World Bird News November 2008

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Switzerland publishes IBA inventory

SVS (BirdLife in Switzerland) and the Swiss Ornithological Institute recently published ‘Important Bird Areas in Switzerland'. The book describes 31 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) which are important for 29 bird species that meet the qualifying criteria. It will be distributed to decision-makers to help gain more protection for these key sites.
The IBAs presented in the report cover 13% of Switzerland’s total area. Nearly half (48%) of the IBAs are located in the Alpine habitat which dominates Switzerland. Indeed, many bird species identified as important in the new publication are limited to the Eurasian alpine habitat. Three sites are in the Jura Mountains, two are in the cultivated landscapes of the Central Plateau, and 11 sites were selected for wintering waterbirds and are along the most important Swiss lakes and rivers.
At present, many IBAs in Switzerland don’t have any special protection status. However, a current objective is to integrate them into the Emerald-Network. This is non-EU equivalent of the Natura 2000 network. Some IBAs are partly protected because they have been designated as Ramsar sites, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, or federal protected areas. However, a lot of work remains to be done to ensure a more complete protection of Swiss IBAs. Werner Müller, Director at SVS added: "the publication is an important step in biodiversity conservation, but much more work will be needed to achieve the official protection of the sites under the Emerald Network".
The main threats to Swiss IBAs presented in the book are from lowland agricultural intensification, the abandonment of agriculture in the less accessible Alpine meadows, and the increasing disturbances caused by sports activities in more remote areas.
Boris Barov, European Conservation Manager at BirdLife European Division, added: “Switzerland is well known for its magnificent mountains. We hope that this new publication will make it easier for the Swiss authorities to focus on the best of the best of Alpine biodiversity”
The publishing of this book takes place after a long series of activities related to the IBA Programme in Switzerland: The first Swiss IBAs were designed in 1989 for the Inventory “Important Bird Areas in Europe”. They contained only areas for wintering waterbirds. The criteria were revised in 1995, leading to the designation in 2000 of other IBAs for breeding bird species in the Alps, the Jura Mountains and the Central Plateau. The new book now presents all the 31 IBAs of Switzerland in detail and will be used to convince the Swiss authorities of the importance of protecting IBAs to stop biodiversity loss.

Brazil pledges to help save seabirds

Brazil has become the most recent country to formally ratify a major global seabird treaty. Endorsement of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) means Brazil will take measures to reduce seabird bycatch within their waters. This will strengthen conservation action being undertaken around the world to save the 300,000 seabirds - including 100,000 albatrosses – killed in longline fisheries each year.
All eight species of Albatross found in Brazilian waters are classified as Globally Threatened. “Species such as the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena are disapearing fast because of incidental mortality in longline fisheries”, said Dr Euan Dunn, Head of Marine Policy RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). “Brazil joining ACAP throws a life-line to Globally Threatened seabirds”.
Longlining kills significant numbers of seabirds each year. They are caught as the baited lines are set behind the fishing vessels and scavenging birds seize the bait, get hooked and drown as the line sinks. This is known as by-catch. “Simple measures such as setting lines at night, deploying bird-scaring streamers and weighting lines so that the baited hooks sink more quickly, really reduces by-catch”, commented Dr Dunn.
The agreement requires signatory states to improve the conservation status of albatrosses and petrels. These measures include research and monitoring, reduction of incidental mortality in fisheries, eradication of non-native species at breeding sites, reduction of disturbance and habitat loss, and reduction of pollution.
BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force (ATF) is the world’s first international team of mitigation instructors working with fishermen and government agencies in global bycatch ‘hotspots’, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Namibia, South Africa and Uruguay. ATF instructors routinely show that the adoption of mitigation measures are both operationally and economically effective. To support the work of the ATF,Click here to donate today

