations in Malta and Europe the Maltese government has recently challenged the Commission at a meeting in Brussels and suggested that they would allow spring hunting again in 2007.
“Our government knows that hunting in spring is illegal under the EU law. We are asking the government yet again to outlaw illegal spring hunting practice once and for all. Our elected representatives should do that for the majority of the Maltese public who are overwhelmingly against hunting,” concluded Joseph Mangion.
A study conducted by BirdLife Malta's conservation manager, Dr. Andre Raine, has looked at those birds which have either been ringed elsewhere and recovered in Malta or those birds ringed in Malta and recovered elsewhere. Although the chances of ringed birds being recovered are infinitesimal, the analysis reveals a catalogue of shame with UK-ringed birds, including cuckoo, goldfinch, spotted redshank, gannet, great skua, short-eared owl recorded in the island's grisly trapping and hunting practices.

Iraqis open the book on wildlife conservation

Iraqis open the book on wildlife conservation


Wildlife conservation in Iraq has been given a significant boost with the release of a guide to Iraq’s birds – the first field-guide of its kind for the nation.
BirdLife International and Nature Iraq, a newly-formed conservation non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Iraq, have published ‘Field Guide to the Birds of Iraq’ in Arabic.
Covering the 387 bird species that have been recorded in Iraq, this is the first comprehensive, fully-illustrated field-guide to an Arabic-speaking country.
“For Iraq – a nation that has lost so much of its wildlife in the last twenty years, this book opens the door for the growing conservation movement in this country.” said Dr Ali Douabul of Nature Iraq. “Local language field guides are crucial tools for conservation. They encourage people to realise, appreciate and get involved in bird conservation, which, because birds are good indicators of the environment, has potential benefits for all of our wildlife.”
The book is due to be presented to the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, in the next few weeks.
Under the regime of the previous government, almost 90% of the Marshes were destroyed through drainage. With reduced numbers of fish and the failing of crops, many people were forced to flee to neighbouring Iran and Jordan. Since this time however some 40% of the land has been re-flooded and wildlife – with it food for Iraq’s people - is returning.

“These are some of the most wildlife-rich sites in the Middle East, but often all we hear about is the conflict.” said Richard Porter, BirdLife International’s Middle-East Advisor and co-author of the guide. Mr Porter has in recent years led a team from BirdLife International that has trained biologists from Nature Iraq in skills to survey and monitor Iraq’s marshes for the wildlife that live there.
“It’s recognised across the world that biodiversity can enhance quality of life in a region. By publishing this field-guide with Nature Iraq, we are improving the ease with which people can become involved in conservation in the region; a positive step which has potential economic benefits for the nation as a whole.” Mr Porter commented.
The field-guide was made possible through funding from the Canadian Government via the Canada-Iraq Marshlands Initiative, the World Bank and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME) and AviFauna.

Study reveals further declines for the world’s waterbirds


A new publication released today reveals continued declines in many waterbird populations across the world.
The Wetlands International report, the fourth edition of ‘Waterbird Population Estimates’, presents estimates and trends of 878 waterbird species spread around the world. Of these 44% of populations for which trend data were available were found to be decreasing or have become extinct since the last edition was released in 2002.
“The results of this publication highlight clearly how vulnerable waterbirds, and wetlands, are to man-made change.” commented Mike Crosby, Research & Data Manager of BirdLife’s Asia Division.
The report was based on annual field surveys by 15,000 voluntary expert observers across hundreds of sites worldwide, many of them Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
“Due mainly to their importance for large congregations of waterbirds, wetlands make up a high percentage of Important Bird Areas (IBAs). These habitats are crucial for birds and for other species, but significantly, wetlands are important for people, their livelihoods and the economy of their nation.” said Dr Lincoln Fishpool, Global IBA Coordinator at BirdLife International.
The new publication highlights how human impacts like reclamation of wetlands, increasing pollution and illegal hunting as well as expanding “urban-sprawl” are factors behind the reported population declines.
Asia continues to be the continent of most concern; 62% of waterbird populations were found to be decreasing or have become extinct. This is a reflection of the low level of site-protection which sites are afforded in Asia, say BirdLife International: “Improved protection and management of wetlands is vital if we are to prevent the extinctions of many of Asia’s unique waterbirds, and to sustain the livelihoods of the people who rely on wetland resources." said Mr Crosby.
In 2005 a publication by BirdLife International showed that just 11% of key wetland sites in Asia were afforded protection under the Ramsar Convention, a global framework for international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

