World Bird News December 2008

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Critical News


Recent sightings have added to our knowledge of the distribution of some of the world’s rarest birds.
Last month a team of American and Honduran researchers and conservationists travelled to western Honduras to search for Honduran Emerald Amazilia luciae, a Critically Endangered species of hummingbird, endemic to Honduras. The principal cause of its decline is habitat destruction, with approximately 90% of its original habitat lost, and the remaining habitat occurring in isolated patches of arid thorn-forest and scrub of the interior valleys of northern Honduras. Based on specimen data, the species was originally known to occur in four Honduran departments, Cortés and Santa Barbara in western Honduras, and Yoro and Olancho in north-eastern Honduras. Despite efforts to find the species in western Honduras, it had not been reported there since 1935. The team conducted searches in Santa Barbara and Cortés and found six sites inhabited by the Emerald, all in the department of Santa Barbara.
“Finding the species in western Honduras gives hope for the conservation of the species. This rediscovery not only increases both the known distributional range but also the population size of this species”, said David Anderson, Louisiana State University and team member.
Another good news story from the Americas involves Entre Rios Seedeater Sporophila zelichi. Funded by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Aves Uruguay (BirdLife in Uruguay) has been focusing on locating the species in Uruguay through developing habitat models from known occurrences and using predicted locations to then search for the species in new areas. On the very first fieldwork trip Aves Uruguay found a male Entre Ríos Seedeater in an area with no previous records.
“This is a great result and goes to show how well this method of habitat modelling can work”, said Dr Rob Clay, Senior Conservation Manager for the Americas. “This species suffers not only from habitat loss but also from trapping, as this attractive bird is popular as a cagebird.”
Further work on this species is needed as the wintering grounds remain unknown but are likely to be in the Brazilian cerrado or Pantanal.
Both these birds are among 190 Critically Endangered species in need of a Species Champion as part of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.
BirdLife Species Champions are a new global community of businesses, institutions and individuals who are stepping forward to provide the funding required to carry out the vital conservation measures BirdLife International has identified to help prevent bird extinctions.

Christmas cracker at South African roost

Scientists monitoring at Mount Moreland - South Africa’s largest Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica roost - have captured their first overseas ringed bird from a festively snowy location. The young Barn Swallow had flown all the way from Finland – a total of 11,000 km! “This is an amazing Christmas gift”, said Hilary Vickers of the Lake Victoria Conservancy – sponsors of the Mount Moreland ringing programme.
“We were carefully fitting the swallows with rings so we can monitor their movements when we spotted a bird already carrying one”, said Mount Moreland bird-ringer Andrew Pickles. “A magnifying glass provided the words Helsinki - Finland!”
The Barn Swallow undertakes one of the world’s most remarkable migrations, with many individuals flying thousands of miles in spring to breed in Europe and then repeating the feat in the autumn, to spend the boreal winter in southern Africa.
The Finnish Barn Swallow is the first record of an overseas ringed bird being caught at Mount Moreland. However, it is likely that swallows travel from a number of European countries to the site.
The Mount Moreland team is now awaiting details from the Finnish bird ringing data centre. This will give the exact location of where and when the bird was ringed. What is already known is that the swallow is an immature bird visiting South Africa for the first time. “It probably hatched in Finland in June so would be about six months old”, said Lauri Hänninen from BirdLife FINLAND (BirdLife in Finland).
Mount Moreland is part of the Lake Victoria Wetlands, and is the biggest roost site for Barn Swallows in South Africa. The first Barn Swallows arrived at Mount Moreland this year on 29 September. The numbers have now reached their peak and it is now possible to witness up to 3 million birds during an evening from a special viewing area on site.
“The swallows gather together about half an hour before sunset, and provide a soul-stirring sight as they fly in their vast numbers over the Lake Victoria Wetlands”, commented Mark Anderson – Director of BirdLife South Africa (BirdLife in South Africa). “As dusk falls, the swallows suddenly drop into the reed-beds and are all gone”.
The Mount Moreland roost recently hit the news when it was threatened by a proposal to build La Mercy Airport next to the site. In response, BirdLife South Africa led a successful campaign – alongside BirdLife Partners throughout Europe, most notably by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) - to agree a number of key mitigation actions designed to protect the internationally important Barn Swallow roost.
“Following our campaign, the Airports Company of South Africa [the organisation behind La Mercy] realised the importance of the site as a reedbed of international significance”, said Neil Smith, Conservation Manager at BirdLife South Africa.

