World Bird News November 2009

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Wildlife poisoning in Africa


BirdLife has learnt that a widely available poison is being used to kill thousands of birds illegally every month in an area of Kenya, and by game poachers in Botswana to kill vultures. The poisoning of wildlife seems to have increased across Africa recently, and BirdLife International is calling for increased concerted efforts to address this threat.
Situated in western Kenya near Lake Victoria and the Ugandan border, the Bunyala Rice Scheme is a heavily irrigated area which provides ideal growing conditions for rice. This water-logging also creates suitable feeding habitat for both non-breeding migratory and resident birds, which are being targeted by local people who view the meat as a delicacy.
The poison used is called Carbofuran – or Furadan – and is designed to control insect pests in a wide variety of field crops such as potatoes, corn and soybeans. However, Carbofuran is also toxic to vertebrates, and has one of the highest acute toxicities to humans of any insecticide widely used on field crops. As little as a quarter teaspoon can be fatal, and there have been reports of a child dying recently in Kenya after ingesting the poison.
BirdLife has learnt that in Bunyala the widely available poison is placed inside snail shells to present an attractive bait. Decoy birds are used, and poachers disturb the surroundings to encourage wild birds to settle into the baited areas. Once captured, target birds are killed and sold for human consumption.

Throughout Eastern and Southern Africa there are increasing reports of the use of Carbofuran to illegally poison wildlife. In Botswana, poachers have recently been observed lacing their Giraffe carcases with the poison to attract vultures and kill them. “It appears as though the poachers are deliberately aiming to eliminate every vulture in the area, since the birds are quickly alerting the authorities to the occurrence of their poaching activities”, said Pete Hancock - BirdLife Botswana’s (BirdLife Partner) Conservation Officer.

In two recent incidents, over 80 individual vultures – including White-backed Gyps africanus and Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus – have been deliberately poisoned in Botswana. “We are very concerned by the escalating and indiscriminate use of poisons for killing vultures, as this has decimated their numbers throughout Africa, and is the single greatest threat facing all vulture and raptor species here in Botswana”, added Pete.

The BirdLife Africa Partnership and many other conservation organisations across Africa - like Wildlife Direct - are already working to address the problems caused by avian poisoning, and are calling for increased concerted efforts to deal with the rapidly intensifying problem. In Kenya, Martin Odino from the National Museums of Kenya and affiliated with Wildlife Direct - with funding from the African Bird Club and Rufford Small Grants - is working with Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner) to quantify the threat of poisoning to birds, focussing specifically on the Bunyala Rice Scheme. “We are counting poisoned birds, working to educate local people about the importance of birds, and informing them of the health risks associated with eating their poisoned meat”.
BirdLife Botswana is also working to educate local people about the use of poisons. “We are embarking on an awareness raising programme to address this issue, and will also be working for legislation to restrict the availability and use of poisons which are a threat to our environment and human well-being”, said Pete Hancock.
In response to problems caused by wildlife poisoning across the continent, the BirdLife Africa Secretariat has also been focusing on chemicals and drugs as one of the threats to birds and their habitats. With funding from the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation - through the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) - over 2,000 posters have been printed and are being distributed to raise awareness of the threat to vultures; and coordinated counts will soon be undertaken in East Africa to verify the extent of the problem and make recommendations for mitigation.
Furthermore, a survey has been undertaken on the use of chemicals in BirdLife network countries in Africa, and the BirdLife Secretariat and Partners have started lobbying relevant authorities to inform them of the extent of the problem and urge increased vigilance. “Our work has helped to identify the threats to birds caused by poisons such as Furadan”, said Jane Gaithuma – BirdLife’s Senior Programme Manager, Regional Policy & Advocacy Coordinator for Africa. “We want to ensure that any chemical use in the environment in Africa does not threaten birds and biodiversity”.