British company endangers wildlife paradise

A British company wants to mine coal in the heart of one of South Africa’ most ecologically sensitive natural environments. Conservationists believe the prospecting rights obtained by Delta Mining, which is now majority owned by London Mining plc, is illegal and poses one of the most serious threats to the country’s natural heritage for decades.
The extraction of coal from almost 200 km2 of the Wakkerstroom/Luneburg region, a vast area of wetlands and grassland east of Pretoria, would destroy habitats used by over 300 bird species including South Africa’s national bird, Blue Crane Grus paradisea (Vulnerable).
More than 85% of the world’s Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi (Vulnerable) live on the Wakkerstroom where Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus and Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris (Vulnerable) also thrive. Thousands of jobs could be lost if the development went ahead. The sources of four major rivers are found in the region and all could be heavily polluted by mining operations.
BirdLife South Africa (BirdLife in South Africa) – supported by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) - has applied to the South African High Court for a judicial review of Delta’s prospecting rights in the Wakkerstroom/Luneburg region. These prospecting rights were obtained without proper consultation with affected landowners and without adequately taking the severe conservation impact of mining into consideration.
The application is being opposed, by both Delta Mining and the South African Government’s Department of Minerals and Energy.
“The Wakkerstroom/Luneburg region is irreplaceable and a significant area of this important natural heritage will be destroyed if the mining goes ahead”, said Carolyn Ah Shene, BirdLife South Africa's Policy & Advocacy Division. “The area is one of South Africa’s prize natural possessions, attracting large numbers of tourists who visit the region to see its unique landscapes, plants and animals”.
“The South African government must show it values our biodiversity and the livelihoods of people who benefit from ecotourism by immediately assisting in the formal protection of this area. Formal protection will ensure that this area becomes a NO–GO for any activity that will threaten this region and the environmentally-sustainable activities linked to it”, warned Carolyn.
Delta Mining was awarded prospecting rights for the Wakkerstroom/Luneburg area in August and November 2007 flouting sections from the National Environmental Management Act (107 of 1998) and the Minerals & Petroleum Resources Development Act (28 of 2002). Both acts demand consultation with interested and affected parties, which in this case includes landowners and environment groups, such as BirdLife South Africa, WWF–South Africa and the Ekangala Grasslands Trust.
Wakkerstroom is also a base for one of BirdLife South Africa’s Community Conservation projects, as well as the Wings over Wetlands Project.
Wakkerstroom’s high altitude grasslands host more than 300 species of bird and more than 100 endemic plants, and more than 80% of bird-watching trips in South Africa include Wakkerstroom in their schedule.
Among sites threatened by the prospecting is the Pongola Forest Reserve, which is a formally protected area and forms part of the Eastern Grasslands region. Delta Mining claims in its Environmental Management Plan that there are “no threatened species on the site”, yet 13 of the country’s endemic bird species are found only in this grassland region and this area was designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife South Africa in 2001.
Carolyn Ah Shene said: “We have absolutely no confidence in the company’s promises of environmental safeguards. It has blatantly ignored the legal requirements for environmental impact studies so far, suggesting it has no regard for the impact of its proposed development on the region’s natural environment. Thousands of people who depend on farming and tourism in the region will lose their jobs if mining goes ahead”.
“This is one of the biggest threats to South Africa’s wildlife to emerge for decades”, said Paul Buckley, RSPB Africa Specialist. Wakkerstroom is known worldwide as a biodiversity hotspot and has long been a unique environmental showcase for South Africa”.
“British companies are improving their environmental records and we expect Delta Mining and London Mining to be equally responsible. They must go back to the drawing board, recognise the global importance of these grasslands and its biodiversity and undertake the required consultations legally required in South Africa. Those earning a living from showcasing Wakkerstroom’s rich natural environment expect nothing less”.

Credits: BirdLife South Africa (BirdLife in South Africa)

International action to save Lesser White-fronted Goose

A new plan will help stimulate international conservation to save the fastest declining species covered by the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). The ‘International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus <Actinic:Variable Name = 'Vulnerable'/>’ provides a framework for coordinated international action across its extraordinary migratory route which spans Europe and parts of Asia.
Adopted at the Fourth Meeting of the Parties to AEWA in Antananarivo, Madagascar, the plan sets the stage for strengthened cooperative conservation action between Eurasian countries in which this species regularly occurs.
“We now have a solid basis of consolidated information and a practical roadmap which will help countries to work together for the protection of this threatened species”, said Bert Lenten, the Executive Secretary of AEWA.
The Western Palearctic population of Lesser White-fronted Goose is decreasing faster than those of almost any other species in the area covered by AEWA, with a decline rate of 30-49% over the last 10 years. Hunting on the staging and winter grounds is a primary threat, along with habitat loss and climate change.
The largest part of the bird’s population nests in Russia, migrates across Central Asian states such as Kazakhstan and winters in countries like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq and Iran. Because the Lesser White-fronted Goose’s migration route regularly takes it across 22 countries, it has become a flagship species for international cooperation.
“A complicated migration route takes the bird through a number of countries where there are no effective hunting regulations”, said Dr Vicky Jones – BirdLife’s Global Flyways Officer. “Lesser White-fronted Goose epitomises the importance of international action to save our threatened migratory birds”.
“One of the things this action plan can do is to promote international cooperation and capacity building in order to assist the countries in this region to strengthen their actions for the species and thereby for wetlands conservation more broadly”, commented Tim Jones, an Action Plan compiler.
An international agreement of this kind is often a requirement before national conservation actions can be justified. “If we get the habitats and sites for this species protected through the implementation of this action plan – it will be benefiting not only the Lesser White-fronted Goose but also many other waterbird species as well”, noted Lenten.
AEWA is a United Nations Environment Programme backed treaty dedicated to the protection of 255 species of waterbirds which migrate along the African-Eurasian Flyways. Developed under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species, AEWA provides the framework for countries in the region to work together to conserve migratory waterbirds.

