World Bird News October 2010

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Now or never: action to stop impending extinctions is announced

Now or never: action to stop impending extinctions is announced

Developing countries will be in a better position to halt the extinction of species that are hanging by a very thin thread, under a new partnership sponsored by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Presented at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 10th Conference of the parties (CBD COP 10), the GEF proposes that a new platform be created to help developing country parties to the CBD scale up their investments in threatened species protection, adding a new line of defense for highly threatened biodiversity worldwide. The GEF, the World Bank and BirdLife International will respond to the call of developing countries for assistance in their efforts to protect sites identified by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE). Over the next four years, the global map of key sites for extinction avoidance produced by the alliance will be used as an important blueprint for targeted action, helping to safeguard key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing.

Destruction of wild nature is reducing the habitat of countless species. For many, suitable habitat is down to a bare minimum. The Alliance for Zero Extinction has identified the epicenters of imminent extinction – sites that are the last and only remaining refuge for severely threatened species, classified as Critically Endangered or Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Earlier this week at CBD COP10, AZE released an updated analysis and map (at www.zeroextinction.org ) for 920 globally highly threatened species that are confined to some 587single sites spread across the globe. Loss of any of these sites, to habitat degradation or other threats, would precipitate final extinction events, at least in the wild.

“The GEF, the financial mechanism of the CBD, has been guided by the Conference of the Parties to provide funding to developing countries to ensure that the protection of globally threatened species is not missed within their national protected areas systems”, said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility. “The sites identified by the Alliance for Zero Extinction provide a roadmap to the locations where urgent interventions are imperative before extinction inflicts its final blow”.


The World Bank Group will serve as the lead implementing agency of the GEF, with BirdLife International providing technical assistance to countries, working with local partners and others in the AZE alliance. Conserving these sites is a clearly identifiable and actionable global biodiversity conservation priority, in the context of the international community’s ambition of meeting the post-2010 targets currently under discussion in Nagoya. Several countries are pioneering AZE site conservation, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Philippines, among others. While much has already been achieved through the AZE approach, work now needs to be greatly scaled up to meet the challenge.

“The World Bank looks forward to getting access to the highly endangered sites from the Alliance for Zero Extinction to assist in its own operations. This scientifically based and critical information has not always been readily available to development agencies such as the World Bank and others. AZE would pilot the use of this tool to mainstream biodiversity in other World Bank sectors”, said Warren Evans, Director of the Environment Department of the World Bank.

“The work of the Alliance for Zero Extinction focuses attention on the most urgent priorities for species conservation through the conservation of their last refuges”, said Dr Marco Lambertini, Chief Executive of BirdLife International. “Conserving these sites will not only prevent extinctions but benefit many other threatened species, and secure vital ecosystem services for local people. This new partnership will help to translate AZE information into effective, on-ground conservation. We look forward to working closely with others in the AZE Alliance, as well as the GEF and World Bank, to help countries around the world make zero extinction a reality.”

“At least for vertebrate species, extinctions have not yet accelerated as rapidly as many had feared, so we still have a window, though a relatively short one, to build a comprehensive global strategy to halt the impending extinction crisis”, said Mike Parr, Chair of the AZE Steering Committee. “The starting point for that action should be a global plan that provides a realistic means of halting this crisis: the AZE approach provides the centerpiece of this plan.”

And Brett Jenks, President and CEO of RARE added: “We applaud GEF’s leadership in helping developing nations protect what the world cannot afford to lose – the last populations of hundreds of ecologically-important species facing imminent extinction. If we work at the global level to find replicable solutions and empower local communities to adopt them at AZE sites worldwide, we just might achieve one of conservation’s most inspiring victories to date.”

BirdLife has played a key role in the development of the concepts underlying AZEs, though its pioneering approach to the development of globally consistent criteria based on threat and irreplaceability to identify priority sites for biodiversity conservation. For example, the Chapada do Araripe in Brazil is listed as an AZE site because of the presence of the Critically Endangered Araripe Manakin Antilophia bokermanni.

BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme is an innovative and effective approach to supporting and expanding the implementation of action on the ground at AZE sites – particularly those for Critically Endangered species – through the appointment of Species Guardians (individuals, local or national organisations who implement action for target species) supported by Species Champions (who provide the necessary resources). BirdLife Species Guardians have been appointed and are being supported to implement urgent actions for 26 Critically Endangered AZE species, while an additional 11 Critically Endangered species are also receiving action through the Programme.