La Mercy Airport is now 40% complete and the Airports Company of South Africa are using a number of measures to ensure that the roost and airport can coexist. These include employing environmental management staff to make sure that suitable management of the reedbed continues. “The Airports Company have also purchased a bird detection radar … swallow monitoring is expected to start in early 2009”, noted Neil Smith.
Impacts on the reedbed caused by the airport’s construction are being monitored and managed by an environmental monitoring partnership which consists of several stakeholders including, the Airports Company of South Africa, BirdLife South Africa, the Mount Moreland Conservancy, Tongaat Hulett Developments, the environmental consultants and governmental conservation organisations.
“The environmental monitoring partnership ensures that all stakeholders have input into the conservation of the reedbed - not just the developer”, added Neil Smith.

Natron's flamingos star in Disney film!


Walt Disney have chosen Lake Natron’s Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor to star in their first wildlife blockbuster in nearly half a century. ‘The Crimson Wing - Mystery of the Flamingos’ takes viewers to the isolated shores of Lake Natron, in northern Tanzania, for a birds-eye view of the mysterious and perilous lives of Lesser Flamingos. The film was premiered in Paris this week, and reminds the world of the threats facing one the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles.
Walt Disney produced wildlife documentaries called the ‘True-Life Adventure’ series between 1948 and 1960. These Oscar-winning films showed people the beauty of the natural world. The Crimson Wing marks the return of Disney to the genre. “We hope these films will contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the beauty and fragility of our natural world”, said Robert A. Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company.
Disney chose Lake Natron’s Lesser Flamingo population to relaunch their new company - Disneynature. For filmmaker Matthew Aeberhard, the extraordinary gathering of one and a half million flamingos on the shores of Lake Natron surpasses all the wonders of the natural world. “What’s fascinating to me is that so few people have been here”, said Aeberhard. “More people have walked on the moon than have been out on the mudflats where the flamingos have their breeding colonies”.
Lake Natron is one of the largest soda lakes in the Rift Valley, its eight saline lagoons covering an area of approximately 80 km2. It’s extremely alkaline; providing ideal environment for the salt-loving micro organisms which support East Africa’s largest population of Lesser Flamingos.
The Crimson Wing tells the story of the birth, life and death of a million Lesser Flamingos. Life at Natron is tough for the flamingos, with many predators threatening their daily survival. According to Aeberhard: “they have a number of predators such as Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus, hyenas and jackals... The contrast here between life and death is very stark”.
Sadly, this wonder of the natural world is under threat. There is a proposal to construct a plant capable of producing 500,000 tonnes of soda ash at Lake Natron. BirdLife International believes the development and associated infrastructure will displace and scatter the Lesser Flamingos.
Speaking about the future of Lesser Flamingo at Lake Natron, Aeberhard warned: “There are certainly a lot of Lesser Flamingos right now, but it doesn’t mean their future is secure”.
“They [Natron’s flamingos] could be very heavily impacted by minor developments”, said Aeberhard. He also stressed the fragile nature of Lake Natron’s beautiful pink flocks. “A company starts mining here and the water level may change, the salt balance may change”.
The Crimson Wing is on release in France and Switzerland and will be on general release in more than 50 countries around the world during 2009. BirdLife International is leading the "Think Pink" campaign to conserve Lake Natron. Similarly, the Lake Natron Consultative Group - a consortium of 46 concerned institutions in Africa, Europe, Americas and Asia - has called for a halt to the soda ash plant plans.
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Seychelles success story