First Protected Area Established for Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw

Asociación Armonía (BirdLife in Bolivia), with the support of American Bird Conservancy and World Land Trust-US, has created the world's first protected area for the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis, a species with an estimated global population of 300 individuals. The group purchased a 3,555 hectare ranch in the grasslands of eastern Bolivia, a site with 20 Blue-throated Macaws during the breeding season.
Blue-throated Macaw is endemic to savannas in the Beni province of Bolivia, and depends on motucu palms for nesting. These palms occur in palm "islands" embedded in the extensive seasonally-flooded grasslands. The entire known population of the species exists on private ranches which undergo yearly burning and heavy grazing by cattle.
The new Barba Azul Nature Reserve also protects excellent Beni savanna habitat with good populations of Vulnerable species, such as Sharp-tailed Tyrant Culicivora caudacuta, Cock-tailed Tyrant Alectrurus tricolor, and Black-masked Finch Coryphaspiza melanotis.
Healthy populations of the Near Threatened Greater Rhea Rhea americana and Orinoco Goose Neochen jubata are common in the area.
Research in the area of the new reserve found the highest known density of Blue-throated Macaw with a roosting site in the dry season holding 70 individuals and 20 during the rainy season. The birds inhabit a remote area with poor access, and the large group roosts in the forest islands. Armonía/Loro Parque Fundación have identified a further five ranches for sale that are at risk of being developed and that are essential for the expansion of the new private reserve, to protect 41% of the of the known Blue-throated Macaw population.
"This work builds on the Armonía/Loro Parque Fundación Blue-throated Macaw Conservation Program which has supported both research on the macaw and public outreach, including a pride campaign to build awareness of the macaw and support its conservation", said Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Armonía. "Raising public awareness to build local support for the macaw is our most potent tool to halt the illegal taking of these rare birds for the pet trade."

"In the face of this development pressure, there is an urgent need to expand the new reserve to conserve a viable population of this spectacular macaw and the many other vulnerable species within it", said Byron Swift, Executive Director of World Land Trust - US.
"This is a huge conservation achievement", said George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. "The main threats to Blue-throated Macaw are capture for the pet trade and habitat destruction for cattle ranching, and, until now, the species's habitat was completely unprotected."
Armonía is planning the development of a research station and ecotourism facility with access by airplane at the site to help support the project, and through Bird Endowment and Loro Parque Fundación support, the organization has also been experimenting with nest boxes for the birds. The macaws are taking to them readily and this provides an exciting opportunity to boost macaw breeding success while habitat restoration is underway. It should also be possible to expand macaw habitat by creating new tree islands. Removing grazing pressure will improve habitat within existing tree islands and improve conditions for other savanna species. Similarly, controlling fire will enhance habitat for all grassland species and prevent degradation of the tree islands.
This news is brought to you by the BirdLife Species Champions and the British Birdwatching Fair - official sponsor of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme

Migratory birds bridge water, culture and religion

The wonder of bird migration recently united two communities separated by water, culture and religion. At an event coorganised by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL; BirdLife in Lebanon), the people of Anjar and Kfar Zabad villages jointly celebrated the cultural importance of bird migration as part of BirdLife’s World Bird Festival.
The event was held at the Bekaa wetlands and marked the announcement of Hima Anjar, which will strengthen the existing Hima Kfar Zabad. Hima is a traditional Islamic system under which communities manage natural areas and protect them from over-exploitation.
“It is important to overcome political, and religious differences and meet on the protection of nature and biodiversity”, announced Ramzi Saidi - SPNL’s President. “This event is a success story to prove that nature and birds are able to combine people together”, added Dalia Al-jawhary, the SPNL site manager for Hima Kfar Zabad.
The event formed part of BirdLife’s World Bird Festival. This year’s theme “Migratory Birds and their Flyways” explores the wonder of migratory birds, the threats they face, and their international identity which makes joined-up conservation an essential challenge.
People attending the Bekaa wetlands event enjoyed activities such as guided walks and bike tours of the community-protected Hima marshes. Visitors also had the opportunity to watch dances, songs and poems being performed by students from the Anjar schools, or browse in a small souk (market) for local handcrafts and foods.
The Bekaa wetlands are part of the Syrian-African Great Rift Valley. The area includes the Kfar Zabad - Anjar Important Bird Area which supports several globally and regionally threatened bird species, such as Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus, Vulnerable Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, Vulnerable Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, and Vulnerable Syrian Serin Serinus syriacus.
The successful event was witnessed by the Mayors of both Anjar and Kfar Zabad villages who expressed their delight with the Hima collaboration. “We are happy that birds and nature were able to bring us together”, said Sami Abou Rjayli from the Hima Kfar Zabad Site Support Group.
The festival which was organised by Anjar and Kfar Zabad local communities in collaboration with SPNL. The announcement of Hima Anjar was a result of a USAID funded project entitled: “Creating Dialogue and Cooperation between Anjar and Kfar Zabad on shared environmental concerns”
This news is brought to you by BirdLife's Flyways Campaign.
Credits: SPNL

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2008 |  World Bird News November 2008

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