Don't can albatrosses, warns BirdLife at global tuna summit


As representatives from the five commissions controlling global tuna fishing meet for a week of talks on the future of tuna stocks, BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have warned that the fate of the world’s albatrosses rest heavily on the results.
The Joint Meeting of the Tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, taking place in Kobe, Japan, will look at ways to reduce over-fishing and to combat illegal fishing, both of which are depleting valuable tuna and swordfish stocks around the world.
Representatives from both organisations are pushing the commissions involved in the meeting to address these issues and to resolve the issue of bycatch by putting in place alternatives to longlining, a fishing practice that has caused dramatic declines in global seabirds.
"Nineteen of the world's 21 species of albatross are threatened with extinction and bycatch from longline fisheries, including those for tuna and swordfish, is the principal threat. Coordinated action by the tuna commissions is critical to the survival of many albatrosses, as well as other vulnerable species including turtles, sharks and, of course, tuna and swordfish stocks.” said Dr Cleo Small, of BirdLife International, who is attending this week's meeting."Nineteen of the world's 21 species of albatross are threatened with extinction and bycatch from longline fisheries, including those for tuna and swordfish, is the principal threat. Coordinated action by the tuna commissions is critical to the survival of many albatrosses, as well as other vulnerable species including turtles, sharks and, of course, tuna and swordfish stocks.” said Dr Cleo Small, of BirdLife International, who is attending this week's meeting.
"By acting together to address bycatch issues, the tuna commissions can share knowledge and spread the cost of development of these bycatch mitigation measures." she added.
Last month saw the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) become the first tuna commission to make obligatory at least two mitigation measures to prevent seabird bycatch. The move was deemed “a step in the right direction” by BirdLife.
"Failure by the tuna commissions to resolve overfishing and bycatch issues will not only leave tuna 'canned', but many other species, including albatrosses, will be 'canned' too." said Dr Small.
BirdLife's ‘Save the Albatross’ Campaign is trying to stop the needless slaughter of albatrosses by ensuring that relevant international agreements are implemented that will benefit both the birds and the legal fishing industry.
To find out what you can do to help visit our ‘Save the Albatross’ website:

Madagascar protects wetlands crucial for people and birds


One of Madagascar’s most spectacular wildlife areas - almost 3,000 km2 of tropical wetlands, forests, savannas and caves - is to be protected by law.
“This is a particularly important milestone for conservation in Madagascar because these are the first large freshwater wetlands to be protected that also support a significant and dependent human population.” said Vony Raminoarisoa, Director of BirdLife International Madagascar Programme.
The Government of Madagascar granted the area a protected status for two years; a preliminary step toward the area being granted permanent protection. Another wetland, Lake Alaotra in eastern Madagascar, was also granted similar protection. The decree came into effect this week.
The Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands hold all of the wetland bird species found in Western Madagascar, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. They represent key habitats for Madagascar Teal, Sakalava Rail, Madagascar Sacred Ibis and Madagascar Pond Heron. The wetlands are also one of the last refuges for Madagascar Fish Eagle, a Critically Endangered bird of prey with a population of just 220 birds.
In 1999 the wetland was declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International, on account of the diverse array of threatened birds found there.
The newly protected area also holds vitally important populations of other threatened species like the Critically Endangered lemur, Crowned Sifaka Propithecus (verreauxi) coronatus, and the Madagascar Big-headed Turtle Erymnochelys madagascariensis.
The area’s protection is part of President Marc Ravalomanana’s ‘Durban Vision’, whereby Madagascar will increase its total protected areas to six million hectares by 2008.
The news represents a significant milestone for BirdLife International, who have been working with the Madagascar Government and with local communities, promoting efforts to manage the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands in a sustainable manner whilst monitoring and conserving biodiversity. “It’s a fantastic achievement for all involved.” said Mr Rivo Rabarisoa, Site Conservation Programmes Manager, BirdLife International Madagascar Programme. “This decision is supported by conservationists worldwide, by local communities within the protected area and across the main Ministries in Madagascar who are concerned with the sectoral interests of wetlands (including agriculture, fisheries and extractive industries). We hope this achievement can be replicated elsewhere.”
The Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands are a vital resource to the Malagasy people for fishing, hunting and agriculture. BirdLife has been working in Madagascar since 1997, and on conservation of this site since 2003, investigating and encouraging practices that allow the wetlands to be managed in a sustainable manner, to the benefit of people and wildlife.