ICCAT leaves albatross conservation dead in the water


After a 3-year seabird risk assessment that found tuna and swordfish longline fishing has significant impacts on Atlantic seabird populations, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) failed to act at a recent meeting in Recife, Brazil.
“Albatrosses and petrel populations in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea are undergoing some of the most severe decreases anywhere in the world”, said Dr Cleo Small - Senior Policy Officer for the BirdLife Global Seabird Programme, based at the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).
More than 40 fishing nations are members of ICCAT, and they gathered recently in Recife, Brazil for the annual meeting of the commission. Collectively they control longline fishing effort in the Atlantic Ocean that is conducted on a massive scale.
“In Recife we recommended that fishers use a few simple, cheap but effective measures to reduce the rate at which seabirds get caught and drown”, added Dr Small. “However, ICCAT refused to endorse our recommendation which is a big blow for Globally Threatened seabirds”.
Each year hundreds of millions of longline hooks are set in the Atlantic. The impact of longline fishing on albatrosses and other seabirds has been a source of concern for scientists and conservationists for decades. Globally, 18 of 22 albatross species are threatened with extinction, and longline fishing is known to be the leading cause of decreases for many species.
ICCAT has recently completed a three year assessment of the impacts of controlled longline fishing on seabirds, concluding that there was an impact and it needed to be addressed.
During the Commission meeting, proposals were put forward that would reduce the number of seabirds being killed. Japan was one of the countries that supported action, but a major stumbling block was the insistence from Japan to include mitigation measures for which no scientific information exists to indicate whether they work to protect seabirds or not.
Other countries which have already made great efforts to reduce their seabird bycatch problem could not accept such unproven measures, which would disregard the advice by ICCAT’s scientists, and could result in no reduction in impact on seabirds
Andrew Carroll from DEFRA's Sea Fish Conservation Division who attended the meeting on behalf of the UK Overseas Territories said: “To put it politely, I am immensely disappointed and frustrated that ICCAT has failed to make progress”. The UK Overseas Territories are home to around one third of the total breeding pairs of albatrosses. The declines of some of these populations are among the fastest in the world.
“Many parties worked hard to take effective action to reduce the bycatch of these declining species, but ICCAT is plagued by the necessity to gain consensus of all parties, and the work of many can be blocked by a very few”, said Dr Ross Wanless, Africa Coordinator for BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme and the head of BirdLife South Africa’s (BirdLife Partner) Seabird Division. “This is a major problem not only for tuna populations but also associated species such as seabirds, sharks and sea turtles”.
BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme are tackling seabirds deaths around the world by working at the regional, national and international levels to influence the development and adoption of agreements and measures to reduce seabird bycatch.
On the ground we have established the Albatross Task Force, whose members spend weeks at a time onboard fishing vessels, braving some of the harshest conditions on earth, to help save the albatross from extinction. “We’re doing some great work, and urgently need to reach out to more fisheries and the crews of fishing vessels to prevent these majestic birds being killed from indiscriminate longline fishing”, said Oli Yates – ATF Coordinator.

Romanian Parliament puts Danube Delta at risk


At the beginning of November 2009 the Romanian Parliament cancelled a draft law that would have protected the irreplaceable natural environment of the Danube Delta.
The Danube Delta is one of the world’s largest wetlands, home to an extraordinary array of wildlife and to over 320 bird species, such as Vulnerable Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus and Endangered Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis.
The international relevance of Danube Delta is recognised by its designation as Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage site, a wetland site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an Important Bird Area according to BirdLife, a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive and a proposed Site of Community Importance under the EU Habitats Directive.
The Danube Delta Administration, supported by SOR (BirdLife in Romania) has tried three times to harmonise the laws governing the Danube Delta with the European legislation since 2006. Each time the draft law has been blocked or dismissed by Government ministries or by the Romanian Parliament.
”Without a proper law, the Danube Delta’s habitats and species will be irreversibly affected by uncontrolled tourism developments, road projects, unlicensed hunting and over-fishing. A new law is urgently required to protect the Delta’s natural environment, whilst allowing sustainable economic development and a careful planning”, commented Dr. Marina Cazacu, Danube Casework Officer at SOR (BirdLife in Romania)