This week BirdLife International and Nature Seychelles (BirdLife in Seychelles) are celebrating the anniversary of one the world’s greatest conservation success stories. In 1968, Cousin Island was purchased by the International Council of Bird Preservation (ICBP now BirdLife International) to save the last remaining population of Seychelles Warbler Acrocephalus sechellensis from extinction. Forty years on, warbler numbers have risen by 300%, and the island has been transformed from a coconut plantation to a profitable Nature Reserve which greatly benefits local people and global biodiversity.
Cousin Island – a small island in Seychelles - is today home to a wealth of globally important wildlife. It is the most significant nesting site for Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata in the Western Indian Ocean, and supports over 300,000 nesting seabirds of seven species. Cousin also hosts five of the Seychelles’ eleven endemic land-birds including: Seychelles Magpie-robin Copsychus seychellarum (Endangered), Seychelles Sunbird Nectarinia dussumieri, Seychelles Fody Foudia seychellarum and Seychelles Blue-pigeon Alectroenas pulcherrima.
Until 1968 Cousin was a coconut plantation which had lost most of its native vegetation. The Seychelles Warbler was almost extinct and fewer than 30 birds remained in the world; being confined mostly to a mangrove swamp on Cousin. In response, ICBP launched a world wide campaign and bought the island with the aim of saving the warbler. That year Cousin was declared a legally protected Nature Reserve by the Seychelles Government.
“Seychelles Warbler population was so small that a single severe climate, disease or man made event could have caused their extinction”, said Dr Mike Rands – BirdLife’s CEO and Director. “Transformation from a coconut plantation to an ecologically-restored island was achieved through careful habitat management and preventing alien predators - such as rats - from arriving”.
Conservation on Cousin has enjoyed great success with a 300% increase in the population of Seychelles Warbler over the last 40 years. Furthermore, translocation of Seychelles Magpie-robin from Fregate Island contributed to it’s downlisting from Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The population on Cousin is now being used to seed a new magpie-robin population on nearby La Denis.
In 1974 Cousin, and it’s surrounding marine area, was further designated a Special Reserve - the highest protection level currently applied in Seychelles. Today, Cousin is managed as an integrated seascape reserve by Nature Seychelles and activities include monitoring the island's biodiversity, undertaking research, re-introducing endangered species and promoting ecotourism. The island now receives around 10,000 visitors each year.

“Saving the Seychelles Warbler also saved other endemic birds, globally important seabirds, Critically Endangered marine turtles, precious coral reefs and fish”, said Nirmal Shah - CEO of Nature Seychelles. The Reserve’s coral reefs support some of the highest biomass of fish which are important to local Seychelois fishermen. “Our aim is to keep this incredible reserve totally reserved for conservation. We employ only local wardens, and ensure that income generated through eco-tourism goes towards management of the reserve. It’s important that local communities and Cousin’s wildlife jointly benefit from any revenue generated”.

The successful model for managing the reserve developed by Nature Seychelles has been used by private land owners, governments and NGOs alike for restoring and managing conservation sites and islands and for training conservationists in the Indian Ocean. As a result, Nature Seychelles – celebrating their 10th anniversary this year – have won several prizes including the ‘Conde Nast Traveler Ecotourism Award’, the ‘British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Highly Commended Award’ and the ‘BirdLife Africa Alice Bhukoli Award’.
“Nature Seychelles deserves their international recognition for successfully marrying wildlife conservation with sustainable eco-tourism”, said Hazell Shokellu Thompson – Head of BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat.

2010 biodiversity target is a hundred years away

BirdLife reaction to new Commission report: 'Europe shamefully fails to protect its natural environment'