“This protected area isn’t just good news for the wildlife; it’s a step forward for people and livelihoods.” said Roger Safford, Programme & Projects Manager, BirdLife International. “The Government of Madagascar is setting an example to the world in asserting and making sustainable the real economic benefits for people and communities in protecting such biodiverse and productive regions as these wetlands.”
BirdLife were coordinators of the process leading to the region’s declaration and compiled the necessary information required for the declaration to move forward.
"We are delighted that such a large and well-known area can be offered full protection, whilst still retaining its vital use as a wetland resource for local people and communities." commented Dr Ramanitra Narisoa, President of Asity, the only Malagasy bird conservation NGO, which was also a strong contributor to the process. "This is fantastic news for conservation in Madagascar."

Islet inhabitants benefit from rat removal


Eradication of black rats from three small islets that host important breeding Eleonora’s Falcon Falco eleonorae and seabird colonies in the Northern Sporades National Marine Park, Greece, has had immediate conservation benefits.
Prior to the eradication, up to 30% of Eleonora’s Falcon eggs and nestlings were eaten by rats, but subsequently neither the falcons, nor the breeding seabirds— mainly Mediterranean Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii and Yellow-legged Gulls Larus cachinnans—have suffered rat predation.
150 kg of the anticoagulant rodenticide Brodifacoum-based BRODIRAC was hand broadcast at bait stations on the islets in March 2005, before the falcons had returned from their winter quarters in Africa. More than 18 months later, there is no evidence rats survive on the 15 ha Lagofytonisia islets which have been declared rat-free.
“There is no danger to Eleonora’s Falcons, which specialise in feeding on birds and insects, and reptiles and invertebrates are not susceptible to this poison,” explained Jose Tavares, RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) Country Programme Officer for Turkey, Greece and Portugal. “The rats generally die in their burrows so do not pose a significant risk to raptors and scavengers.” A second rat eradication trial is now underway on the 4.5 ha Kastronisia islets in the Northern Sporades, which host up to 24 pairs of Eleonora’s Falcon, and suitable eradication sites across hundreds of Greeks islands in the whole Aegean are being identified and prioritised for future rat-removal.
“We have learned a lot about rat control measures, which will be invaluable for conservation work in the country,” said Jakob Fric of HOS (BirdLife in Greece), who took part in the trials.
The project was carried out as part of an EU-LIFE project to improve conservation measures for the Eleonora’s Falcon.
Many other threatened birds and their habitats are under intense threat as a result of accidental introductions of invasive pests like Black Rat.
BirdLife International are asking for your support as efforts are put in place to stop the looming extinction of several small parrot species in the Pacific – Kuhl’s (Rimatara) Lorikeet Vini kuhlii, Ultramarine Lorikeet Vini ultramarina and Uvea Parakeet Eunymphicus uvaeensis.
To find out what you can do to help, please visit:

Large birds vanishing from West African Sahel


Systematic counts thirty years apart reveal a catastrophic decline in numbers of large birds in the sub-desert region of West Africa.

Jean-Marc Thiollay travelled the same 3,700 mile routes in 1971-73 and 2004. Birds still relatively common in the 1970s –including Nubian Neotis nuba and Arabian Bustards Ardeotis arabs, Ruppell’s Griffon Gyps rueppellii and Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus- had entirely disappeared by 2004. Thiollay says the once widespread Ostrich Struthio camelus is now extinct west of Chad. Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus numbers over a large section of the route had dropped from 75 in the early survey to just one.

“Overhunting, aggravated by overgrazing and degradation of acacia woodlands are obvious causes of the collapse of Ostrich and bustards,” he writes in a recent paper published in Bird Conservation International <actinic:variable name="1" />. The near-extinction of wild ungulates (antelopes, gazelles), intensified use of cattle, increased disturbance and poisoning of predators may have been critical in the dramatic decline of vultures.”