'No-shooting' shorebird refuge established in Barbados


BirdLife International has created Barbados' first shorebird refuge at an abandoned shooting swamp at Woodbourne, close to the village of Packers. Woodbourne is a four hectare swamp on the flank of the St. Philip Shooting Swamps Important Bird Area (IBA), at which hunting and maintenance ceased in October 2004. Two former hunters were instrumental in securing the lease and financing the initial restoration of Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge. Restoration work started in May and the swamp was ready for the 2009 southbound, autumn migration.
Barbados is an important stop-over site for tens of thousands of Nearctic-nesting shorebirds on their southbound migration to South America where they pass the non-breeding (southern summer) season. Adverse weather in the Atlantic during their flight can force large numbers to stop for shelter on the island, but 15,000-30,000 of these shorebirds – including a number of species of conservation concern – are shot in a handful of managed shooting swamps.
With funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, BirdLife has been working closely with the Barbados WildFowlers Association, shooting-swamp owners and individual hunters to increase the survival prospects for migratory shorebirds on the island. The establishment of Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge is an important part of this broader effort that is helping to change rather than stop the tradition of hunting migratory shorebirds on Barbados. Though a few individuals may choose to remain 'in denial', most hunters recognise that in order to continue hunting, the sport must be sustainable. The old culture of 'kill as many as you can' is being replaced by a conservation ethic among older and younger hunters alike. One leading swamp no longer hunts American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica (which has a global population of just 200,000 individuals), most swamps (seven out of 10) no longer use tape lures to attract birds, and those hunters who maintain swamps year-round (instead of only during the hunting season) are helping provide vital wetland habitats for all waterbirds.
Many individuals have generously provided advice, equipment, and other resources to restore and improve shorebird habitat at Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge. Among them were ex-hunters, hunters, conservationists, and a growing group of 'hunter-conservationists'. The restoration work has also been made possible through support from West Pasco Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada (BirdLife Partner) and the Peter Moores Barbados Foundation. The result is a wetland that is already teeming with birds.
Twenty species of shorebird have been observed this season, five of which were USFWS Species of Conservation Concern. A flock of more than 70 Snowy Egrets and a few Little Egrets (and Old World species, now established in the New World in Barbados and Antigua) coming to roost in the wooded 'back swamp' was a highlight. Two Eurasian Spoonbills that arrived in the St. Lucy Shooting Swamps IBA during November 2008 are regular visitors among a host of resident and migratory waterbirds.

Communication and cooperation between conservationists and local hunters is already providing significant returns in the survival prospects of shorebirds. However, this is just the beginning of BirdLife's work. Additional refuges for shorebirds, in concert with a more responsible hunting ethic and the establishment, and adherence to bag limits for species of concern would ensure that Barbados earns a reputation as a haven for passage shorebirds rather than be discredited with notoriety as one of the places where shorebirds are shot. Towards this end, some of the hunters must be commended for starting to release shooting data to BirdLife International for analysis by the Canadian Wildlife Service. This signals a most welcome locally-driven change from unexamined resource consumption to data-informed resource conservation. In the long term, this transparent alliance will benefit all. Not least, the magnificent flights of shorebirds.
To read more about Barbados' Important Bird Areas click here

New study sheds light on nightjar


A new study of the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar Caprimulgus noctitherus suggests that the species's geographic range is greater than previously estimated. This is the major finding of Geographic distribution of the Puerto Rican Nightjar: A patch occupancy approach, a joint effort between the Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña, Inc. (SOPI, the BirdLife Partner and Species Guardian for Puerto Rican Nightjar), Mississippi State University, USGS Cooperative Research Units, BirdLife International, and The British Birdwatching Fair.
With an estimated population of 1,400-2,000 individuals, Puerto Rican Nightjar is a single-island endemic species found in coastal dry and lower montane forests in the south-west of Puerto Rico. Fragmentation, loss and degradation of its habitat, especially from residential, industrial and recreational expansion are the main threats. SOPI, as part of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions programme, liaised with researchers, Dr. Francisco Vilella and graduate student Rafael González to carry out the first systematic presence-absence survey to improve current knowledge on habitat and distribution of the nightjar
Puerto Rican Nightjar was recorded over a broad region of southern Puerto Rico. “Based on our results and location information obtained over the last few years it appears the geographic range of the species may be considerably different from what had been previously estimated”, said Dr Francisco Vilella, USGS Research Scientist and Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Mississippi State University. The study results suggest that the species's range outside protected areas could be considerably greater than the approximately 4,583 ha (47% of total range) reported by earlier studies.
However, unprotected areas in Puerto Rico are experiencing increasing deforestation from urban and suburban development. "Sites where Puerto Rican Nightjar presence was detected in the south-central regions of the island were characterised by a high degree of habitat disturbance, and included small, isolated forest fragments frequently surrounded by pastures or housing development", emphasized Rafael González, Graduate Research Assistant. Rafael continues "Forest clearing was ongoing in the vicinity of several of the easternmost sites as we were conducting our surveys."