The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) is a network of biodiversity conservation organizations whose aim is to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing. Today the AZE network comprises of 68 Civil Society Biodiversity Conservation Groups in 19 countries representing the concerns of millions of citizens. The American Bird Conservancy chairs AZE’s secretariat.
Image credit: Araripe Manakin Project

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Oceans Day at Nagoya

Oceans Day at Nagoya

Sat, Oct 23, 2010
Today is Oceans Day at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of Parties meeting in Nagoya, Japan. The day is drawing attention to the increasing scientific evidence indicating the rapidly declining health of marine and coastal biodiversity. Indicative of these changes are the declines in seabird populations. BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme has launched a new booklet which outlines our innovative approach to identifying and conserving marine Important Bird Areas (IBA).

Seabirds are highly threatened and have a truly global distribution. BirdLife data show that 10% of all Critically Endangered birds are seabirds, despite representing just 3% of the world’s bird species. Over 130 species of seabird are listed as Globally Threatened by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List.

BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme is seeking to address the conservation issues for birds which spend much of their lives travelling vast distances across national and international waters. During their lives they face a wide range of threats, both on land and at sea, including being killed as bycatch in fisheries, habitat loss and predation by a range of introduced species.

Marine IBAs are making a vital contribution to current global initiatives to gain greater protection and sustainable management of the oceans, including valuable input to the identification of Marine Protected Areas. They build on BirdLife’s IBA programme which has, for more than twenty five years, been successful at setting priorities and focusing actions for site conservation on land and in fresh waters.

The new booklet ‘Marine Important Bird Areas – Priority for the conservation of biodiversity’ presents a summary of the methods being used to identify marine IBAs and indicates how they can contribute to the improvement of protected-area coverage.

It outlines how seabirds use the marine environment in different ways, including for collecting food to feed their young, for moulting or for stopping on migration to refuel, and how marine IBAs seek to identify a network of sites for seabirds throughout their complex life-cycles.

To date over 2,000 candidate marine IBAs, from 158 countries and territories, have been identified across the world. Key to the progress are extensive seabird datasets such as BirdLife’s: Tracking Ocean Wanderers Database; Seabird foraging Range Database; and, information shared by experts on BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

The booklet also details how BirdLife Partners are helping to establish consistent approaches to the identification of marine IBAs across the globe.

In Europe, SEO (BirdLife in Spain) and SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) have undertaken European Union LIFE funded projects to inform the future designation of marine IBAs as Special Protection Areas under the European Union’s Birds Directive. These projects have mapped seabird distributions at sea using remote sensing methods and from information gathered during boat/aerial surveys. They have applied standardised methods and criteria to identify marine IBAs for seabird species in the coastal and pelagic waters of Iberia.

In the Americas, ProNatura (BirdLife in Mexico), National Audubon (BirdLife in the US) and Bird Studies Canada (BirdLife in Canada) are working together on an ambitious collaborative project to identify a network of marine IBAs extending from Barrow in Alaska to Baja in Mexico. Expert consultation, and data collected from at-sea surveys, tracking studies and habitat modelling, are all being used to define the most significant sites for over 100 species of seabirds using the Californian and Alaskan Currents. The project is identifying a network of priority sites whose management will be essential for the successful conservation of North Pacific seabirds.

Finally, the new publication highlights that designation and appropriate management of marine IBAs as Marine Protected Areas can play a vital role in fulfilling commitments to national and international obligations relating to the management of marine resources, and will go a long way towards safeguarding the future of many seabirds.

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Osprey ringed in Germany found shot in Malta