He adds “An effective hunting ban, updates on the status of threatened species, reintroduction of Ostrich, enforcement of existing nature reserves and design of a new one in northern Mali are among the most urgent steps to take if the large birds of the vast subdesert areas of West Africa are to be conserved.”

Thiollay’s results have been incorporated into recent reviews of the status of several African vulture species, leading to their likely listing by BirdLife as threatened on the forthcoming 2007 IUCN Red List. These include Ruppell’s Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus and White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis, all of which will be listed for the first time.

The “slow but continued” desertification of the Sahel identified by Thiollay may have an impact on overwintering Palearctic warblers, according to the authors of the paper, How robust are Palearctic migrants to habitat loss and degradation in the Sahel? recently published in the journal Ibis <actinic:variable name="2" />. The study suggests that Common and Lesser Whitethroat and Subalpine Warbler can cope with all but the most severely degraded habitat.

But the loss of key habitats at departure points prior to spring migration, meaning that birds are unable to build up their fat reserves, may force them to depart from further south. The greater distance, added to the existing barrier of the Sahara, may lead to increased mortality on migration, and to birds arriving on their beeeding grounds late and in poor condition. The authors speculate that species dependent on pristine habitat may already have suffered from historic habitat loss.

Bird Conservation International is the official journal of BirdLife International. It provides stimulating, international and up-to-date coverage of bird conservation topics important in today's world. For more information.......

Darwin lifeline for rare paradise-flycatcher


A three-year project funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative has been launched to save the Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone corvina, the last Critically Endangered endemic bird in the Seychelles.
Once found on islands across the archipelago, including Praslin, Mariane, Aride and Felicite, today a breeding population of paradise-flycatchers exists only on La Digue, where the pace of island developments is increasing pressure on the remaining 200 birds.
“Conservation action has helped several of our endemic bird species recover in numbers, and we’re confident we can do the same for the paradise-flycatcher,” said Nirmal Shah, Director of Nature Seychelles, the BirdLife partner in Seychelles.
In recent years, the threat status of the Seychelles Magpie-robin Copsychus sechellarum, Seychelles Fody Foudia sechellarum, Seychelles White-eye Zosterops modestus, Seychelles Warbler Acrocephalus sechellensis and Seychelles Scops-owl Otus insularis have all improved, thanks to action by several organisations, including Nature Seychelles and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, assisted by private island owners.
“The Seychelles and New Zealand have led the way in the restoration of island ecosystems and species recoveries,” said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Species Programme Co-ordinator. “It would be a remarkable achievement to bring the last Seychelles endemic out of imminent danger of extinction.”
The project will work closely with local people on La Digue, to ensure measures put in place to protect the birds meet with their approval. It will also include an assessment of the socio-economic importance of the flycatchers to La Digue and the Seychelles, and aims to increase the importance placed on conservation and protection of local ecosystems.
Investing in island biodiversity: restoring the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, is led by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent and Nature Seychelles, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR), Wildlife Vets International, RARE Pride, Denis Island Limited, Kent Business School and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).

Conservationists applaud EU decision to ban permanently wild bird trade


The EU Commission has announced that the ban on imports of birds caught in the wild is to be made permanent throughout the European Union later this year.
The move comes after a temporary ban was imposed within the EU in October 2005, after birds in a UK quarantine centre were found to have avian influenza.
“We fully applaud the decision made by the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.” said Dr Clairie Papazoglou, Head of European Division at BirdLife International. “Banning the imports of birds caught in the wild is great news for bird conservation, even though the ruling has been made to limit the spread of disease, and not to conserve species. Only if laws are made on the basis of conservation can we have more confidence in protecting those species that are threatened by trade.' The ban is to take effect from the 1 July 2007.
The EU’s decision will heavily impact the illegal or unsustainable trade in wild birds that has decimated many species across the world.

Trapping for the international bird trade has been identified as a contributory factor in the threat status of one in twenty threatened and near-threatened bird species, with parrot species being particularly affected. Some are close to extinction as a result, such as the Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea of East Timor and Indonesia; others are already Extinct in the Wild such as the Spix's Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii of Brazil. Examples of species which continue to be threatened by legal and illegal exploitation for the bird trade include the Red Siskin Carduelis cucullata in northern South America, Java Sparrow Padda oryzivora of Indonesia and the African Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus.