"It is an urgent conservation need to acquire habitat, work with private landowners, government agencies and other NGOs to ensure the continuity and integrity of the nightjar's habitat", said Verónica Méndez, Conservation Coordinator from SOPI.
One clear implication of the results is that several sites in the south-central and south-east region of the island where nightjar presence was detected have not been incorporated in any of the major conservation planning efforts for Puerto Rico. "We recommend nightjar occupied sites in the south-central and south-eastern portions of the species's range should be assessed for their conservation potential", concluded Dr. Vilella.
SOPI is now developing the Species Action Plan with the Puerto Rican Nightjar Network to establish action points for the conservation of the species.
The research report can be downloaded here

Biofuels, the burning questions


Today, BirdLife International, the European Environmental Bureau and the Transport and Environment are organising a high level event at the European Parliament entitled: 'Biofuels: the burning questions'.
The event, hosted by Fiona Hall MEP (Member of the European Parliament; Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) and Sirpa Pietikainen MEP (European People’s Party) includes some of the world’s top scientists studying the impacts of bioenergy such as Jerry Melillo and Tim Searchinger, and key decision makers, such as Karl Falkenberg, Director General of DG Environment, European Commission.
In December 2008, the EU passed a new Renewable Energy Directive which sets a mandatory target of 20% of final energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020. The Directive also includes a special 10% target for renewables in transport, which is expected to be met mostly through a large increase of biofuels use.
The EU has introduced a set of sustainability standards for biofuels, but not for other forms of bioenergy such as solid biomass burning for heat and power production. The NGOs believes current safeguards are insufficient even for biofuels. For example current rules do not account for the impacts arising from indirect land use change (ILUC) caused when agricultural land is taken for biofuels and food production is therefore displaced elsewhere.
The surge in the use of bioenergy poses many sustainability issues both in Europe and globally, such as the clearing of rainforests and other habitats for expansion of plantations or the increased harvesting of fuel wood from natural forests.

The event will however mainly focus on the need to fix the currently flawed methodology used to calculate the greenhouse gas costs and benefits of biomass. The EU currently considers biomass burning to have zero emissions and ignores ILUC. Recent research shows that a failure to correct this could lead to a widespread destruction of carbon stocks such as forests and grasslands.

“Bioenergy can and must be part of the solution to climate change, but under current EU rules there is a great risk of perverse outcomes: the wrong technologies and feedstocks being chosen, emissions increasing and ecosystems being damaged”, commented Ariel Brunner, Senior EU Agriculture Policy Officer, at BirdLife International’s European Division.
Today BirdLife and a group of environmental and social NGOs have also launched a new publication analysing the current EU biofuels policy, highlighting its shortcomings and containing detailed recommendations for improving it.
"The European Parliament was key in improving the sustainability criteria in the Renewables Directive”, said Fiona Hall - MEP. “MEPs fought very hard for a good calculation method which would take account of the impact of indirect land use change. When the proposals on indirect land use change and also on the sustainability criteria for biomass are published by the Commission, we will be looking at them very carefully in order to get a framework in place that will ensure that bioenergy genuinely reduces greenhouse gas emissions”.
"The EU should agree upon binding sustainability criteria for biomass that is jointly agreed upon after consultation with experts and stakeholders. These should include an end use greenhouse gas efficiency target of 80-90 per cent. These are vital in ensuring that biomass is part of climate solution and not part of the climate problem", added Sirpa Pietikäinen-MEP.

