World Bird News March 2007

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Breakthrough agreement for Europe's threatened wildlife


Negotiators in Brussels today announced a breakthrough agreement for a new €785 million scheme aimed at saving Europe’s most threatened wildlife.
The ‘LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity’ fund will co-finance projects for the protection of habitats and species that are conservation priorities for the whole of Europe. Owners and managers of land will be able to apply for funds to demonstrate innovative ways of maintaining the natural value of their land.
Sacha Cleminson, Senior European Advocacy Officer, said, “BirdLife International has worked hard with negotiators to help make sure this fund delivers for wildlife how, and where, it is most needed.”
The fund aims to restore and protect mammal species which might include Brown Bear Ursus arctos and European Bison Bison bonasus, majestic birds such as Lammergeier (sometimes called ‘bone-breaker vulture’) Gypaetus barbatus, or Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus of the high arctic. It will also help conservation projects relating to other natural gems: tiny mosses and liverworts, fishes, snakes and endemic flowers.Europe’s richest habitats are also in line for help. Mediterranean salt steppes, Sub-Pannonic steppic grasslands, deciduous swamp woods in Scandinavia, Endemic macronesian heaths on the Atlantic islands, Caledonian forest, and the Irish Machair are to be priorities for funding.
“We hope these EU-funded projects will help keep birds such as Spanish Imperial Eagle soaring over our countryside, enriching our lives. But they can also do more, by allowing natural systems to help safeguard and purify our drinking water and to keep us healthy by tempting us out to walk in an enriched countryside.” said Cleminson.
The new fund will build on the current EU-LIFE funding scheme, which has supported many BirdLife Partner projects working to save Europe’s most threatened species.
Most recently, BirdLife Malta launched the island’s largest ever conservation project, supported by €1 million of EU funding. The project will help secure the future of Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan that breed at Mellieha, by protecting habitat as well as improving the site for wildlife and visitors.

Long-whiskered Owlet puts on a show


Further light has been shed on Long-whiskered Owlet Xenoglaux loweryi, among the most enigmatic, and least known, of South America’s birds.
A survey team in Northern Peru monitoring the Abra Patricia–Alto Nieva Private Conservation Area encountered the Endangered bird three times during daylight hours and frequently recorded its calls at night.
Several photographs were also taken of an owlet captured in a mist-net and later released onto a tree branch where it posed for the cameras before disappearing into the night.
"Seeing the Long-whiskered Owlet is a huge thrill," commented David Geale of Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), part of the research team.
Since its discovery in 1976, Long-whiskered Owlet has been recorded on just a few occasions in spite of intensive searches.
Long-whiskered Owlet is listed as Endangered, on account of its small range and the rapid destruction of its forest habitat in the isolated ridges in the eastern Andes of Amazonas and San Martín, north Peru.
Conservationists working in the region hope the creation of the Abra Patricia–Alto Nieva Private Conservation Area, will help ensure a future for the secretive bird.
"By establishing a reserve and protecting the owlet's forest habitat, ABC and its partner ECOAN are giving many other species a chance to survive as well." said Hugo Arnal, American Bird Conservancy's (ABC) Tropical Andes Program Director.
Abra Patricia–Alto Nieva Private Conservation Area forms part of the Alto Mayo Important Bird Area (IBA), identified for its threatened, restricted-range species including both the owlet and Ochre-fronted Antpitta Grallaricula ochraceifrons (also Endangered). On the basis of these two species, the site is also recognised by the Alliance for Zero Extinction.
“Sightings of renowned and elusive birds, especially as emblematic as Long-whiskered Owlet, are evidence of how little is known about the species diversity of these areas, all of which face incredible deforestation pressures.” said Dr Rob Clay, Senior Conservation Manager, BirdLife’s Americas Division/of BirdLife International. “Added survey efforts and recent protection of parts of its habitat are encouraging steps towards the owlet’s ensured survival, and the survival of the other, less-flamboyant but equally important, forest inhabitants.”

