World Bird News July 2010

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New directory set to help conserve Cuba's birds

New directory set to help conserve Cuba's birds


The National Centre for Protected Areas (CNAP, BirdLife in Cuba) has launched an Important Bird Areas (IBAs) directory for Cuba. Áreas Importantes para la Conservación de las Aves en Cuba details 28 IBAs – Cuba's highest priority sites for bird conservation – covering over 2.3 million ha or 21% of Cuban territory. The book was published with financial support from BirdLife International, the British Birdwatching Fair and the Canadian Wildlife Service/Environment Canada. The IBAs support critical populations of globally threatened birds, species with restricted-ranges, and those birds that congregate in significant numbers for breeding, feeding or on and migration.

The Cuban IBA directory highlights the wealth and beauty of Cuba’s unique biodiversity. It presents detailed descriptions of each IBA including information on birds, flora and fauna, protection and threats, photos of characteristic ecosystems and species, and detailed location maps. It Under CNAP's leadership, the Cuban IBA program is a collaboration between Instituto de Ecología y Sistemática, el Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, la Facultad de Biología de la Universidad de La Habana, el Centro Oriental de Ecosistemas y Biodiversidad (BIOECO) y la Empresa para la Protección de la Flora y la Fauna. However, the directory is a result of contributions involving 34 authors from 18 institutions and protected areas from across the entire country, and also 28 photographers. The publication represents a significant milestone in the development of the Cuban IBA program and constitutes the first attempt in Cuba to identify biodiversity conservation priorities based on a scientifically-sound methodology.
Over 370 bird species have been recorded in Cuba, including 28 which are endemic to the island and 29 considered globally threatened. Due to its large land area and geographical position within the Caribbean, Cuba represents one of the most important countries for Neotropical migratory birds – both birds passing through on their way south (75 species) and those spending the winter on the island (86 species). The majority of these species are well represented in the Cuban IBA network, and the good news is that most of the IBAs enjoy some form of protection within the extensive Cuban protected area network. In fact, only 10% of IBAs are not protected in any way – a significantly lower percentage than any other Caribbean country.

However, even within protected IBAs, Cuba's birds face a range of threats, with habitat disturbance (caused mainly by tourism development) at the top of the list. Invasive species – cats, pigs, mongoose, rats, and most recently catfish – represent a significant threat to bird populations in 85% of the IBAs while unsustainable exploitation (including hunting and poaching for the pet trade) is a threat in 54% of the sites.

The Cuban IBA program started in 2000 with the objective of identifying and conserving a network of sites of international importance for birds and other biodiversity. With funding from the 2001 British Birdwatching Fair and BirdLife, work initially focused on conservation actions in eastern Cuba. Since 2001, seven IBAs have received conservation attention through the program including the faunal reserves of Río Máximo and Delta del Cauto, Baitiquirí and Hatibonico Ecological reserve, and Alejandro de Humboldt, Zapata, Turquino and Bayamesa national parks. So, the program has not only resulted in the identification and documentation of Cuban IBAs, but has achieved tangible conservation advances in some critical biodiversity areas as well as building the capacity of many Cuban ornithologists through provision of much needed equipment, and opportunities to exchange experiences (through events such as the first National Workshop of Ornithology celebrated in 2009).
The program continues to develop in close collaboration with BirdLife International and Nature Canada (BirdLife co-Partner) with funds from the Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation, Canadian International Development Agency, the Canadian Wildlife Service/Environment Canada and a number of individual donors. However, more IBAs are in need of attention and the search for additional funds to support their conservation continues.

