World Bird News June 2010

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

Fate of weird wader on knife edge

Fate of weird wader on knife edge


Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus has undergone a rapid recent population decline and faces imminent extinction unless conservation measures are taken. These are the findings of a new paper published in BirdLife International's journal Bird Conservation International.
Data from across the entire breeding range in the Russian far north-east confirm a continuing strong decline. The species appears to suffer from poor survival at the crucial juvenile stage and habitat loss and hunting are highlighted as major threats. Because of these recent declines, the species was uplisted to Critically Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN in 2008. There are now thought to be less than a thousand individuals remaining.
"Concerted international conservation action is essential if this species is to avoid extinction", said Christophe Zöckler, the paper's lead author.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper has a specialised breeding habitat, using only lagoon spits with very specific vegetation, together with adjacent estuary or mudflat habitats that are used as feeding sites by adults during nesting. During the non-breeding season it prefers mixed sandy tidal mudflats and very shallow water, mainly in the outermost parts of river deltas and outer islands. Unfortunately, throughout its migratory and wintering ranges, tidal flats are being reclaimed for industry, infrastructure and aquaculture and are becoming increasingly polluted.

Two recent surveys of non-breeding areas however, raise some hope for the species. An expedition to the Gulf of Martaban in Myanmar earlier this year, found at least 89 individuals. However, all along the survey route the team encountered evidence of significant hunting and trapping pressure on wading birds that included a number of Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Urgent action is required to safeguard the species here, and there is a need to collaborate with the local communities to establish alternative forms of income. BANCA (BirdLife in Myanmar), a BirdLife Species Guardian for the sandpiper has been coordinating these surveys and is involved in socio-economic surveys which provide the basis for efforts to address the hunting of Spoon-billed Sanpiper and other shorebirds in the Gulf of Martaban.
Another survey in Bangladesh this year found at least 50 individuals at two main sites. This is the highest count in the country for over two decades and might still represent only a relatively small fraction of the total Bangladeshi wintering population, as other suitable areas proved impossible to survey. This underscores the relative importance of this country as a crucial non-breeding site and means that protection of sites threatened by threats as diverse as major infrastructure development and subsistence hunting is of paramount importance.
"The situation is dire for Spoon-billed Sandpiper but not yet beyond hope", concluded Zöckler. "If we act now we can turn the tide for this amazing species."
"If this decline continues, these amazing birds won't be around for much longer", says Evgeny Syroechkovskiy of Birds Russia.
Spoon-billed Sandpiper is one of the species benefitting from the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme. In August 2008, WildSounds became a Species Champion for Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The programme is spearheading greater conservation action, awareness and funding support for all of the world’s most threatened birds, starting with the 190 species classified as Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat.
Bird Conservation International is the official journal of BirdLife International. It provides stimulating, up-to-date coverage of bird conservation topics important in today's world. For more information click here

BBC fund helps to keep albatrosses off the hook

BBC fund helps to keep albatrosses off the hook


BirdLife seabird conservationists in Brazil have made a breakthrough with the protection of several species of imperiled albatross. Their efforts have shown that with simple measures around nine out of the ten albatrosses caught on longline fishing hooks three years ago can now be saved.
According to figures collated by the Albatross Task Force (ATF) in Brazil, in 2007, approximately one albatross was being caught for every 1000 longline hooks set but - with the help of the specially-trained instructors funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund through its broadcast appeal - this figure can be reduced to just one bird for every 10,000 hooks.
The ATF is co-ordinated by BirdLife International and funded by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). Tatiana Neves, Director of Projeto Albatroz, the local organisation running the Brazilian ATF, said: "During winter Brazilian waters teem with albatrosses, including several species facing the threat of extinction. We recognize the importance of Brazilian waters for the birds and with the support of Brazilian fishermen we are showing the potential for reducing the slaughter by using the right techniques.
"So far we have proved it's possible to save nine of the ten albatrosses which were dying three years ago, but this success has only been on vessels where we have expert instructors. The next huge step is to strive for similar levels of success across the fishing fleet operating in Brazil, but based on the dedication of the Task Force and the vital assistance from BBC viewers we have made a great start."