Zululand Birding Route celebrates ten years


One of Africa’s most established and celebrated ecotourism initiatives, the Zululand Birding Route (ZBR), celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend.
“It has been a real conservation success story. To see the Zululand Birding Route reach 10 years is testament to how simple and effective the avitourism [birding ecotourism] concept has been in this case,” said Duncan Pritchard, BirdLife South Africa Avitourism Division Manager. “There have been winners all round: local economies, jobs, education and, of course, the birds.”
Celebrations for the anniversary took place over three days and included guided tours of the Birding Route, a film festival, Bird Fair and a Forest Birders Camp.
The ZBR initiative has received appraisal globally for combining economic benefits to local communities (through “birder-friendly” establishments and local bird guides) with environmental benefits relating to habitat protection and bird conservation. The ZBR, along with the established Greater Limpopo Birding Route, are worth an estimated ZAR 50 million (USD 6.8million) per year in direct economic value to the South African region.
Conservationists have pointed out that many of the 70 top ‘birding sites’ on the ZBR have been saved by this economic incentive toward conserving sites important for birds and biodiversity. “Our conservation efforts have certainly been strengthened by this investment. Importantly we’ve also seen an overall increase in bird appreciation from tourists and local communities themselves – this is a crucial ingredient in saving species from extinction.” commented Pritchard.
The initiative has been pioneered by BirdLife South Africa, who have provided training to local bird guides across Birding Routes, and marketed to tourists via BirdLife Travel, a specialist travel agency set up by BirdLife South Africa to plan itineraries that take in Important Bird Areas.
“Our continued support for the Birding Route concept is founded on an appreciation that this approach demonstrates an effective integration of biodiversity conservation into sustainable development initiatives that are adaptable to a variety of locations and contexts,” said Jonathan Stacey, Rio Tinto-BirdLife International Programme Manager.
The project’s success is the result of a wide variety of stakeholder support, including corporates such as Rio Tinto and its local business, Richards Bay Minerals, as well as local government structures such as Uthungulu District Municipality.
“The ZBR is the product of partnership,” said Stacey. “Those many organisations who have supported its development can feel confident that, as it continues into the future, a working link has been created between such supporters and those communities that ultimately will uphold the conservation of birds and their habitats.”

Uluguru Bush-shrike found over the limit


Until January this year, a single doubtful record from 1981 was the only evidence for the presence of Critically Endangered Uluguru Bush-shrike Malaconotus alius in the Uluguru South Forest Reserve, which was believed to be above its normal altitudinal limit. Repeated surveys had failed to find it.
Now a team from Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST, BirdLife Partner in Tanzania), having repeatedly sighted the bird in the Uluguru South Forest Reserve, has evidence that suggests the bush-shrikes are breeding there.
In 1999-2000, a census supported by WCST estimated a population of 1,200 pairs. The bulk of the population is in the 84 km2 Uluguru North Forest Reserve and an adjacent area, which still holds a good tract of flat forest at 1,200-1,500 metres.
The Uluguru North and South Forest Reserves are separated by the Bunduki Gap (1.5km), thought by many to be a potential obstacle to movements of Ulugura Bush-shrike, a canopy-reliant bird.
Jasson John of WCST, who led the survey team, says that on 24 January 2007 at 8:25 am, a pair of bush-shrikes was attracted by playback of their calls to a census point at an altitude of 1,739 metres. "The area is the nearest part of Uluguru South to the Uluguru North Reserve, and has almost the same forest structure as that within Uluguru North. This was about 3.4 kilometres from the nearest record of the Uluguru Bush-shrike in Uluguru North."Later that morning the team heard another Uluguru Bush-shrike about 400 metres from the first pair. "This time it was the highest record of our survey in terms of altitude, at 1,885 metres."

Between 23 and 28 February, Jasson, with WCST’s Elias Mungaya, returned to Uluguru South at the same census point. "We were aiming to catch the original pair, so we put mist-nets up in the tree canopy, and attracted the birds by playing back their calls." But they refused to be caught. "On two occasions one flew into but bounced back out of the mist-nets, and on another occasion one was trying to attack a Loveridge's Sunbird, another of Uluguru's endemics, that was caught in the nets."
The pair rarely came to the playback together. A month before, the birds had always been seen together. Jasson has an explanation: "we think the female was probably sitting on a nest."
The team from WCST was supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).
Find out more about Critically Endangered Uluguru Bush-shrike and its habitats: visit BirdLife's Datazone and search the world's birds, Endemic Bird Areas and Important Bird Areas.