Osprey ringed in Germany found shot in Malta

An Osprey Pandion haliaetus ringed in Germany as part of a conservation project was recovered by the ALE and BirdLife Malta (BirdLife Partner) yesterday afternoon, shortly after being illegally shot in the Salina Bird Sanctuary.
The Osprey had a numbered metal ring identifying it as a bird from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. The bird was ringed as a chick in its nest on 25 June this year, as part of a conservation project by the NABU (BirdLife in Germany), together with the Forestry Commission, Nature Conservation Authorities, Power Line Companies and around 200 volunteers.
Ospreys suffered population declines throughout Europe and have been the focus of many conservation projects. In the 1970’s there were only around 70 pairs in Germany. However, following conservation projects run in all German states, this number has now risen to around 550 Osprey pairs. Ospreys are on the German Red List of Breeding Birds, meaning that they are species of conservation concern in Germany.
BirdLife Malta received a call at around 14:15 from a birdwatcher who reported that an Osprey had flown into the Salina Bird Sanctuary. Shortly afterwards, BirdLife received a report that a shot had been fired on the bird. BirdLife Malta immediately informed the ALE and sent teams to the Bird Sanctuary to search for the bird.
The injured Osprey was found after it had struggled in the water and managed to ground itself on some vegetation adjacent to the walls of the salt pans. BirdLife Malta Campaigns Coordinator Geoffrey Saliba went into the water to rescue the shot protected bird before he handed it over to the ALE.
“This Osprey was shot in a Bird Sanctuary, in broad daylight, next to a main road and surrounded by residential areas, minutes after it arrived” said Geoffrey Saliba.
“This is outrageous but this is the fate many protected species meet when they come to Malta. We welcome the ALE’s apprehension of two illegal hunters suspected to be implicated in this crime, and hope they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law if found guilty.”
The bird was taken to a vet who confirmed that it was suffering from a badly broken wing as a result of the gunshot injury. The Osprey has been sent to the German wildlife rehabichation centre of Kirchwald by Maltese authorities.
Dr Markus Nipkow, Head Ornithologist for NABU, said “We have invested many resources into conserving Ospreys here in Germany. But our conservation efforts in Germany are threatened by illegal hunting in Malta.”
Ospreys are rare migrants over Malta. Over the past week BirdLife Malta has recorded the shooting or killing of a range of other rare protected migrant species, including S Short-toed Snake-eagle Circaetus gallicus, Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina and Black Stork Ciconia nigra.

How artwork is helping save the albatross  by Meidad Goren

How artwork is helping save the albatross – by Meidad Goren

For over 30 years Bruce Pearson, a professional artist, has worked on a range of themes to convey his enthusiasm for wildlife and especially birds, giving a sense of wonder to the wild places they inhabit. More recently he has focused some of his time on developing creative links between art and conservation as a contribution towards a wider effort by an informal grouping of artists, writers, musicians, poets and others inspired by the natural world.

Years ago Bruce spent considerable time on Bird Island, South Georgia as a research assistant working with albatrosses and other seabirds where he developed a deep passion for these animals. When he realised that the same birds he ringed and studied 30 years ago are seriously threatened he decided to use his skills and experience to raise awareness about the issue and funds for the conservation of the seabirds. And so the ‘Troubled Waters’ project was born. The time Bruce spent with albatrosses in the southern ocean produced sufficient artwork but in order to tell the complete story of these birds Bruce had to experience the birds’ interactions with humans at the heart of the issue – fishermen.

When BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme coordinator Dr Ben Sullivan asked me if I could take Bruce with me on a longliner, I was chtle reluctant as I knew how hard it is to organise a trip on a fishing vessel for just myself, let alone for me plus a guest. Despite this, three local captains agreed to take us onboard but upon arrival, Bruce had to wait in Richards Bay for three weeks as the three boats had been grounded and never left the harbour.

While we were waiting for the vessels to make repairs and return to sea we managed to take a day trip while one vessel steamed to Durban for further repairs. Bruce also spent time in the harbour drawing the fishermen offloading fish and fixing gear.

We eventually realised that the trip was not going to happen, so we decided to fly to Cape Town to undertake a 5 day trip onboard a trawl vessel instead. It wasn’t the original plan as Bruce was very keen to experience a trip onboard a longline vessel but nevertheless he was happy to spend some time at sea on a fishing boat with thousands of birds around (who wouldn’t?).

For four days Bruce was painting his heart out. He was able to directly observe the gannets diving at the nets, the albatrosses fighting for food and how we collect the data on bird mortachy and fishing operations. By the end of the trip Bruce was happy with the results. Together with his Richards Bay work in the harbour and the sea trip he had enough material to go back to the studio and start working towards the main objective; the production of a book and an exhibit which will raise funds for albatross conservation.

For me it was a privilege to spend these weeks with Bruce; a great artist and an amazing soul and to be a part of this beautiful project which hopefully will help to save more albatrosses.

By Meidad Goren of BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force team. To read more Albatross Task Force 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 October 2010

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