The news has been applauded by BirdLife Partners across Europe, many of whom have been campaigning against trade in wild birds for up to 20 years.

French wetlands crucial for Aquatic Warbler


The majority of Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola, migrating from their breeding grounds in Europe, use “stopovers” in wetlands in north-western France to build up their strength before their onward journey to Africa.

The authors of the paper Autumn migration route of Aquatic Warbler (Ibis 148, 735-743) identify the Seine and Loire estuaries as priority sites, with some smaller wetlands in Brittany receiving large numbers when eastern winds predominate at the peak of migration.

They write that post-breeding migration through France takes place through the entire summer, but peaks in the third week of August. “The species seems to fly quickly to France, where it concentrates… it is likely that part of the population departs directly from stopover sites in France to winter quarters in Africa without additional stops in Europe”.

In this respect, they say Aquatic Warbler’s migration strategy is closer to that of Sedge Warbler A. schoenobaenus than Reed Warbler A. scirpaceus. Sedge Warblers depart early, and most fly to West Africa in a long stage from feeding grounds in northern France or southern England. Reed Warblers go later and more slowly, breaking their journey in Spain or Portugal to refuel before crossing the Mediterranean.

The authors say that the very low incidence of records on the French Mediterranean suggests that, rather than Aquatic Warbler having both Atlantic and Mediterranean migration routes, birds seen along the Spanish Mediterranean coast are en route from the French Atlantic coast.

France has designated 30 Special Protection Areas where Aquatic Warbler is mentioned on migration, including Baie d’Audierne, Basse Seine Estuary and marsh, Baie de Goulven, Baie du Mont St Michel and Estuaire de la Gironde. None of these were specifically designated for Aquatic Warbler. But in Brittany, a project funded by the EU’s LIFE (Financial Instrument for the Environment) programme is working to increase the amount of favourable habitat by restoring reed marshes and controlling land use.

The experience derived from the LIFE project will be shared through workshops, booklets and websites to support an inter-regional conservation strategy for this Vulnerable species.

Hopes soar after vulture chick hatches


One of the world’s most threatened birds has bred in captivity for the first time in India. The news has given scientists and conservationists further hope for saving Asia’s declining vulture populations.
The single chick, a White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, was hatched at a breeding centre in Pinjore, Haryana, as part of a breeding programme undertaken by BNHS (BirdLife in India) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). Scientists had not expected the birds to breed successfully in captivity until at least 2008.
'The egg was laid in November and since then, we have been waiting and hoping.' said Dr Vibhu Prakash, Principal Scientist for the vulture breeding programme at BNHS 'This success shows that we have got the conditions right, so now we can plan ahead with confidence to breed many more vultures in the future.'
Captive breeding is being used in India to help ensure that Asian vulture populations recover after populations of three vulture species - White-Rumped Vulture, Indian Vulture Gyps indicus and Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris - declined by more that 95 percent in just three years in the 1990s. Subsequent research found a link between the apparent vulture declines and a veterinary drug, diclofenac, being used in treating livestock. Many millions of vultures are thought to have died as a result of feeding on the carcasses of livestock treated with the drug.
'This success shows that we have got the conditions right, so now we can plan ahead with confidence to breed many more vultures in the future.' -Dr Vibhu Prakash, Principal Scientist, BNHS
Vultures, being highly efficient scavengers, are a crucial part of South Asia’s ecosystems. In recent years they have continued to decline by between 22 and 48 percent each year.
Vulture numbers are now so low that the birds’ survival is largely dependent on captive breeding success, as well as stopping the use of diclofenac.
The drug is currently being phased out in India, Pakistan and Nepal.
Chris Bowden, Head of the RSPB’s Vulture Conservation Programme said: 'The hatching of this vulture chick is a hugely important milestone and shows that the vulture breeding programme really can help save the vultures once diclofenac is removed from the environment.
In January 2006, scientists from the RSPB and the Zoological Society of London proved that the drug meloxicam was a suitable, and safe, alternative to diclofenac. Conservationists are now promoting the use of this safer drug in veterinary practice:
'The increasing availability of meloxicam means that farmers and vets can switch to the new drug. But this must happen immediately if we are to avoid losing the last remaining wild vultures,' urged Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society.