New reserve declared within Dominican Republic IBA


Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in the Dominican Republic) has celebrated the creation of a new reserve, 'Reserva Biológica Loma Charco Azul' (La Placa), within the Sierra de Bahoruco Important Bird Area (IBA) in the south-west of the Dominican Republic. This IBA holds essential habitat for high numbers (32 of the 34) of Hispaniola restricted-range birds, 14 threatened bird species and over 30 Neotropical migratory birds.
Loma Charco Azul has been declared a reserve after several years of active lobbying by Grupo Jaragua and its partners. The President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández, proudly announced the decision to extend the protection in Sierra de Bahoruco by 28,748 hectares.
"Loma Charco Azul contains populations of several threatened endemic birds and migratory species and, until now, was an unprotected portion of the Sierra de Bahoruco IBA. Key among the endemics there are the Bay-breasted Cuckoo, La Selle Thrush, Hispaniolan Crossbill and a good population of the Vulnerable Hispaniolan Amazon. We applaud the action of President Fernández to designate this important new protected area", said Yvonne Arias, President of Grupo Jaragua. "Grupo Jaragua thanks Leonel Fernández, Jaime David Fernández Mirabal and Eleuterio Martínez, President of the Dominican Republic, Secretary and Deputy Secretary (Subsecretario) of Environment."
The work to create the new protected area and to improve the management of Sierra de Bahoruco National Park was a result of the partnership of Grupo Jaragua, American Bird Conservancy, Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales and the Consorcio Ambiental Dominicano. The work was supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grant program.
Sierra de Bahoruco IBA is one of the three core zones of the Jaragua-Bahoruco–Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve where the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supported the project “Biodiversity Conservation of the Jaragua-Bahoruco–Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve”. To designate this land as a new reserve, this project supported the participation of Yvonne Arias and Ernst Rupp who jointly coordinated the work with participation from Alfredo Martínez, Tomás Montilla, Rolando Sanó, Marlig Desirie Pérez and Francisco Jiménez, from the Secretaría de Estado de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales. Nils Navarro and Luis M. Díaz B. contributed with the inventory of birds, reptiles and mammals.
"This establishes the foundations for more conservation work needed to diminished the impact of threats such as agricultural expansion, introduced animals, fires, illegal logging, capture of parrot chicks and illegal hunting", said Ernst Rupp, who coordinated the work. Moreover, this IBA connects in the west with Massif de la Selle in Haiti, another Globally Important Biodiversity Area, where forests are nearly gone.

Making Atlantic and Mediterranean fisheries seabird friendly

As scientists gather today in Recife, in Brazil, to agree on quotas for the Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of tuna and swordfish in the latest round of fisheries talks, BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) are reminding delegates that at least 37 species of seabird are at risk from these fisheries. Indeed, 18 of these species are albatrosses facing extinction. Getting caught in fishing gear is the greatest single threat that some of these seabirds face.
BirdLife International and the RSPB hope that talks - organised by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) - will agree measures to prevent the deaths of these seabirds in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. In tuna and swordfish fisheries, albatrosses and other seabirds die on the end of longline hooks in unsustainable numbers and, for many species, this is their greatest extinction threat.
Dr Cleo Small, International Marine Policy Officer for BirdLife’s Global Seabirds Programme is attending the Recife meeting to try to secure a better future for Atlantic seabirds, especially albatrosses.
“The populations of albatrosses are declining faster in the South Atlantic than any other ocean. For example, the Wandering Albatross [Diomedea exulans; Vulnerable] – possessing the largest wingspan of any bird – is rapidly declining on South Georgia, and links have been made between these declining populations and longline fishing within the ICCAT fishery. This situation is needless, because the technology exists to prevent these deaths", said Dr Small.
“We will be urging delegates to approve rules that make it mandatory for all vessels fishing for tuna and swordfish in the Atlantic to abide by simple measures which lower the risk of albatrosses and other seabirds dying in these fisheries.”
Dr Small added: “The main problem is that albatrosses try to steal fish and squid bait from longline fishing hooks. The birds get caught on the hook and quickly drown when the lines are set. The corpses of these birds, recovered hours later, are a grim reminder of the sheer toll of seabirds that these fisheries can take.”
Some of the most at risk species include the Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus of European waters and the Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena of the South Atlantic. Both species, which are listed as Critically Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN, are important to the UK. The Balearic shearwater, which nests on the Balearic Islands of the Mediterranean, is a regular non-breeding visitor to the waters off southern Britain, while the Tristan albatross only nests on Gough Island, part of the UK Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha.