Vulture restaurant slowed deaths, but extinction looms


Providing regular and reliable supplies of uncontaminated carcases is a well-established tool in vulture conservation. Among their many applications, vulture restaurants are used to provide a safe food source in areas where carcasses are commonly baited with poisons.
But even where a vulture restaurant is operating, there is no way of preventing the birds feeding elsewhere on contaminated carcases. Where the use of a toxic substance in treating livestock is pervasive, the best that can be hoped is to slow down the rate at which the local vulture population approaches extinction, while efforts are made to take the toxic substance out of the environment. Without a change in practice by veterinarians and livestock owners, extinction may be postponed, but is still inevitable.
Sadly, extinction now seems inevitable for the vulture colony described in the study described below, which was carried out between November 2003 and June 2004.
A team from the Peregrine Fund set out to find whether vulture restaurants could be used in the Indian subcontinent to reduce exposure to the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. Recent catastrophic declines in three Gyps species, Slender-billed Gyps tenuirostris, Indian G. indicus and White-rumped (Oriental White-backed) Vulture Gyps bengalensis have been attributed to the toxic effects of the drug upon birds which have fed on treated livestock. Affected vultures die of visceral gout.
Their findings are described in the current issue of Bird Conservation International (Vulture restaurants and their role in reducing diclofenac exposure in Asian vultures, MARTIN GILBERT, RICHARD T. WATSON, SHAKEEL AHMED, MUHAMMAD ASIM and JEFF A. JOHNSON, Bird Conservation International (2007) 17:1–16.).
The restaurant was established at the White-rumped Vulture colony at Toawala, in Punjab province, Pakistan. The vultures were offered the carcases of donkeys, purchased locally and held for a week to ensure that any diclofenac residues had been eliminated.
Mean daily mortality in the colony when carcases were provided was 0.072 birds per day (8 birds in 111 days), compared with 0.387 birds per day (41 birds in 106 days) during non-provisioning control periods.
The researchers collected 50 dead adult and sub-adult vultures during the study period. Visceral gout, indicative of renal failure possibly due to diclofenac poisoning, was found in 29 of the 30 dead vultures that were available for necropsy.
At least five vultures were found dead with visceral gout while the restaurant was operating. “Even under optimum conditions it is not possible to eliminate diclofenac exposure entirely where alternative carcass sources are readily available,” the authors assert.
The authors conclude that restaurants can reduce, but not eliminate, diclofenac exposure. “Supplementary feeding may prove to be a useful management tool for slowing declines locally in the short term,” until diclofenac can be withdrawn from veterinary use.
Education of veterinarians and livestock owners to avoid treatment of terminally ill livestock, or to bury or burn carcasses of recently treated livestock, may also be helpful. Otherwise, “extinction is inevitable in all populations foraging in areas where diclofenac is in veterinary use and treated carcasses become vulture food at sufficient frequency to cause deaths and negative population growth.”

<actinic:variable name="1" /> Vulture restaurants and their role in reducing diclofenac exposure in Asian vultures, MARTIN GILBERT, RICHARD T. WATSON, SHAKEEL AHMED, MUHAMMAD ASIM and JEFF A. JOHNSON, Bird Conservation International (2007) 17:1–16.

Northern Bald Ibises return


The rarest birds in the Middle East are returning to their breeding grounds, having provided data about their migration route and wintering site which will help in the development of plans to protect them outside their breeding season. But the mystery of where young, non-breeding birds go in winter remains.
The re-appearance of one Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita in Palmyra, Syria, with two others close behind, has been heralded as a success for the nine-month satellite tracking project that began when scientists tagged three adult birds last summer.The trio, Sultan, Salam and Zenobia, the latter named after Palmyra’s third-century warrior queen, flew more than 3,800 miles across seven countries, and spent the winter in the Ethiopian highlands 50 miles from the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.
The birds’ return route was one of the factors that surprised scientists most. They flew west rather than east of the Red Sea, crossing from Sudan to Saudi Arabia at the Sea’s widest point of about 180 miles.
However, there has so far been no sign of the nine younger birds which left the Syrian breeding colony at the same time as the adults, in July last year. Lubomir Peske, who put the tags on Sultan, Salam and Zenobia, will return to the colony this spring in the hope of tagging a young ibis.
Ibrahim Khader, Head of BirdLife Middle East, said: "The birds’ migration remains perilous and it is our job to make that journey safer. If we can do that, this population will have a much better chance of survival. Without this project, the northern bald ibis would have been consigned to history and hieroglyphics."
For up-to-date satellite maps of the Northern Bald Ibis migration, visit RSPB's Northern Bald Ibis in Syria webpages