Caribbean birdwatchers urged to submit their sightings


Past and present visitors to the Caribbean are being asked to dust off their notebooks and dig out their holiday bird sightings in a bid to increase knowledge and understanding of bird distribution and status in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean islands are renowned for their birds - over 560 different species occur there, 148 of which are found nowhere else on Earth - yet good information on abundance and distribution of these birds is still lacking for many of these species.
Conservationists within the BirdLife Caribbean Program are looking to the birdwatching world to help reverse this trend by submitting their sightings on Caribbean Birds, part of a global internet-based recording facility.
"Birdwatchers record an enormous number of birds but often their records end up ‘lost’, sitting in notebooks, lists or unpublished trip reports" said David Wege, Caribbean Program Manager at BirdLife International. "There are probably millions of records that fit into this category, many of them for countries, like those in the Caribbean, that have high bird diversity but lack proper systems for monitoring their numbers."

"With such a wealth of birds in the Caribbean every bit of information we can retrieve has the potential to make a difference in our conservation efforts" - David Wege, Caribbean Program Manager, BirdLife International
The Caribbean Birds initiative enables users to store and manage their own observations, extract reports and print or download maps. As well as contributing their own observations, visitors to the website can also view other people's records; a potentially important resource for a region that is popular with nature tourists keen on seeing the region’s numerous bird species.
"With such a wealth of birds in the Caribbean every bit of information we can retrieve has the potential to make a difference in our conservation efforts" commented Wege.
Caribbean Birds is part of Worldbirds, a joint initiative by BirdLife International and two of its Partners, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and Audubon (BirdLife in the US). It links together existing and new internet-systems to collect and report on bird populations and movements in different countries around the world.

Hold the anchovies - Magellanic Penguins need them


Rapid expansion of Argentina’s new anchovy fishery may threaten the world’s largest colony of Near Threatened Magellanic Penguins Spheniscus magellanicus at Punta Tombo, Patagonia. Anchovies make up more than 50 percent of the Magellanic Penguin’s diet.

A paper in Science reveals that the country’s plan to develop a small-scale trawler fishery for the 'under-exploited' anchovy includes no mechanism to quantify the impact on wildlife.

The anchovies are turned into fish meal, much of which goes to fish farms in China and Europe. Ten pounds of anchovy may be required to produce one pound of farmed fish. The value of the fishery is a fraction of the ecotourism revenues generated by the penguins and other 'charismatic megafauna' which depend on the anchovies and the larger fish that feed on them.

'Rising global demand for fish meal could fuel unsustainable anchovy fishery expansion on the Patagonian coast”, the paper’s authors warn. They say anchovy populations are naturally variable, and long-lived predators like penguins, sea-elephants and sea-lions can ride over the scarce years -“as long as good years follow bad'.

But when bad years follow bad years, populations may be unable to bounce back. Nearly ten years after the severe El Nino of 1997-8, the Humboldt’s Penguin Spheniscus humboldti colony at Punta San Juan, Peru, previously 5000 strong, has reached just 2000 birds. Research into the causes of this failure to recover points to overfishing: Peru’s long-established anchovy fishery takes up to 85 percent of the anchovies in Peru’s waters, and studies by the World Bank and others indicate that the catch needs to be halved to provide a sustainable future for fisherman and wildlife.

'Before any further expansion and investment takes place, the costs to other fisheries, risks to wildlife and ecotourism, and food web interactions need to be determined,' the authors of the Science paper conclude. They add that to make informed decisions about the future management of the fishery, research into ecosystems and indicator species like the penguins is needed.

Overfishing of anchovies in Peru poses a threat to other birds. A recent article in World Birdwatch magazine highlights the threat posed by overfishing to 'Guano Birds' like Guanay Cormorants Phalacrocorax bougainvillii, and Peruvian Boobies Sula variegata.

Guinea declares Africa’s first vulture sanctuary


The Republic of Guinea has designated a specially protected area for vultures, the first of its kind in Africa. The ‘vulture sanctuary’ consists of approximately 450,000 ha in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, a region that holds a significant proportion of West Africa’s vultures.