Reacting to the mid-term report of the European Commission on the EU Action Plan to halt the loss of biodiversity released on 16 December 2008, BirdLife International deplores the 'shameful failure' of Member State governments and EU Institutions to take adequate action for wildlife and the natural environment. Far too little is done to stop the loss of wild species and the degradation of natural systems in Europe and worldwide.
While BirdLife congratulates the Commission in Brussels today for having compiled an impressive analysis, it points out that the most revealing aspect of this report is the "huge gap between stated ambition and real action", stated Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International in Brussels. “The Commission is right when stressing the first successes of the nature Directives and Natura 2000, but we can only turn the tide if they are properly implemented by Member States, adequately funded and most of all if nature conservation is integrated into other policies”.
BirdLife draws direct parallels with the current financial crisis. “Focusing only on short-term profits leads to huge costs for the society in the long-run. When, if not now, will governments learn this lesson? If they shy away from acting for our planet now, the price of a future bail-out will dwarf the current economic crisis”, added Kreiser.
The populations of animal and plant species in the EU continue to decline because their habitats are fragmented by motorways (e.g. by the 'Via Baltica' in Poland), lost to agricultural intensification (as the EU seems unable to reform the Common Agricultural Policy) or devoured to make way to uncontrolled development (e.g. at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast).
In the meantime, the destruction of tropical rainforests is accelerating, coral reefs are dying out, fisheries are collapsing and the list of animals and plants sliding towards global extinction is growing longer. The newly adopted EU biofuels policy will accelerate global biodiversity loss further.
Six governments embarrassingly unhelpful
BirdLife sees it as especially 'embarrassing' that six governments (of Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Luxembourg) did not even bother to respond to the Commission’s questions when the report was compiled. “This has to be seen as a clear signal that governments have still not understood the urgency of the environmental crisis we are in, while 90% of Europe’s citizens have stated they are very concerned by the loss of biodiversity”.
Excellent tools, poor implementation
With the Birds and Habitats Directives, and the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, the EU has excellent legislation with which to reconcile the needs of nature conservation with human well-being and economic development. However, as the Commission’s report shows, Member States are dragging their feet in completing the Natura 2000 network (especially at sea) and that far too little is done to manage and protect these sites in a way that people and nature can both benefit.
Governments undermine our chances to come through the climate crisis
Outside protected areas the situation is even worse with nature and its services always loosing out to short-term economic interests. Integrating the maintenance and enhancement of our natural capital into the various policy sectors, like radically reforming agricultural policy, is still a distant dream. “That way governments undermine our chances to come well through the challenges of the century, be it climate change or food security, and they fail to take responsibility for the poor regions of the world who suffer most from environmental degradation”, added Konstantin Kreiser.
Read the danger signs and turn the tide
BirdLife urges the EU leaders and its institutions to read the danger signs and respond in ways that would make citizens proud of belonging to the Union. There is only one year left until 2010 and a huge effort is needed to put nature at the heart of political decisions to achieve lasting change. Instead of taking stock of missed opportunities and failed promises, 2010 should be the year of turning the tide for the diversity of life.

Killer mice bring albatross population closer to extinction

The Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, has suffered its worst breeding season ever, according to research by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). The number of chicks making it through to fledging has decreased rapidly and it is now five times lower than it should be because introduced predatory mice are eating the chicks alive on Gough island - the bird’s only home and a South Atlantic territory of the United Kingdom.
The mice are also affecting Gough Island’s other Critically Endangered endemic species, Gough Bunting Rowettia goughensis. A recent survey of the bunting’s population revealed that the population has halved within the last two decades. Now there are only an estimated 400-500 pairs left.
“We’ve known for a long time that the mice were killing albatross chicks in huge numbers. However, we now know that the albatrosses have suffered their worst year on record”, said Richard Cuthbert, an RSPB scientist who has been researching the mice problem on Gough Island since 2000. “We also know that the mice are predators on the eggs and chicks of the Gough bunting and mice predation is the main factor behind their recent decline.”
Despite the grave situation for both species on Gough Island, UK government funding to plan for and take forward the eradication of mice is still lacking. This is despite recognition from two prominent UK House of Common's Committees that the "biodiversity found in the UK Overseas Territories is equally valuable and at a greater risk of loss" (than the UK) and that current levels of funding are "grossly inadequate". Eradicating mice is the single action that would solve the primary conservation threat facing both species.
A complete survey of the Tristan Albatross on Gough Island in January showed there were 1764 adult albatrosses incubating eggs. A later survey revealed that only 246 chicks had survived to fledging.
“Tristan Albatross is being hit by a double whammy. The chicks are predated by mice and the adults and juveniles are being killed by longline fishing vessels”, said John Croxall, Chair of BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme. “Unsustainable numbers are being killed on land and at sea. Without major conservation efforts, the Tristan Albatross will become extinct”.
The RSPB has been involved in a feasibility study to test whether it’s possible to remove the mice. So far, the trials look promising, giving both species a more optimistic future. Funding of this year's work on Gough has come from the Overseas Territory Environment Programme (OTEP).
“Tackling alien invasives species in UK Overseas Territories is one of 10 Key Actions to prevent extinctions that BirdLife has highlighted in a new publication, Critically Endangered Birds: a global audit”, said Richard Grimmett, BirdLife’s Head of Conservation. “It is also attainable, the removal of rats from seabird islands has been conducted at many other sites across the world with great success.”
Alistair Gammell, the RSPB’s International Director continued “It is essential that the UK Government commits adequate funding for the protection of the many threatened species found on the UK’s Overseas Territories. We are challenging the Government to prove its commitment to conservation by properly funding conservation initiatives in these territories, and most urgently to commit to funding the removal of mice from Gough.”