Lost cuckoo calls forth


The call of Sumatran Ground-cuckoo Carpococcyx viridis has been recorded for the first time, giving conservationists further encouragement in efforts to save the elusive bird from extinction.
The recording was made from a lone ground-cuckoo, brought to conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) after being trapped by local hunters.
“Surveying birds in tropical forests is a real challenge since birds are often hidden from view in dense vegetation,” commented Dr Stuart Butchart of BirdLife International. “Knowledge of their calls is therefore a vital aid to surveying, and this recording may help conservationists learn more about the distribution of this secretive species.”
“We were extremely lucky to have recorded the bird’s unique call,” said Firdaus Rahman, of WCS’s Indonesia Program. “Our team will use the recording to hopefully locate other Sumatran Ground-cuckoos, and to eventually secure their protection.” In recent decades, recordings of calls from Borneon Ground-cuckoo Carpococcyx radiatus and the rediscovered Gurney’s Pitta Pitta gurneyi have both proved invaluable tools for researchers working to map their species distributions.

Endemic to Sumatra, the large terrestrial ground-cuckoo is renowned for its elusive nature, even to experienced hunters. It had not been recorded for over eighty years until 1997 when one was photographed by conservationists working in the region. In 2006, another bird was captured on video in the Sumatran forest by a camera with built-in motion sensors.
The small population of Sumatran Ground-cuckoo is thought to have suffered from extensive habitat loss occurring in the area – at least two-thirds of original lowland forest cover and at least one-third of montane forest has been lost in recent years, primarily to agricultural encroachment. Sumatran Ground-cuckoo is listed by BirdLife International as Critically Endangered.
Currently in the care of conservationists, the cuckoo - nursing an injured foot - will be released back into northern Bukit Baresan Selatan National Park, where it was originally captured.
Hear the call of Sumatran Ground-cuckoo: click here

World's waterbirds find themselves in a bind


Efforts to save the world’s declining waterbirds have been brought into sharp focus today with the release of Waterbirds around the world, a global publication bringing together reports from a number of top scientists working on their conservation worldwide.
The book, which features contributions from a number of BirdLife International Partnership and Secretariat staff, is the outcome of a major international conference on waterbirds held in Edinburgh in April 2004.
The publication gives a unique overview of current conservation efforts to save the world’s waterbirds and highlights the need for global action to protect migratory birds and their flyways, particularly across Africa and Asia.
“Waterbirds are highly susceptible to man-made change because the wetlands they inhabit are often densely populated and intensely utilised. Many of these species are long-distance migrants meaning that their protection requires coordinated action by international networks of conservationists," said Birdlife International’s Mike Crosby, who co-authored the paper, Threatened waterbird species in eastern and southern Asia and actions needed for their conservation, one of over 200 papers in Waterbirds around the world.
“The book contains a wealth of information and case studies about waterbirds and wetlands and the conservation actions needed to ensure they can be afforded protection,” said Crosby.
Conservation efforts in Europe - where many environmental measures are obligatory within Member States of the European Union – will be of most encouragement to conservationists:
“The implementation of species action plans in many EU Member States has made a big difference to conserving some of Europe’s most threatened birds,” said BirdLife Europe’s Ian Burfield, co-author of the report, Saving Europe’s most endangered birds.
“But for migratory species, it isn’t just about the actions of the EU. The nature of their migrations means that countries in all continents must take a unified approach to the waterbird conservation challenges highlighted in this publication.”
The book is a joint publication of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (UK), Scottish Natural Heritage (UK) and Wetlands International.