Eight of the top ten seabird species considered to be most at risk from Atlantic longline fisheries nest on the three UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands; Tristan da Cunha and South Georgia. The top six most at risk seabird species in the Atlantic are albatrosses.
The RSPB is a Partner in BirdLife's GSP which works around the globe to conserve seabirds, and is striving to ensure that relevant international agreements are implemented that will benefit both the birds and the legal fishing industry.
The GSP also work hard to promote simple and inexpensive mitigation measures, which are highly successful in reducing seabird bycatch. The Programme achieves this through the Albatross Task Force (ATF) - the world’s first team of dedicated instructors to demonstrate the correct use of mitigation measures to fishermen, and to develop and test new measures.
“The Albatross Task Force began in 2006 and it’s already having huge success around the globe, but we need more help”, said Dr Small.
A variety of mitigation measures are available to prevent the deaths of albatrosses and other seabirds. One of the most popular is the tori, or streamer, line. Using this technique, fishing crews pay out lines of streamers from the stern of a vessel. Effectively, these streamers create a curtain, deterring albatrosses from coming too close to the danger zone, just off the stern of the vessel.
Mitigation measures have been used to great effect in some of the world’s other fisheries. In sub-Antarctic waters – operating in the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources fisheries region – mitigation measures have reduced seabird bycatch from thousands of birds a year to effectively zero. Additionally, fantastic reductions in seabird bycatch have been secured within the foreign tuna longline fleet, operating in South African waters. Since 2006, this fishery has cut seabird bycatch by 85 per cent.
There are many different ways you can support BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force. From giving a regular donation, to buying a fluffy albatross or requesting a set of albatross postcards, every action will help in our fight to prevent albatrosses from becoming extinct.

Conserving Argentina


Aves Argentinas (BirdLife Partner) has announced the winners of "Conservar la Argentina" (Conserving Argentina), a programme aimed at generating conservation action at Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and for threatened bird populations in Argentina.
The programme was launched earlier this year with BirdLife International and several other organisations such as the National Tourism Secretariat, Fundación YPF, AP Leventis Foundation, and Pan American Energy.
The 12 winning projects cover diverse topics, such as the conservation of the Atlantic forest alongside local communities; the development of infrastructure for birdwatching at IBAs in Jujuy, Mendoza and Neuquén provinces; the management of a corridor between IBAs in the transition of yungas-chaco in the province of Salta; the study and conservation of the populations of Hooded Grebe Podiceps gallardoi, Crowned Eagle Harpyhaliateus coronatus, Olrog's Gull Larus atlanticus and Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus.
An awards ceremony was held for the winners in the central office of Aves Argentinas in Buenos Aires. "Now that IBAs have been identified, strengthening projects in the field is a must for Aves Argentinas and we are proud of the success of the competition that shows the commitment of hundreds of people for bird conservation in Argentina", said Andrés Bosso, CEO of Aves Argentinas.
The interest in the programme from people was excellent, with almost 100 project proposals received from all of the Argentine provinces, covering most of the ecoregions and a great number of the threatened species.
The proposals were analyzed by twenty well-known specialists from institutions such as BirdLife International, Aves Argentinas/AOP, National Research Council (CONICET), Centro Nacional Patagónico, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Administración de Parques Nacionales, Instituto Ecología Regional, Univ. Nac. Tucumán, Proyecto Modelo del Mar, Wildlife Conservation Society, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales "B. Rivadavia", Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina, Conservation Land Trust, and Área de Medio Ambiente de la Defensoría del pueblo de la Nación.
"It was hard work to select only 12 proposals from a hundred. With the selected projects we are supporting conservation work in 32 IBAs from 10 provinces, implicating more than 80 people and 40 national and international institutions", said Adrian Di Giacomo, Science Director of Aves Argentinas.