Turkish protest against the Ilisu Dam

Protesters from Doga Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey) unfurled a banner over the Turkcell Billboard in Istanbul on 25 November to highlight the construction of the Ilisu Dam. Showing panoramic views of Hasankeyf - a site marked for destruction as part of the dam construction -demonstrators, wearing the flags of Austria, Germany and Switzerland hung from the 20 metre high structure displaying their message: Hasankeyf today, tomorrow, forever.
“It is time for a positive decision”, said Erkut Erturk, Campaign Coordinator for Doga Dernegi. “Prime Minister Erdogan should honour his commitment to our heritage and save Hasankeyf forever by registering this culturally and biologically diverse region on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list”.
In less than two weeks, the governments of Germany, Austria and Switzerland will decide whether to give the go-ahead to the financing of the Ilisu Dam Project or choose to save Hasankeyf and the Tigris Valley from total and irreversible destruction. Germany, Switzerland and Austria all have vested interests in the construction of the dam, but also have the power to stop the destruction of thousands of years of history.
The controversial Ilisu Dam project threatens to flood a region that was once part of ancient Mesopotamia and that includes more than 83 archaeological sites. It is also home to many species of birds, such as Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (Endangered) and Great Bustard Otis tarda (Vulnerable), as well as many mammals and other wildlife.
Doga Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey) is urging the Turkish Government to abandon the Ilisu Dam project and to save Hasankeyf from destruction.
“The Ilisu Dam will only cause the destruction of our heritage and our legacy. For the sake of present and future generations, Turkey must stop this project. Germany, Austria and Switzerland must apply the same standards and controls to Turkey that they use in their own countries. No one should contribute to the disappearance of the unique wildlife and history of Hasankeyf”, concluded Erturk.

Soaring migratory bird deaths in Egypt

Large numbers of migrating Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina and White Stork Ciconia ciconia have been found dead near a water treatment plant in Egypt. The exact causes of their death are not known. However, a new BirdLife project will address key threats to soaring migratory birds as they undertake their epic journeys.
Soaring migratory birds glide between areas of rising hot air to aid their long-distance passage. This method, which cannot be used over large water bodies or high mountains, limits the potential routes and concentrates birds into vulnerable corridors. Egypt is at a critical geographic bottleneck for soaring migratory birds, and at the time of the recent deaths thousands of birds were passing through the country.
In total, local bird watchers found 27 Lesser Spotted Eagles and over 30 White Storks dead near a water treatment plant in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. In addition, BirdLife received reports of a grounded European Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus and a number of dead 'wader' species.
"We don't know the exact causes of these deaths", said Hala Barakat, President of Nature Conservation Egypt (BirdLife in Egypt). "These birds face a number of different threats such poisoning, hunting, habitat-loss and direct collisions with structures such as wind-farms and power-lines".
"BirdLife's Migratory Soaring Birds project aims to address these threats. We will be working with these key economic sectors to better understand the underlying causes of the threats to soaring birds, and develop best practice guidelines", commented Dr Jonathan Barnard - BirdLife's Programme and Projects Manager. This will be achieved through regional awareness-raising and training, combined with six pilot projects in partnership with the key stakeholders across the Middle East and northeast Africa.
"Following lessons learned from our pilot projects, our aim is to set up an accreditation scheme to encourage companies to adopt a 'Soaring Bird friendly' approach to their work", noted Dr Barnard.
Credits: This news is brought to you by BirdLife's Flyways Campaign