The Albatross Task Force is actively encouraging the use of simple, affordable measures within the commercial institutions of Brazilian tuna and swordfish fleet. Fisherman are being encouraged to fit and use these measures, such as bird-scaring lines and weighted hook lines, to their vessels to reduce albatross bycatch. By adding weights, the hooks rapidly sink out of the reach of foraging albatross whilst the bird-scaring line protects baited hooks for the short time they are at the water surface. This is an important combination of measures that the ATF recommends as best practice for these fisheries.
The BBC Wildlife Fund is helping to save threatened species and wild places around the world and since 2007 it has given £57,205 in grants to the ATF in Brazil. These funds are being used directly to employ two 'instructors' who are: identifying ports and vessels where they should focus their efforts; carrying out technical assessment of fishing gear; and assessing seabird bycatch and the positive impact of the new technology.
Amy Coyte, Director of the BBC Wildlife Fund, said: "Never has the need to help save species and restore wild places been more urgent. Working with charities taking positive action across the globe we hope to make a real difference for wildlife.

"I hope everyone will join in and support our appeal, and celebrate the wonder of our natural world through its conservation - whether it's restoring humble habitats for dormice or saving majestic species such as albatrosses."
One of the highlights of the BBC Wildlife Fund appeal is a live fundraising extravaganza 'Wild Night In' on Sunday 20 June. All of the money donated by the public will be used to support wildlife conservation. Money raised will be distributed via grants to UK registered charities involved in conservation work around the world and also on our doorstep.
Wildlife enthusiasts of all ages can take part in the appeal and celebrate the diversity of life on Earth. A special fundraising pack, full of ideas of how to go 'Wild for Money' at school, work or home, is available from the BBC Wildlife Fund's website

New web-tool shows critical migratory waterbird sites need urgent protection

New web-tool shows critical migratory waterbird sites need urgent protection


A new website launched today by Wetlands International, BirdLife International and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) reveals major gaps in the protection of many critical sites used by migratory waterbirds across Africa the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia. A staggering one-third of the critical sites (representing over 1,000 individual sites within the network) are entirely unprotected, putting the future of many migratory waterbirds at risk.
Migratory waterbirds - such as waders, terns and geese - need an unbroken chain of wetlands to complete their annual life-cycles. These same wetlands benefit people by providing clean water and opportunities for fishing, agriculture, recreation and tourism. However, wetlands are amongst the world's most vulnerable ecosystems and, consequently, an alarming 42% of the migratory waterbird species across Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia are in decline.
The new 'Critical Site Network (CSN)' Tool provides comprehensive information on 294 waterbird species from 3,020 sites. It is designed to make information easily available on the most important sites for migratory waterbirds, both at the national and international level.
"The Critical Site Network Tool will provide an unprecedented level of access to information for all waterbird species covered by the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). It brings together for the first time some of the most current and comprehensive information available internationally on the species and the sites they use," said Bert Lenten - Executive Secretary of AEWA - an international wildlife treaty administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
"To target conservation efforts effectively, access to reliable information about the critical sites that migratory waterbirds depend upon, and the ecological requirements of these species, is key," continued Lenten.

"The Critical Site Network Tool identifies priority sites for the protection of migratory waterbirds, and also highlights knowledge gaps; showing us that many stop-over and non-breeding localities are still poorly known," said Dr Marco Lambertini - Chief Executive of BirdLife International. "Only by combining adequate knowledge, targeted action, appropriate funding and local capacity on the ground will we be able to make a difference for migratory species".

The CSN Tool also identifies sites and populations that need protection at a national level. For example, it has allowed conservationists to identify that only two of the five most important sites for the Near Threatened Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor in Tanzania - a vital country for the species - are currently protected.

Such information is now publicly available online, and will not only significantly help conservation efforts, but also facilitate national implementation of international environment agreements, such as AEWA and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The CSN Tool will also help support the implementation of the EU Birds Directive and the Bern Convention.
Some of the most significant threats to critical sites across the network include expanding aquaculture and agriculture, as well as disturbance to birds. As this shows, policies within the agricultural, water management and energy sectors strongly influence biodiversity issues.
"There is tremendous potential for the CSN Tool to benefit decision-making in these areas as well", said Ward Hagemeijer, Head of Biodiversity at Wetlands International. "This tool mobilises information about these critical sites and the species that depend on them, for use in impact assessments, spatial planning and other development processes that currently have no access to these data. This can make a real difference in the way development will be managed - avoiding, minimising and mitigating impacts and contributing to sustainability".

"The CSN Tool is a powerful new resource which will help strengthen both the implementation of AEWA and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands", said Dr Nick Davidson - Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention. "It will provide enhanced support to governments and others in recognising and managing key wetlands for waterbirds, including through their designation as Wetlands of International Importance, and provide support for decision-making to secure wetlands throughout the region so that they continue to provide their many benefits to people and nature".
The online-tool is being unveiled today at an International Waterbird Conservation Symposium taking place in The Hague, The Netherlands, to mark the 15th Anniversary of AEWA - the international wildlife treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds which use the African-Eurasian Flyway.