Extinction crisis continues apace


The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows that 17,291 species out of the 47,677 assessed species are threatened with extinction.
BirdLife International is the Red List Authority for birds and released the 2009 update for birds earlier in the year, listing 192 species of bird as Critically Endangered, the highest threat category, a total of two more than in the 2008 update. But the update did highlight some successes, including the downlisting of Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari, from Critically Endangered to Endangered, as a direct result of targeted conservation action.
"In global terms, things continue to get worse – but there are some real conservation success stories this year to give us hope and point the way forward", said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife's Director of Science and Policy.
Of the world's 9,998 birds, 137 are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, with 192 Critically Endangered, 362 Endangered and 669 Vulnerable.
The results of the full Red List update reveal 21% of mammals, 30% of amphibians, 12% of birds, and 28% of reptiles, 37% of freshwater fishes, 70% of plants, 35% of invertebrates assessed so far are under threat.

"The scientific evidence of a serious extinction crisis is mounting", says Jane Smart, Director of IUCN's Biodiversity Conservation Group. "January sees the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity. The latest analysis of the IUCN Red List shows the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss will not be met. It's time for governments to start getting serious about saving species and make sure it’s high on their agendas for next year, as we're rapidly running out of time."
Of the world's 5,490 mammals, 79 are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, with 188 Critically Endangered, 449 Endangered and 505 Vulnerable. Eastern Voalavo Voalavo antsahabensis appears on the IUCN Red List for the first time in the Endangered category. This rodent, endemic to Madagascar, is confined to montane tropical forest and is under threat from slash-and-burn farming.
There are now 1,677 reptiles on the IUCN Red List, with 293 added this year. In total, 469 are threatened with extinction and 22 are already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. The 165 endemic Philippine species new to the IUCN Red List include Panay Monitor Lizard Varanus mabitang, which is Endangered. This highly-specialized monitor lizard is threatened by habitat loss due to agriculture and logging and is hunted by humans for food. Sail-fin Water Lizard Hydrosaurus pustulatus enters in the Vulnerable category and is also threatened by habitat loss. Hatchlings are heavily collected both for the pet trade and for local consumption.
"The world's reptiles are undoubtedly suffering, but the picture may be much worse than it currently looks", says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. "We need an assessment of all reptiles to understand the severity of the situation but we don’t have the $2-3 million to carry it out."
The IUCN Red List shows that 1,895 of the planet's 6,285 amphibians are in danger of extinction, making them the most threatened group of species known to date. Of these, 39 are already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, 484 are Critically Endangered, 754 are Endangered and 657 are Vulnerable.

Kihansi Spray Toad Nectophrynoides asperginis has moved from Critically Endangered to Extinct in the Wild. The species was only known from the Kihansi Falls in Tanzania, where it was formerly abundant with a population of at least 17,000. Its decline is due to the construction of a dam upstream of the Kihansi Falls that removed 90 percent of the original water flow to the gorge. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis was probably responsible for the toad’s final population crash.
The fungus also affected Rabb's Fringe-limbed Treefrog Ecnomiohyla rabborum, which enters the Red List as Critically Endangered. It is known only from central Panama. In 2006, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was reported in its habitat and only a single male has been heard calling since. This species has been collected for captive breeding efforts but all attempts have so far failed.
Of the 12,151 plants on the IUCN Red List, 8,500 are threatened with extinction, with 114 already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. The Queen of the Andes Puya raimondii has been reassessed and remains in the Endangered category. Found in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, it only produces seeds once in 80 years before dying. Climate change may already be impairing its ability to flower and cattle roam freely among many colonies, trampling or eating young plants.
But it's not all doom and gloom, conservation does work and there are some great examples in this year's Red List. In Brazil, Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari has been downlisted from Critically Endangered. Named after the English poet, this spectacular blue parrot has increased four-fold in numbers as a result of a joint effort of many national and international non-governmental organisations, the Brazilian government and local landowners.
In New Zealand, Chatham Petrel Pterodroma axillaris has benefited from work by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and has consequently been downlisted from Critically Endangered. And in Mauritius the stunning, Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra has been rescued from the brink after the translocation and establishment of a new population on to a predator-free offshore island. It has now been downlisted to Endangered.
"Both the petrel and fody have suffered from introduced invasive species, and tackling these is one of the 10 key actions needed to prevent further bird extinctions that BirdLife has indentified. What this year's Red List changes tell us is that we can still turn things around for species. There just has to be the will to act and the resources to back this up", said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Research and Indicators Coordinator.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2009 |  World Bird News November 2009

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