Slender-billed quest

The RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and other partners have launched a last push to find one of the world's rarest birds.
They have issued a call to search for and find any remaining populations of Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris. This announcement was made at the Ninth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP-CMS COP 9), in Rome, Italy, 1-5 December.
Classified as Critically Endangered, Slender-billed Curlew is the rarest species found in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, with no confirmed records since 1999. Regarded as very common in the 19th century, it declined dramatically during the 20th. It migrated from its presumed breeding grounds in Siberia, across central and eastern Europe to wintering grounds in North Africa and the Middle East. Flocks of over 100 birds were recorded from Morocco as late as the 1960s and 1970s. However, between 1980 and 1990, there were only 103 records, and from 1990-1999, this dropped to 74, with most recent verified records being of one to three birds. However, the Slender-billed Curlew is easily overlooked, challenging to identify and may use countries, such as Iraq and Iran, that have been relatively inaccessible to experienced birders in recent years.
"Although the situation for Slender-billed Curlew does look gloomy, the fact that other species have risen from the 'dead' recently does fuel our optimism. We are encouraging people not to give up on this bird", said Nicola Crockford of the RSPB and chair of the Slender-billed Curlew working group. "Additionally, this bird was known to inhabit remote areas - so it is just possible that small numbers of the bird may still be wintering in an isolated part of North Africa or the Middle East, or that some unknown nesting site may be discovered in the depths of Central Asia. But our quest is definitely a race against time."
The working group has developed a tool kit to assist people to identify and report Slender-billed Curlew in the field. This identification leaflet, a downloadable mp3 file of the call and a map of all recent sightings by season, mean that birders will now know what to look for, and when and where to look for it. Technological advances will assist with this work. Satellite tags are now small enough for use on Slender-billed Curlews; if any can be found and caught then the sites used during the migratory cycle could be determined. Also, research on feather samples from museum skins may soon enable a narrowing down of the search area for the breeding grounds (the only nesting records date from 1909-1924 in the Tara area of the Omsk-Novosibirsk region, south-west Siberia).
"This is the last chance to find Slender-billed Curlew. If we lose this species, it will be the first extinction of a European bird since Canary Islands Oystercatcher Haematopus meadewaldoi in 1981", said Richard Grimmett, BirdLife's Head of Conservation. "We've launched The BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme to save the world's most threatened birds. For many species - such as Slender-billed Curlew - the first step is to confirm if they still survive, and then identify and protect the sites that they use."
To download the Slender-billed Curlew Identification leaflet click here (PDF 143KB)

Conserving Patagonia’s marine riches

A team of international collaborators have launched a book to help conserve one of the richest marine areas on earth. It identifies the main problems facing the conservation and sustainable use of the Patagonian Sea. "This book is truly a landmark contribution", said Dr John Croxall - Chairman of BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme.
The Patagonian Sea covers over 3 million km2 and is home to a great diversity of marine species, with a special wealth of top predators including globally important populations of Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys (Endangered) and Southern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes chrysocome (Vulnerable). It extends from the south of Brazil to Tierra del Fuego, in the Atlantic, passing Cape Horn and along the Fuegian channels and fjords of the south of Chile.
The Patagonian Sea is exposed to many human threats such as pollution and over-fishing. The new book is the first comprehensive summary of the main issues relating to its conservation and management. Entitled 'Synthesis of the Status of Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence' it includes 50 chapters and was compiled by 80 leading experts."BirdLife has been associated with the book from inception to publication, and has taken particular responsibility for the section on environmental indicators", commented Dr Croxall. "Indicators provide an important baseline against which the efforts of all stakeholders - especially those charged with the responsibility to improve the health of the Patagonian Sea - can be measured."
The review is the first major output of the 'Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence' - an international team of collaborators of which BirdLife was a founding member, representing its Partners and programmes throughout the region . Over the last decade the Forum has been an indispensable meeting place for organisations with shared concerns about the conservation and management of the Patagonian Sea.
"It is a global priority to protect this marine ecosystem, and BirdLife is committed to supporting the goals of the Forum, especially through its Global Seabird Programme", said Dr Croxall.
The vision of the forum is an ecologically healthy and diverse Patagonian Sea, meeting the needs, wishes and aspirations of people whilst maintaining one of the world's greatest wildlife spectacles and most productive marine ecosystems. "We have sought to find a common voice for a representative part of civil society dedicated to contributing to sustainability, and we have certainly discovered it", said Claudio Campagna, Chairman of the Forum.