Seabirds make the agenda at U.N. Fisheries Meeting


The plight of the world’s seabirds was a key agenda item at the week-long meeting of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Committee on Fisheries, ending in Rome today.
At the meeting, BirdLife - with backing from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, New Zealand and the USA – secured the Committee’s support for the development of ‘best-practice guidelines’ for National Plans of Action to help reduce seabird bycatch.
“Seabirds, particularly albatrosses, are facing immense threats, more so than any other group of birds in the world,” said Dr Ben Sullivan, BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme Coordinator. “It’s a genuinely good result that the world’s fishing nations have recognised the importance of developing best practices to assist them in reducing the impact of their fisheries on seabirds.”
Of the 21 albatross species, nineteen are threatened with extinction. Seabird bycatch in longline fisheries, where seabirds swallow baited hooks and drown, is a major threat to many of these species.
At the meeting, the FAO announced their support for a consultation of Member states that will become the first step toward definitive ‘best-practice guidelines’ for reducing seabird bycatch and halting the decline of many albatross and petrel populations.Once agreed, the guidelines will be a valuable tool for implementing the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, helping Member states create more robust National Plans of Action that promote the use of mandatory and voluntary mitigation measures to reduce seabird bycatch. They will also give guidance to Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), the bodies responsible for the management of high seas fisheries and highly migratory fish stocks, on more effective measures to reduce seabird bycatch in their fisheries.
“It’s crucial that these measures are stringent, with clearly defined timelines and realistic bycatch targets.” added Sullivan.
“The result? A greater number of environmentally-savvy fisheries with clear focus on reducing seabird deaths; a better deal for seabirds.”
As well as longlining, there was support at the meeting for the guidelines to include a focus on other fishing practices that impact seabird populations, particularly from trawl fisheries, where birds are killed by colliding with tow-cables or by becoming entangled in nets.
“Hopefully the outcomes of this meeting will be a huge stride forward in our efforts to save these magnificent animals.” finished Sullivan.

Indian warbler makes spectacular return

Indian warbler “lost” for 139 years makes spectacular return—in Thailand and the UK

Ornithologists across the world are celebrating with the news that a wetland bird that has eluded scientists ever since its discovery in India in 1867 has been refound. Twice.
The Large-billed Reed-warbler is the world’s least known bird. A single bird was collected in the Sutlej Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India, in 1867, but many had questioned whether it was indeed represented a true species and wasn’t just an aberrant individual of a common species.
But on 27 March 2006, ornithologist Philip Round, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, Mahidol University, was bird ringing (banding) at a wastewater treatment centre (the royally initiated Laem Phak Bia Environmental Research and Development Project) near Bangkok, Thailand.
“Although reed-warblers are generally drab and look very similar, one of the birds I caught that morning struck me as very odd, something about it didn’t quite add up; it had a long beak and short wings,” said Round. “Then, it dawned on me—I was probably holding a Large-billed Reed-warbler. I was dumbstruck, it felt as if I was holding a living dodo.”
“I knew it was essential to get cast-iron proof of its identity. I took many photographs, and carefully collected two feathers for DNA analysis, so as not to harm the bird.”
Round contacted Professor Staffan Bensch, from Lund University, Sweden, who had previously examined the Indian specimen and confirmed it did represent a valid species. He examined photographs and DNA of the Thai bird and confirmed the two were the same species.
“This rediscovery of the Large-billed Reed-warbler on the shores of Inner Gulf of Thailand (a BirdLife Important Bird Area, IBA) illustrates the importance of wetland habitats and the remarkable biodiversity they are home to,” said Ms Kritsana Kaewplang, BCST Director. “It also demonstrates the contribution of routine monitoring and ringing of migratory birds at even well-known sites.”
“This remarkable discovery gives Indian ornithologists an added incentive to continue our search for the Large-billed Reed-warbler in India,” said Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society. “Like the discovery of Bugun Liocichla last year in Arunachal Pradesh, it shows us just how much we still have to learn about our remarkable avifauna.”
BirdLife International’s Dr Stuart Butchart, commented: “Almost nothing is known about this mysterious bird. The Indian specimen has short, round wings and we speculated it is resident or short-distance migrant, so its appearance in Thailand is very surprising. A priority now is to find out where the Large-billed Reed-warbler’s main population lives, whether it is threatened, and if so, how these threats can be addressed.”
But, in a further twist to this remarkable tale, six months after the rediscovery, another Large-billed Reed-warbler specimen was discovered in the collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring, in a drawer of Blyth’s Reed-warblers (Acrocephalus dumetorum) collected in India during the 19th Century. Once again, Professor Staffan Bensch confirmed the identification using DNA.
“Finding one Large-billed Reed-warbler after 139 years was remarkable, finding a second—right under ornithologists’ noses for that length of time—is nothing short of a miracle,” said Butchart.
The second specimen is from a different part of India and is bound to fuel debate as to the whereabouts of more Large-billed Reed-warblers.
“Now people are aware Large-billed Reed-warblers are out there, we can expect someone to discover the breeding grounds before long. Myanmar or Bangladesh are strong possibilities, but this species has proved so elusive that it could produce yet another surprise,” said Butchart.

