World Bird News for April 2012

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2012 |  World Bird News for April 2012

Spring Watch 2012 in Malta

Spring Watch 2012, an international camp organised by BirdLife Malta every spring aimed at monitoring illegal hunting of wild birds, will take place this year between 15th and 30th April. The event coincides, as always, with the peak spring migration and consequently the highest illegal hunting and trapping activity.

Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the Maltese archipelago provides a perfect feeding and resting stopover for migratory birds on their way to their breeding grounds across Europe. As such, the safe passage of these birds through Malta is vital to the protection of wild bird populations in Europe. This makes the widespread illegal hunting and trapping activities, which are a very common practice in the archipelago, a serious threat to the conservation of many European breeding birds.

The ongoing campaign by BirdLife Malta against illegal hunting and trapping activities includes actions such as undercover surveillance operations in collaboration with the police and the organisation of two annual conservation camps: Spring Watch in April and Raptor Camp in September.

These activities have already led to significant improvements in reducing illegal hunting and trapping activities, such as an increase in penalties, a stricter legislation and even a ban on bird trapping. However, illegal hunting and trapping remains a problem as the police force in charge of wildlife crimes is heavily under-resourced and Maltese politicians are still sensitive to the arm twisting tactics of the hunting lobby.

This year, BirdLife Malta will again host its Spring Watch conservation camp.

Over 50 volunteers from across Europe, both new and returning participants, will join Maltese conservationists on the ground to record data on migratory species passing through Malta and to report illegal hunting incidents to the police. BirdLife Malta will also be keeping a daily blog of the incidents happening during the camp on its website:

Each year BirdLife Malta records injured or dead protected birds including bee-eaters, herons, harriers, egrets, eagles and even flamingos. Last April, Spring Watch teams visited a total of 66 locations and recorded a total of 751 illegal hunting and trapping incidents.

You can help BirdLife Malta by joining its annual camps and sending letters to Maltese newspapers and authorities demanding better protection of Europe’s common natural heritage. Thank you in advance for your support!

Government protects critical habitat for the Grenada Dove

In August 2011, the Government of Grenada’s Cabinet approved the protection of the last piece of government-owned Grenada Dove habitat through the addition of approximately 100 acres (c.40 ha) of the Beausejour Estate to the adjacent Perseverance Protected Area and Dove Sanctuary. This extremely positive move towards the conservation of Grenada’s national bird – the Critically Endangered Grenada Dove Leptotila wellsi – now requires a survey and then legal designation by the Grenadian Parliament.

Grenada Dove is endemic to the island and is clinging onto survival with a population estimated at just 132 individuals. The bird’s extremely small population has declined due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by habitat clearance for residential housing, roads and other developments, hurricanes, fire, grazing pressure and predation by invasive species. According to Bonnie Rusk of the Grenada Dove Conservation Program and the BirdLife Species Guardian, “the Grenada Dove population is clearly tied to the availability of suitable habitat, which continues to decline. Without adequate habitat protection now, the population will quickly decline towards extinction”.

Grenada, at the 8th Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CBD (COP 8), pledged to effectively conserve at least 25% of its marine and terrestrial ecosystems by 2020 (the Grenada Declaration). In 2010, the Government of Grenada’s Cabinet approved the new System Plan for Parks and Protected Areas to help meet this obligation. Grenada’s six IBAs, four of which are identified as critical habitat of the Grenada Dove, are included in this System Plan. With the Government’s protection of the crown lands at Beausejour Estate – which supports 40% of the west coast Grenada Dove population – all remaining dove habitat is on private lands. The newly-protected area at Beausejour includes land suitable for reforestation and habitat creation, and provides a protected corridor to the adjacent Perseverance Protected Area and Dove Sanctuary.
During 2011, the Grenada Dove Conservation Program and the Forestry and National Parks Department (responsible for terrestrial national parks and protected areas) – with funding from BirdLife and the Global Environmental Facility, IUCN and World Bank “Save our Species” (SOS) programme – carried out a comprehensive legislative review to fully understand Grenada’s laws related to private lands identified for protection. A significant area of privately-owned land has been identified for formal protection in the new System Plan for Parks and Protected Area (for the Grenada Dove and other species) making the legislative review both critical and timely. “This review proved extremely informative and outlined not only the current laws addressing private lands, but also made recommendations for addressing the legislative gaps.” – said Mr. Aden Forteau, Chief Forestry Officer, Forestry and National Parks Department.