Many of the world's seabird populations are rapidly declining and are threatened with extinction. They face a wide range of threats, both on land and at sea, the most widespread of which is the threat of being killed in longline fisheries. Seabirds often travel vast distances across the oceans, including the high seas, so their protection cannot be tackled effectively by national measures alone.
BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme promotes international collaborative action that is vital to arrest seabird declines. It also advocates the conservation of seabirds at national, regional and global levels, and works directly with fishermen and other stakeholders to reduce threats to seabird populations.
This news is brought to you by BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme.

Tanzanian Minister outlines Natron’s value

Speaking at a recent Conference of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Tanzania's Environment Minister outlined the value of Lake Natron as the world's most important breeding site for Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor. Dr Batilda Salha Buriani stated that Lake Natron is: "The sole breeding ground of up to 2.5 million flamingos ... representing 75% of the global population".
During the conference, Tanzania's Environment Minister spoke about Lake Natron as: "the flamingo's birthplace". She continued: "Tanzania is conscious of the potential that the wise use of wetlands can offer to sustain the economic and social activities of a wide range of public and private stakeholders".
The Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention passed a resolution requesting that the 'Government of Tanzania provide the Secretary General with updated information in relation to the advice and recommendations of the Ramsar Advisory Mission to the Lake Natron Basin Ramsar site, in particular concerning the proposed development of soda ash facilities'. "Let me reiterate Tanzania's unfaltering commitment to the effective implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands", commented Dr Buriani.

"I am one of those who strongly believe that we have not inherited this planet from our ancestors but rather we have borrowed it from our children ... whatever decision we make should be with their interests in our hearts", said Dr Buriani.
"Africa faces many challenges including extreme poverty", said Achilles Byaruhanga, Nature Uganda's Executive Director and BirdLife Africa's Wetlands focal point. "However, we should avoid the temptation of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs in the process of addressing these problems. This might be the case if we allow soda ash mining to take place at Lake Natron".
"The Government of Tanzania and the global community have a unique opportunity to enhance the conservation values of Lake Natron for the benefit of local communities and its extraordinary wildlife", said Richard Grimmett, BirdLife's Head of Conservation. "There are few places on earth like Lake Natron. We should take advantage of the current goodwill to protect it in perpetuity".
There is a proposal to construct a plant capable of producing 500,000 tonnes of soda ash at Lake Natron. The project's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment was recently withdrawn after worldwide opposition. BirdLife International believes the development, and associated infrastructure, will displace and scatter the Lesser Flamingos, and is spearheading the "Think Pink" campaign to conserve Lake Natron. Similarly, the Lake Natron Consultative Group - a consortium of 46 concerned institutions in Africa, Europe, Americas and Asia - has called for a halt to the soda ash plant plans.
Responding to concerns raised over the proposal to construct a soda ash plant at Lake Natron, Dr Buriani assured delegates that: "Tanzania is very cautious and whatever decisions that will be made will not in any way be at the expense of nature and ecosystems values". Furthermore, she stated that: "The government recognises the contribution of Lake Natron to accelerated national economic growth, meeting the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable livelihoods of local communities and to poverty reduction initiatives, particularly through tourism".
This news was bought to you by BirdLife's Think Pink Campaign

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