Uganda weighs up value of its forest reserves


NatureUganda (BirdLife in Uganda) are among a number of organisations putting forward their defence to the Ugandan government over the apparent ‘give-away’ of forest reserves for large-scale production of sugarcane and palm oil.
The events follow months of speculation surrounding the government’s attempts to push for forest ‘give-aways’ in the country, whereby government licenses allow private companies to convert gazetted forest reserves for intensive agricultural use.
“Losing these forests, particularly the Mabira Forest Reserve, would have enormous repercussions for both people and wildlife in Uganda.” said Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of NatureUganda (BirdLife in Uganda). “As a result, we are working hard to ensure the government understands that holding onto these sites is of utmost importance, both in terms of conserving biodiversity and in terms of poverty reduction and economic growth.”
Mabira Forest Reserve is listed by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The forest contains over 300 species of bird, including the Endangered Nahan's Francolin Francolinus nahani.
The forest also supports nine species of primate, a recently identified new mangabey subspecies in Uganda, Lophocebus albigena johnstoni and a new species of Short-tailed Fruit Bat. “The fact that we are still discovering new species of large animals in this forest is a pointer to its value for biodiversity.” commented Byaruhanga. “The forest also serves as catchment for many of the region’s rivers, providing freshwater for over one million people before joining the Nile.”In late 2006, news of the proposed licence issues by the Ugandan government was first reported in the national media. There followed wide criticism and public protest when it was reported later that the government had sacked the entire board of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), after they unanimously refused to carry forward the license requests and forced the Executive Director of the authority to resign under alleged similar pressure.
“Yes, we’ve been saddened by the government’s lack of procedure and clarity in how they have gone about trying to give-away Mabira and other sites,” said Byaruhanga. “But this is in part a reflection of how little we, as a nation, understand the economic value of retaining our natural resources. Our government was working on the premise that there are two choices: industry versus conservation. This isn’t necessarily the case.”
The economics of retaining Mabira...
Studies have shown that the potential revenue from tourism alone at Mabira was in excess of the costs of managing the Reserve. Mabira Forest Reserve is located within 50 km from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and is surrounded by four major towns used by tourists.
Other economic losses involved in ‘giving-away’ Uganda’s forests are thought to include lost revenue from selective logging, a local impact on livelihoods and possibly from changing climate; the forests help maintain central Uganda’s wet climate – removing them could bring about drier weather negatively impacting on crop yields, conservationists have argued.
“Uganda has also been hit by a power crisis due to declining water levels in Lake Victoria as a result of poor environmental management.” added Byaruhanga. “We have to be wary of anything that aggravates this crisis such as cutting down the remaining forests in the catchments.”
Encouraging signs…
In recent weeks a number of regional newspapers have reported that Uganda’s President Museveni has directed the Ministry of Environment to establish whether it is environmentally and ecologically logical to degazette Mabira Forest.
“It’s an encouraging development and shows that the government might be listening. The next step is for us to put forward solid reasons for holding onto Mabira by showing its enormous value as an economic resource to Ugandans.” said Mr Byaruhanga of the announcements.
NatureUganda are now conducting a more in-depth economic valuation of Mabira Forest Reserve, based in part on the technical information developed as part of BirdLife’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme.