Guadeloupe gets first national IBA directory

Guadeloupe gets first national IBA directory


AMAZONA (Association des Mateurs Amicaux des Z'Oiseaux et de la Nature aux Antilles) has published the Caribbean's first national language Important Bird Area (IBA) directory. Les Zones Importantes pour la Conservation des Oiseaux en Guadeloupe represents the culmination of a collaborative effort by the island's biologists and birders to gather all available knowledge about their birds, habitats and biodiversity to determine international priority sites for conservation.
Guadeloupe, a département d'outre-mer (DOM, overseas department) of France, is in the Lesser Antilles between Montserrat and Antigua and Barbuda to the north and Dominica to the south. Nine IBAs have been identified covering 505 km² (including marine areas) and about 19% of Guadeloupe's land area. Most of the IBAs lack any formal protection.
"There is a need to develop a legal framework to ensure IBAs receive the protected status they deserve", said Alain Mathurin, one of the directory's authors. The protection of most of these IBAs is part of the French government’s commitments and responsibilities under the 1976 Nature Protection Law, and to international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Ramsar Convention. These international commitments are particularly important since the European Union Birds (409/79/EC) and Habitats (43/92/EC) directives do not currently apply to the French Overseas Departments.
Guadeloupe's IBAs hold significant populations for 23 key bird species including the Vulnerable Forest Thrush Cichlherminia lherminieri, the Near Threatened and endemic Guadeloupe Woodpecker Melanerpes herminieri, and a further 17 restricted-range birds. These species are threatened by poaching, introduced species, and habitat destruction as a result of urban and agricultural expansion. Hunting was introduced by law in 1953 yet it remains unregulated. "IBAs are a great tool to demonstrate to hunters the value of protecting sites for birds even where legal designation as "Réserve Naturelle" or "Parc National" is not possible", said Anthony Levesque, senior author of the island's IBA directory. Hunting is a particular issue for Forest Thrush, West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea, White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala and Caribbean Coot Fulica caribaea – their protection must be strictly enforced if Guadeloupe is to retain these species in the long-term.

While compiling the directory, the team exposed significant gaps in information concerning the population sizes and trends for several key bird species, and also the conservation status of a number of sites. A coherent monitoring program is clearly an urgent priority for some species (such as the Forest Thrush, other hunted species, and the seabirds and waterbirds). The results of such monitoring can feed into the annual assessment of state, pressure and response variables at each of Guadeloupe's IBAs which would provide a much-needed status assessment for these internationally important biodiversity sites as well as highlighting management interventions required to ensure their long-term integrity.

To download the Important Bird Areas directory of Guadeloupe in French click here

Conservation and the Cook Islands

Conservation and the Cook Islands


BirdLife International has received a grant from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to produce an inventory of priority conservation sites for biodiversity in the Cook Islands.
BirdLife has been working in the Pacific to identify Important Bird Area (IBAs) for ten years. "Important Bird Areas are islands, forests, and wetlands that are of critical importance for the survival of the region's native birds", said Don Stewart - BirdLife's Regional Director in the Pacific. "If we want to protect the birds, we will need to protect their habitat, those areas where they live".
To determine an IBA requires extensive research to identify bird species diversity and abundance within a specific area. This research then results in an inventory of sites that are wildlife conservation priorities.
Identifying IBAs in the Cook Islands is particularly urgent. "We have identified 50 species of birds in the Cooks of which 15 are Globally Threatened with extinction", said Jacqueline Evans from the Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife in the Cook Islands).

The Cook Islands is home to Globally Threatened bird species such as Rarotonga Monarch Pomarea dimidiata. Once among the rarest birds of the world, this Endangered species has been brought back from the brink of extinction. Currently conservation measures are underway to develop an ecologically and commercially sustainable ecotourism venture on the island of Rarotonga where it is found. Intensive rat control is carried out during the breeding season, and an insurance population has been established on the island of Atiu.
"With the CEPF grant, BirdLife and the Te Ipukarea Society will produce the new IBA book for the Cook Islands," added Jacqueline Evans. "Out of this we will develop a conservation programme to work with the government and the local communities to protect the Important Bird Areas of the Cook Islands," she added.
BirdLife's first IBA publication in the Pacific was 'Important Bird Areas in Fiji: Conserving Fiji's National Heritage' in 2006.
"Since its publication we have been working with Government, local landowners and the resource users at these Important Bird Areas to not only protect the birds, but show ways in which protecting an Important Bird Area can benefit the landowners," said Miliana Ravuso from BirdLife's Fiji Programme. Birdlife International

Donation of ibis gives Middle East's rarest bird renewed hope of survival

Donation of ibis gives Middle East's rarest bird renewed hope of survival


In the time of the pharaohs, Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita was highly revered as of special significance and even had its own hieroglyphic symbol. But now this bird has become the rarest in the Middle East – with just three wild individuals in Syria, plus one juvenile reared this year. Formerly thought to be extinct in the wild in the Middle East, in 2002 researchers were delighted when they discovered a tiny population near the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, their last known refuge in the region.