The review exposed the fact that currently there is no legislative mechanism to declare private lands identified for protection as a national park, protected area or other designation except through compulsory acquisition by government, voluntary partnerships with landowners, or outright purchase by a conservation organisation. The extant Dove habitat which is found on private lands is divided into hundreds of residential or agricultural parcels. Many are up for sale but the high prices involved puts them out of reach of the government in terms of acquisition.

All remaining Grenada Dove habitat is vulnerable to development and loss promoting further population decline until suitable incentives for conservation can be determined, or finances for purchase or government acquisition are found.

New report published on the State of Bolivia’s Birds

Asociación Armonía (BirdLife in Bolivia) has just published a major report on the status of the country’s avifauna. The publication, entitled State of Bird Conservation in Bolivia, provides a detailed assessment of current bird populations, the principal threats they face, and the conservation actions that are being, or should be, put in place.

Despite lacking any marine habitats, landlocked Bolivia still boasts an impressive 1,422 bird species making it the sixth most bird-rich country in the world. Moreover, Bolivia has 12 species of macaw—the greatest diversity of these enigmatic parrots found in any country. Unfortunately, as human pressures on the environment intensify, many of Bolivia’s bird species face a growing risk of extinction. The report identifies deforestation and the subsequent transformation of large tracts of forest into pastures and farmlands as the principal threat. Chemical contamination, wildfires and rampant infrastructure development are also significant problems, with the illegal traffic of wild birds for the pet trade a major concern for some species such as the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis.

Despite the considerable challenges facing Bolivia’s birds, the report is clear on the actions that need to be taken in order to avoid further environmental degradation. “The report was carefully designed to appeal to a wide-range of stakeholders, from a rural school child, a fisherman or scientist, to an agri-business manager or government official” says Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía and one of the report’s authors, “we hope that this publication will bring these important issues to the attention of national and international policymakers and spur them to take appropriate actions”.

State of Bird Conservation in Bolivia was formally launched earlier this year at three well-attended ceremonies in the cities of Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba. It received extensive media attention with coverage in a number of national newspapers and television networks.

This is the latest national report produced in collaboration with BirdLife’s State of the world’s birds programme. To download the report (available in Spanish) and access other State of the nation’s birds reports from around the world please click here

Joint Iraqi and UK team set to work on major new conservation initiative in Iraq

Thanks to a £300,000 (US$ 480,000) grant from Defra’s Darwin Initiative, a major new three year conservation programme is starting in Iraq. Focusing on the mountainous region of Kurdistan the project will involve experts from BirdLife International and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), in partnership with Nature Iraq (BirdLife Partner).

The project will generate new data for conservation and resources for protected area management and environmental education. The team’s aim is to make serious progress in addressing the challenges of conservation resulting from nearly 30 years of scientific isolation.

“The biodiversity of Iraq is extremely vulnerable following years of unstable government, breakdown in traditional land management and recent rapid development”, explained Tony Miller, RBGE’s Centre for Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) Director and UK project leader. “What’s more the country has limited capacity to deal with threats to the environment. At present the only internal organisation engaged in conservation work is Nature Iraq. Supported by BirdLife International, since 2005, it has adopted a Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) approach to identifying biodiverse-rich regions. The new funding will allow us to work with the two agencies towards conserving the country’s fragile environment”.

This is not the UK teams’ first involvement in Iraq. Both BirdLife and RBGE have been working with Nature Iraq for several years, delivering training to Iraqi scientists. These activities have involved staff, students and personnel from all major Iraqi organisations with an interest in the environment, including the major universities and Ministries in both Iraq and the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

“Richard Porter, of BirdLife, commented: “Working with Nature Iraq for the past seven years has been inspiring and a great privilege. Their extensive wildlife surveys have produced a wealth of information and now there is a great opportunity to use this for an exciting education programme”.
The UK’s Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Iraq has suffered many years of war and conflict, and protecting its wildlife has understandably been a low priority. Things are now changing, and with work already underway to tackle threats to the environment it is clear Iraq has stepped up its efforts to conserve its vulnerable wildlife. The Darwin Initiative is all about helping the world’s poorest countries protect their wildlife, and I hope that the money and expertise provided by the UK will allow them to focus on this once more.”?