Brazilian Important Bird Areas get protection


The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has signed the creation of the Boa Nova National Park and the Boa Nova Wildlife Refuge, safeguarding this biodiverse Important Bird Area (IBA) and creating 27,000 hectares of new protected area.
Boa Nova IBA, located in south-west Bahia state, has a unique flora and fauna due to the overlap of two biomes: lush montane Atlantic Forest, and semi-arid caatinga. The dry deciduous forest of the transitional area, known as mata-de-cipó, is the habitat of two restricted range species, the Endangered Slender Antbird Rhopornis ardesiacus and Near Threatened Narrow-billed Antwren Formicivora iheringi. Three hundred and ninety six bird species have been recorded to date at Boa Nova, 14 of which are globally threatened and 17 Near Threatened.
During the event, President Lula also signed the creation of the Serra das Lontras National Park, another IBA where 16 globally threatened bird species occur, and the creation of the Alto Cariri National Park, in addition to the expansion of the Pau Brasil National Park. Together, these areas will protect about 60,000 hectares of Atlantic Forest, one of the most threatened biomes in the world.

"This is one of the greatest victories for bird conservation in Brazil. These new protected areas are all IBAs, including two sites considered priorities for action by SAVE Brasil. When we initiated our work at these sites they were known by only a few ornithologists, now they are recognised at the national level, and the chances for the survival of an impressive number of threatened bird species have increased considerably", said Jaqueline Goerck, Director-President of SAVE Brasil (BirdLife Partner).

The creation of the protected areas at Boa Nova and Serra das Lontras is a milestone in the efforts for the protection of the region’s biodiversity. SAVE Brasil has been working on both areas for several years, in partnership with governments, non-governmental organisations and local communities, and supporting the process that culminated with the creation of these protected areas.
The Serra das Lontras Forest Complex comprises montane and lowland forests. This gradient of vegetation enables the occurrence of rich bird diversity: 330 species recorded so far, 16 of which are globally threatened and 13 Near Threatened. Serra das Lontras is also a hot spot of plant diversity with 735 angiosperm species, 150 species of ferns and lycophytes. At least 38 species of mammals also occur, among them two primates and three felids threatened with extinction.

The region is also characterized by the traditional cultivation of cacao in cabruca, an agroforestry system that favors the conservation of biodiversity for being associated to areas of native Atlantic Forest. However, because of the cacao crisis, producers have been forced to substitute the cabrucas with more aggressive land uses which degrade forests and threaten the survival of the region’s rich biodiversity.

"Now that these protected areas are created, the next step is to develop and apply their management plans. SAVE Brasil will continue to be involved in this process, working with the Brazilian government to ensure the effective implementation of these protected areas and the long term survival of their unique biodiversity", said Goerck.

The work developed by SAVE Brasil on public policies is funded by the Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation. The conservation programme at Boa Nova is funded by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment - Ecological Corridors Project, KFW, Nature Canada and Ricoh Co. Ltd. A project for the conservation and sustainable development of Serra das Lontras was funded by the European Union, from 2005 to 2009. The project was developed by BirdLife International, in partnership with SAVE Brasil and Instituto de Estudos Socioambientais do Sul da Bahia (IESB).

Two million EU seabirds killed in a decade

Two million EU seabirds killed in a decade


Fishing gear in EU waters is estimated by BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) to have killed two million seabirds in the past ten years, more than the toll recorded from all the European oil tanker disasters put together as far back as the Torrey Canyon in 1967.
Today, World Oceans Day, this bleak statistic injects new urgency into a 23,000-strong petition being presented in Brussels by the RSPB and BirdLife International to Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime affairs and fisheries. The petition calls for the urgent delivery of the EU's disastrously overdue Seabird Action Plan to protect Europe's seabirds from their fatal attraction to baited hooks and fishing nets. The Commissioner is also being alerted to the situation in her native Greece where seabirds are being killed in fishing gear.
It is estimated that 90,000 birds drown annually through entanglement in gill-nets in the Baltic and North Seas but the actual mortality is feared to be twice this high. In a single Spanish longline fishery off western Ireland, another 50,000 seabirds die every year in a lethal cat’s cradle of longline hooks.
Many of the species affected are protected by European law and in rapid decline, not least Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, a bird which increasingly ranges north into the English Channel, and estimated to be facing extinction within a human generation unless we can halt its losses.
Commissioner Damanaki will be asked to ensure that the European Commission brings forward a robust action plan by the end of the year, with emergency measures for the most threatened species. The plan also needs to come with funding for research into preventative measures, for raising awareness of the problem across the industry and for collecting data on so-called seabird 'by-catch'.
Dr Euan Dunn, RSPB's Head of Marine Policy, said: "Simple technical fixes, highly effective at keeping seabirds away from key fishing gears, are now common knowledge and are already hard-wired into fishing fleets from South Africa to Chile, but tragically not in Europe."