The Turkish Government (Nature Protection and National Parks) has donated six semi-captive birds from Turkey which have been taken to Syria in the hope they can prevent the disappearance of the wild Middle Eastern population. Two of these have been fitted with satellite transmitters and, with expert help, have been carefully introduced to the wild birds in the hope they will follow the wild bird and, ultimately, bolster the precariously small population. Meanwhile the Syrian General Commission for Al Badia Management has built aviaries where the remaining birds will be kept for breeding and future releases of juveniles.

Two of the wild adult birds and the released juveniles have been fitted with satellite tracking devices, allowing researchers to monitor their movements. It is known the adult birds travel to Ethiopia to spend the winter, but the wintering grounds of the juveniles is incompletely known. A team of biologists will also be attempting to locate the birds on the ground, and to record habitat details and ensure that no illegal hunting takes place.

This operation is the result of a major international collaboration of efforts between conservation NGOs, Governments, researchers, funders and individuals. It is this kind of joined-up conservation that is needed to protect migratory birds on their routes through different countries.

Ali Hammoud, Director General of Syrian GCB said, "This is by far the biggest conservation partnership in the region to save the tiny Ibis colony from the brink of extinction. With such collaboration and despite of the challenges, the supplementation attempt is already a triumph."

Yasar Dostbil, the Director of Nature Protection and National Parks Directorate, in Turkey said, "This is one of the best conservation studies ever carried out on a species seriously threatened with extinction. We are very glad to be a part of these efforts."

The seven adult birds discovered in 2002 had by this year dwindled to just three, despite extensive protection in Syria. There is increasing evidence that hunting and other pressures outside the breeding grounds have driven this decline, and satellite tracking the birds is a major tool for understanding and addressing the problems.

Northern Bald Ibis is listed as Critically Endangered (the very highest category of threat) by BirdLife International on behalf of the IUCN. In addition to the tiny Syrian population, the bird has two further wild colonies, in south-west Morocco, where the population totals just 100 breeding pairs.

To follow the progress of the birds on the web, please

Iraq: war-torn nation or wildlife hotspot?

Iraq: war-torn nation or wildlife hotspot?


If your impression of Iraq is a landscape of sandy deserts without a shade of green in sight, then a UK photographic exhibition organised by Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq) and BirdLife International - and supported by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) - will reveal an increasingly different view.
During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the country's wildlife and landscapes were ravaged. But, conservation work by Nature Iraq is beginning to repair the damage, especially the recreation of those wetland and mountain landscapes so important for wildlife and that have been captured for the exhibition.
Azzam Alwash, is Nature Iraq's chief executive. Visiting the UK to attend the exhibition, he said: "Perhaps too many people are blinkered by the TV coverage to think of Iraq as anything other than a war-torn nation. But we hope this exhibition with its images of my country's scenery and special wildlife will help people look at Iraq with fresh eyes."
Richard Porter - BirdLife's Middle East advisor - has helped bring the exhibition to the UK. Working in the Middle East and Iraq for many years, he said: "It is truly inspirational what Iraqi conservationists have managed to achieve in such a short space of time against overwhelming odds."

One of Nature Iraq's main achievements has been the summer and winter surveys of the Mesopotamian Marshes and other key wildlife hotspots to help identify key areas for wildlife conservation.
In the marshes, which were heavily drained during the Saddam Hussein era, the surveys have revealed an increase in the number of threatened species, such as the marbled teal, an exquisite duck that is seriously threatened. Recent surveys have revealed over 40,000 Marbled Teal - most of the world population of this Vulnerable species - visit the marshes, but a conservation problem is that these ducks are also heavily persecuted by local people.
Richard Porter added: "Before being drained, the marshes, between the Tigris and the Euphrates, teemed with life. Our exhibition shows the revival of these wetland areas and the wildlife that occurs there, but it also highlights the persecution issue as one image shows a group of the birds on open sale in an Iraqi market."
Dr Alwash added: "The long-term future for the marshes - the Danube of the Middle East - rests with managing the region's most precious resource: water. Dams upstream in Turkey, Syria and further north in Iraq threaten the future of the wetland and the wildlife that thrives here."
The exhibition, which is open now runs till July 25, at the Birdscapes Gallery in Glandford, near Holt, Norfolk.