This project brings together the foremost British expertise in both Middle Eastern plants and birds to work in partnership with the Iraqi environmental NGO Nature Iraq”, added Sophie Neale, CMEP’s Head of Biodiversity Programmes and UK project manager. “It will involve extensive fieldwork in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq and will have a significant impact on conservation in the country. One legacy will be interactive identification guides to the biological diversity of Piramagroon (a Key Biodiversity Area), including photographic guides which can be downloaded to mobile phones. This technology has been recognised as a particularly appropriate, accessible and user friendly way to disseminate information in the Middle East. Nevertheless, this will be the first time it has been achieved for biodiversity information in Iraq”.

Welcoming news of the grant, Nadheer Abood, CEO of Nature Iraq, concluded: “In Iraq, conservation of species and habitats has languished far behind the rest of the world due to decades of war and civil unrest. Nature Iraq has been active in trying to change this situation since 2004 through conservation research and field studies. Now, in a partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and BirdLife International, we will work together to plan and implement specific conservation tools at a proposed protected area in northern Iraq. Once developed these tools will help us in our efforts to create and expand a protected area network within Iraq”.

The Building Capacity For In-situ Conservation in Iraq project is one of 33 to receive a total £8.5 million UK Government funding under Defra’s Darwin Initiative. Since its launch in 1992, the Darwin Initiative has committed £88 million to 762 projects in over 150 countries.

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission moves to protect albatrosses

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has agreed to measures that, if appropriately implemented by tuna longline fishing vessels, will result in significant reductions in albatross mortality.

It announced that all longline vessels in the Indian Ocean will now be required to use two seabird bycatch mitigation measures from a choice of either bird streamers, also known as tori lines, which scare birds away from the hooks; adding weights to hooks to make them sink more quickly; or setting hooks at night when most birds are less active.

Scientists estimate that upwards of 300,000 seabirds are being killed every year by longline fisheries; it’s believed this is the primary reason behind 17 of the world’s 22 species of albatrosses being threatened with extinction.

Home to globally important populations of eight albatross species including the Critically Endangered Amsterdam Albatross, the Indian Ocean is popular with fleets of longliners fishing for tuna. Tuna longliners typically deploy several thousand hooks, attached by branchlines to a main line that can be more than 100km long. Seabirds, especially albatrosses, are vulnerable to becoming hooked when they take the bait, and are drowned as the line sinks.

Dr Cleo Small, representing the RSPB and BirdLife International, said: “It may seem like an issue that doesn’t concern us here in the UK, but in fact this move is great news for UK albatross species such as the wandering albatross, which fly over the Indian Ocean in the non-breeding period and often become victims of bycatch from the longliners that fish there. Without such measures, these beautiful birds could be lost forever.”

Although an understanding of the scale and nature of this threat has been known for a long time, the development of measures to reduce bycatch has been slow. The RSPB and BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme have been particularly active in devising and testing technologies and fishing practices to reduce the problem and be part of the solution; the Albatross Task Force, founded by the organisations, works directly with fishermen and fishery managers in eight bycatch hotspot countries worldwide to reduce the number of seabirds being killed.

The news from the IOTC follows the strong set of measures put in place last November when the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) agreed that fishing vessels must use two out of three measures to reduce bycatch when working in areas where albatrosses occur.

Dr Small continued: “The RSPB and BirdLife International have played a key part in getting seabirds measure adopted in the Indian Ocean and in the Atlantic last year, but we’re not going to stop just yet. Next on the list is the Pacific; once this is achieved it will mean all longline vessels worldwide will be required to use two seabird bycatch mitigation measures when fishing in areas overlapping with albatrosses.”

The delegation from Japan offered US$20,000 to support training workshops for fishing skippers to help them implement the new requirements. BirdLife International and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation will work with Japan and other nations to secure additional funding and provide the training.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2012 |  World Bird News for April 2012

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