This is encouraging news for conservationists, who are seriously concerned by recent findings showing that populations of six vulture species in the region have plummeted.

'The decline in our vulture numbers is deeply disturbing' - said Mamadou Saliou Diallo of Guinée Écologie, with whom BirdLife International has been working. 'But by protecting vultures in this way, we are making our first steps toward their recovery in the region.'

According to Guy Rondeau of conservation NGO Africa Nature International: 'Vultures are vanishing from the skies of West Africa primarily because of human persecution. Indirect poisoning, caused by birds feeding on treated carcasses left out by livestock herders to control ‘problem’ animals (jackals, lions, hyenas), is also a significant reason for the drastic declines, and another factor is the increasing rarity of carcasses because of a decline in numbers of big-game throughout West Africa.

'by protecting vultures in this way, we are making our first steps toward their recovery in the region.' -Mamadou Saliou Diallo, Guinée Écologie

Conservation organisations, including Fauna and Flora International, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, and the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, have been working with Guinée Écologie under Africa Nature International’s Duga Programme on a regional West African vulture conservation project aimed at stabilising vulture populations in rural refuges and helping numbers recover in the sub-region. Recent surveys of vultures have confirmed the seriousness of the regional decline and also located relict vulture populations in Mali and Gambia, where numbers are also dwindling.

'Because of their role as scavengers, vultures are a crucial component of Africa’s biodiversity' said Hazell Shokellu Thompson, Head of BirdLife’s Africa Partnership Secretariat. 'Helping to conserve them by protecting important areas has a positive ‘knock-on’ effect for other kinds of wildlife, many of which are facing similar threats.'

Windfarm permit "seriously contradicts" Endangered Species Act


A proposed windfarm in the Karso del Sur Important Bird Area (IBA), Puerto Rico, could wipe out five percent of the global population of the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar Caprimulgus noctitherus.

The proposal, which has been strongly condemned by Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña (SOPI, BirdLife in Puerto Rico), is the latest in a series of windfarm proposals around the world which threaten bird populations of conservation importance.

The Karso del Sur IBA is the most important remaining stronghold for Puerto Rican Nightjar, which has been reduced to a global population of 1,400-2,000 individuals. The affected areas inside the IBA are Punta Verraco, Cerro Toro and Punta Ventana in the municipality of Guayanilla. They lie within the internationally recognised Man and Biosphere Reserve of Guánica, from which they are separated only by a barbed wire fence.

'The most significant repercussion of the development of this industrial complex will be the land displacement, which could impact 40 of the 46 identified territories of this ground nesting species, - said SOPI spokesperson Luis Silvestre. 'The WindMar Renewable Energy project will incidentally wipe out around five percent of the Puerto Rican Nightjar total population.'

'Approving the incidental take permit demonstrates a serious contradiction and lack of respect for the Endangered Species Act" - Joel Franqui Gil de Lamadrid, President of the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society

The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently approved an “incidental take” permit for the WindMar project in Guayanilla. This permit requires a Habitat Conservation Plan but allows the company to incidentally impact or cause harm to the endangered species without any penalty. The already endangered species that will be affected but which are “protected” under the Endangered Species Act (1973) are Puerto Rican Nightjar, Roseate Tern Sterna dougalli and Brown Pelicans Pelecanus occidentalis.

“Approving the incidental take permit demonstrates a serious contradiction and lack of respect for the Endangered Species Act that was established specifically to protect these most vulnerable of birds” remarked Joel Franqui Gil de Lamadrid, President of the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society.

SOPI and the Guayanilla community group Comité Pro Costa Ventana (Committee for the Conservation of Ventana Coast) are proposing that the lands be acquired by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and added to the biosphere reserve of Guánica, so that a co-management plan can be established to conserve the natural resources as well as benefiting the local community.

Climate change is perhaps the most serious threat to the world’s biodiversity, damaging the last remaining habitats of threatened species, and causing catastrophic breeding failures amongst seabirds as rising sea temperatures drive the plankton their prey species depend on to colder waters. BirdLife considers that in many parts of the world, wind has the greatest potential of all renewable energy sources, but believes that windfarm proposals should be treated on a case-by-case basis to establish that there will be no negative impact on wildlife.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2007 |  World Bird News January 2007

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