Lead bullet ban to aid Condor recovery


The conservation of California Condor Gymnogyps californianus - one of America’s most high-profile reintroduction projects - has received a helping hand from a 270,000-acre ranch that is home to the state’s largest private hunting program.
Tejon Ranch Company, working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Audubon California (BirdLife in the US) have announced they are to discontinue the use of lead hunting ammunition on their privately-owned ranch in California’s Tehachapi Mountains.
California Condor has declined rapidly throughout the 20th century, so much so that in 1987 the species became extinct in the wild when the last six wild individuals were captured to join a captive-breeding recovery programme. Conservationists have attributed this drastic population decline principally to persecution and accidental lead ingestion from shot carcasses.
Today the wild population numbers some 70 reintroduced individuals.
"Kudos from Audubon to the Tejon Ranch for not only making the right decision, but for its leadership role in ending the use of lead ammunition on the ranch,” said Glenn Olson, Vice President and Executive Director for Audubon California. “As California's largest private landowner, Tejon Ranch and its decision today highlights the role private landowners can play in conservation."While tremendous progress has been made in bringing the bird back from the brink of extinction, poisoning from lead ammunition remains the single greatest threat to the continued recovery of the California Condor. The recent move by Tejon Ranch is the latest effort by the Ranch to help protect the condor, which has historically used portions of Tejon Ranch for foraging and roosting.Effective with the 2008 hunting season, only non-lead ammunition will be allowed on the ranch, making it the first major private wildlife management program in the state to voluntarily require the use of non-lead ammunition.
“We have a 170-year history of stewardship on the Ranch, which means when we learn a better way to manage our land’s resources, we adapt.” commented Robert A. Stine, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tejon Ranch Company.
“To ban use of lead ammunition over such an expansive area is a real step forward for the recovery of California Condor,” said Dr Stuart Butchart, Global Species Programme Coordinator at BirdLife International. “It’s a great example of how private landowners have the potential to improve dramatically the chances of survival for highly threatened species.”
Audubon California worked closely with Tejon Ranch Company, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish & Game and several hunting and environmental organizations to design the new regulation.
Find out what you can do to support Audubon’s efforts to ban completely the use of lead ammunition in the condors' native range - click here

Sociable Lapwing: Ornithologists “hit jackpot”


A small expedition team travelling across Syria today announced the discovery of the largest wintering population of one of Eurasia’s most endangered birds, the Sociable Lapwing.
Previous estimates placed the global population of this Critically Endangered species at between 400 and 1500 individuals. However the expedition team reported seeing over 1200 birds in one day and over 1500 in total during the trip, all within a few grassland sites in Northern Syria.
The finding gives tremendous encouragement to conservationists working to save the bird across Central Asia (where it is a summer resident) and the Middle East (where the bird winters).
“It’s a finding that every ornithologist dreams of when starting out on an expedition like this.” said Remco Hofland, a Dutch ornithologist who led the Syrian Sociable Lapwing Team, made up of Dutch and Syrian birdwatchers. “We had spent the morning looking at a number of areas that were yielding good numbers of the species; almost 400. We were delighted - here we were looking at one of the rarest birds on Earth, and in such good numbers!”
“It was after these that we looked at one more area, which turned out to be the jackpot. Our team split into two and we saw 838 Sociable Lapwings, of which 700 were from a single vantage point.” Remco said.“It’s an incredible discovery, which gives real encouragement to global conservation efforts to save this Critically Endangered species,” said Dr Stuart Butchart, Global Species Programme Coordinator at BirdLife International. “Site protection is the crucial next step though: species that rely on a few small sites are particularly vulnerable to change – if this site isn’t adequately protected then the continued survival of Sociable Lapwing remains uncertain.”
The two major causes of biodiversity loss in the Syrian desert are illegal hunting and habitat degradation – both of which are thought to pose a threat to Sociable Lapwing in the region. Conservationists in the Middle East are now working urgently to ensure that the wintering population can be afforded immediate protection from these twin threats.
“In order to safeguard this newly-discovered wintering population of Sociable Lapwing we have had to act quickly, working with local government agencies and the Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife to help secure the site and its vitally important bird populations,” said Sharif Jbour of BirdLife Middle East, who are among those coordinating actions in the region.
The expedition by the Syrian Sociable Lapwing Team was partly funded via a number of organisations: the RSPB (through a grant from the UK government's Darwin Initiative), the Ornithological Society of the Middle East and the Dutch Van Tienhoven Foundation.

Sociable Lapwing Update, 7 March 2007
Following this finding from Syria, Doga Dernegi (Birdlife in Turkey) drew together a survey team of two, Soner Bekir and Korhan Ozkan, in Southeastern Turkey. On the morning of 6 March 2007, the survey team reported that 615 Sociable Lapwing individuals had been recorded at Ceylanpinar IBA across a distance of between four and eight kilometres. The following day 1017 individuals were observed.
The Turkish and Syrian lapwing sites are separated by approximately 25 kilometres.
Coordinated by BirdLife Middle East, two separate survey teams -one supported by Doga Dernegi and the other, the Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife (SSCW)- have now undertaken concurrent monitoring of Sociable Lapwing populations at both sites to avoid double counting.
Full results will be described in World Birdwatch, June 2007.

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

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