"As long ago as 2000, the European Commission promised to take concerted action to halt the slaughter of seabirds by its own fishing vessels, at home and abroad, but ten years and two million seabird corpses later, we are still waiting for any action. It was not until last year that they committed to a formal plan and now it is vital that it emerges soon, has teeth and is not just a wish-list."

Dr Euan Dunn added: "We need to work with fishermen from the Baltic to the Mediterranean to get these ready-made solutions on-board, backed up by legislation where necessary. The Plan also needs to address the impact of the EU’s distant water fleets which target high value species like tuna and swordfish on the high seas."
The RSPB and BirdLife International hope to galvanise the efforts and goodwill of Commissioner Damanaki. "The science is there; the solutions are there. All we need is for the Commission to finally take action", said Nathalie De Snijder, Marine Advocacy Officer at BirdLife International.

No birds in the bush

No birds in the bush


Australia's woodland birds, including many species generally regarded as common and widespread, are declining at an alarming rate according to Birds Australia (BirdLife Partner). This is a result of historic and current habitat losses, making Australia's woodlands among the most threatened and degraded habitats on the continent.
These striking results are highlighted in the report entitled: 'State of Australia's Birds 2009'. The report is aimed at informing Australians of the status of their birds, and to help bring about improved understanding and better management of the land for birds and other wildlife.
"Birds Australia is committed to the conservation of Australia's native avifauna", said James O'Connor, Birds Australia's research manager and the report's co-editor. "As part of this commitment we produce The State of Australia's Birds report each year which outlines the status of our birds, the threats they face, and the measures that have been taken to protect them".
The State of Australia's Birds highlights a different theme each year. The 2009 report focuses on revegetation for woodland birds, particularly those in agricultural landscapes. Australia's woodlands - especially in the temperate south-eastern and south-western wheat and sheep belts - are among the most extensively cleared, fragmented and severely degraded habitats on the continent.

Historic losses of woodland vegetation communities have been severe. For example:

In the 18 million hectare Western Australian wheat belt, only 10% of the native vegetation cover remains; and in many places, the cover is as low as 3%.
Clearing of remnant vegetation for agriculture accounted for 96% of clearing in Queensland during 2003-2004.
Around half of Victoria's native vegetation has been cleared since settlement, including 80% of the original cover on private land, and the figures are higher for the flatter agricultural regions.
Bird populations in Australia's agricultural regions are consequently suffering serious declines.

Species such as Bush Thick-knee Burhinus grallarius, Barking Owl Ninox connivens, Endangered Swift Parrot Lathamus discolor, Endangered Regent Honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia, Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis, Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata are becoming increasingly isolated to small, degraded remnants of sub-optimal habitats.
In response to the plight of woodland birds, there has been an increasing urgency of calls for revegetation in south-eastern and south-western Australia. The new report introduces the conservation responses Birds Australia, and their partner organisations, are undertaking to tackle the threats - both at the regional and local levels.
"Many organisations, communities and individuals are now working on programs of revegetation to protect biodiversity, particularly in agricultural landscapes, where most of the historical clearing has occurred and where the sharpest biodiversity declines are being observed", said Mr O'Connor. "At the largest scale, several initiatives are underway to connect landscapes, across hundreds and even thousands of kilometres".
Birds Australia have also launched a new campaign 'Reconnect (with) the Bush' - recognising that large-scale loss of connectivity is one of the main drivers of the decline in bird diversity.
The new campaign highlights the importance of retaining and maintaining intact native vegetation, repairing degraded habitats, replacing habitat that has been removed, and reconnecting natural habitats to recreate a fully-functioning landscape for wildlife.
"Disengagement with Nature is arguably the most serious threat to our environment", concluded Mr O'Connor. "What we don't know about, we don't care about. We urgently need to Reconnect with the Bush".
To download the report, please click here

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

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