Assessing Nepal's natural benefits


Bird Conservation Nepal (Birdlife Partner) and BirdLife International with funding from the UK government's Darwin Initiative programme, have embarked on a three-year project to assess and monitor ecosystem services – the benefits – that nature provides.

Natural ecosystems provide us with a range of benefits including the production of food and clean water, and the control of climate, on which human lives depend. In 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) reported that more than 60% of these benefits, referred to as ecosystem services, are in decline. Biodiversity loss, leading to ecosystem degradation, can disrupt and diminish ecosystem services with severe economic, social and environmental impacts on people.

Despite the importance of ecosystem services to humans, and their worrying decline, there is a lack of information that can inform decision-making. What information there is tends to be based on broad scale, global analyses, using rough proxy measures from remote sensing or on intensive and expensive measures at a few sites.

With support from other institutions: the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (including Cambridge University, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre) and Kings College London, the aim is to develop a site-focused, participatory, robust and inexpensive methodology that will complement the current system for monitoring Important Bird Areas (IBAs), work that is already undertaken by Birdlife Partners worldwide.

Dr Hum Gurung (CEO of Bird Conservation Nepal) presented the project to other Asian BirdLife Partners at a recent meeting in Taipei, Taiwan illustrating how BCN plans to share their experiences of this work.

"This pilot project will have greater impact if we can demonstrate how ecosystem services can significantly help the poor communities whilst also conserving biodiversity", said Dr Hum Gurung - CEO of Bird Conservation Nepal.

Nepal's birdlife is among the richest in Asia, with 862 species recorded to date, 31 of which are globally threatened. There are six distinct biomes ranging from alpine to lowland habitats and including many forest types and internationally important wetlands and grasslands. Many of these areas are under threat from agricultural expansion, pollution, overharvesting and climate change.

Nepal's rich biodiversity and its varied ecosystems provide vital services and livelihoods for most poor people. A progressive body of legislation and policy enshrines the rights of communities to manage their resources to maximise benefits, resulting in, for example, more than 14,000 Forest User Groups. However, exercising these rights is difficult because of lack of information on the condition and trends of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services, and impacts of management. This limits communities' ability to engage in informed dialogue with government, and restricts government’s ability to support effective conservation and improved livelihoods. This project will provide practical solutions to these constraints and build capacity nationally to assess and value ecosystem services.
In May, the inaugural workshop for the Project was held in the UK in collaboration with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. Over 30 experts attended this two day event where the process of developing an assessment tool for ecosystem services was initiated.

"There is a need to produce simple, robust, and scientifically sound guidelines for the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem services at the local and national level", said Jenny Birch, Darwin Project Manager and BirdLife's Ecosystem Services Officer. "It’s going to be a challenge, but with support from the Darwin Initiative, input from experienced scientists, and field testing by BCN, we have an exciting opportunity to undertake this."

"Many people get hung up on the problems encountered in applying economic values to ecosystem services. The real importance of the ecosystem approach is to show what we would lose as a society if these ecosystems were destroyed. Monetising these services will enable us to highlight the great intrinsic value of nature and to present the scientific information to policy makers in a form that they can more easily relate to and less easily ignore."

Key ecosystem services will be documented at three pilot sites (IBAs) and data collected on forest (including carbon) and hydrological ecosystem services in order to undertake an economic cost-benefit analysis of conservation/sustainable management versus alternative land-uses. A rapid review of all 27 IBAs in Nepal will also be undertaken.

The main output of this work will be to produce and disseminate guidelines for ecosystem service assessment and monitoring, and to deliver well-tailored training for national Partners in Asia and globally on collecting and using information on ecosystem services for conservation planning and advocacy. Maintaining ecosystem services is fundamental to achieving the aims of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Providing such methods would be a substantial step forward in supporting Nepal, and other CBD Parties in the developing world, to fulfil and report on their CBD obligations.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2010 |  World Bird News July 2010

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