Government of São Tomé e Príncipe unveils conservation plans for saving some of the most threatened birds in Africa
The Director of Environment, Mr. Arlindo E Carvalho, on Monday 17 February 2014 launched the São Tomé e Príncipe International Species Action Plans for Critically Endangered bird species in the country. The plans will guide the government and other stakeholders in the conservation of threatened birds of the São Tomé islands. The Plans were developed as part of a BirdLife initiative to ensure protection and conservation of priority forest habitats on São Tomé to reduce the extinction risk of Critically Endangered birds and benefit other globally threatened endemic biodiversity. The Plans focus on three Critically Endangered birds, namely Dwarf Olive Ibis (Bostrychia bocagei), São Tomé Fiscal (Lanius newtoni) and the São Tomé Grosbeak (Neospiza concolor). A separate plan has been developed for the Príncipe Thrush (Turdus xanthorhynchus), another critically endangered bird found in Príncipe, and will be launched in the near future.
The islands of São Tomé e Principe are extraordinary in terms of the richness and uniqueness of the species found there. They are one of Africa’s major centres of wildlife endemism (including 28 endemic bird species and many mammals, reptiles and plants). The forests on the islands have been classified as the second most important for biodiversity conservation in Africa. Sadly, this exceptional biodiversity is under serious threats, mainly in the form of habitat loss and habitat degradation powered by agricultural expansion and intensification (mainly palm oil plantations). Another key threat is increased mortality from hunting for food by humans and predation by introduced species.
Read previous stories about São Tomé and palm oil plantations:
- Fact finding expedition to São Tomé & Principe puts biodiversity hotspot on the map
- Hunting threat to Critically Endangered Dwarf Olive Ibis
Nick Prentice, the Treasurer of BirdLife and whose family generously provides significant financial support to the conservation initiative, and his wife, Jane, graced the occasion with their presence and Nick shared some thoughts. “Having explored different parts of Sao Tome Island over the past few days and seen your beautiful country, I am astounded by the exceptional biodiversity of the islands and the immense pressures it is facing. With the continued commitment and hard work of the government and other stakeholders, the conservation of biodiversity in Sao Tome is achievable and Jane and I are proud to be part of these efforts”.
“The Action Plans list four interventions that will significantly enhance the conservation of the targeted species, and benefit all the biodiversity of the islands more generally”, said Luis Costa the Executive Director of SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and member of the BirdLife Global Council. He summarized the interventions as falling under four areas, namely “ i) reducing habitat degradation and disturbance, ii) research to better understand the ecological and socio-economic drivers of biodiversity loss on the islands, iii) stopping hunting of the Dwarf Olive Ibis and iv) according better and more effective protection of the key habitat”.
“It has been a few years of steady progress by the BirdLife initiative towards the conservation of threatened birds in Sao Tome and Principe. With these plans, the conservation efforts can be raised to an even higher level” remarked Alice Ward-Francis, the Species Programme Officer at RSPB (BirdLife in UK), during her speech.
Present at the launch were other senior government officials from the ministries of agriculture and the environment, Directors of Obo Natural Park in Sao Tome and in Principe, professional research field guides and members of NGOs addressing biodiversity and livelihood issues around Obo Natural Park. Ms Alzira Rodrigues, the President of Associação de Biólogos Santomenses (ABS) which has been working with BirdLife since 2006 and helped train many of the field guides, attended the launch.
“For the first time, there is a cohesive plan that collates the necessary actions by government, civil society and private sector operators to conserve the extraordinary birds of Sao Tome. Though the plans are developed from a species perspective, the actions go well beyond species conservation and address the conservation of Obo Natural Park, which is the cornerstone of protecting the key habitats” remarked Mr. Arlindo C. Carvalho. “The Action Plans are timely as they will feed directly into an ongoing process to develop a new General Management Plan for the Obo Natural Park and also into the ongoing process of developing a second National Biodiversity Strategy and Action plan”.
“The BirdLife model brings together cutting-edge science and empowered stakeholders at all levels to deliver sustainable high conservation impacts”, said Julius Arinaitwe, BirdLife Regional Director for Africa. “The International Species Action Plans launched today by the government of Sao Tome provides the much needed guidance that will stimulate collaboration and partnerships engaging government, general public, civil society and private sector in research, policy and action to conserve biodiversity in Sao Tome. BirdLife is grateful for the opportunity to bring together these plans and will continue to play its part as one of the partners contributing to São Tomé e Príncipe’s conservation journey”.
The BirdLife initiative in Sao Tome is supported by various organisations including the government of São Tomé e Príncipe, Obo Natural Park, SPEA, RSPB, Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation, Synchronicity Earth, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture (Taiwan), Lisbon University and others.
Story by Julius Arinaitwe (Regional Director for BirdLife Africa)