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Africa
2 Sep 2014

World Migratory Bird Day 2014: Stakeholders Pledge to Protect Lake Natron

Monic Primary School pupils use pictures to narrate the beauty of flamingos (Photo: Semanini/Lebaraka)
By policy.internairobi

The Government of Tanzania has pledged to accord a higher protection status to the Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) breeding grounds of Lake Natron. This was revealed during the celebration of the World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) 2014 on 28th August 2014 at Ngare Sero Village on the shores of Lake Natron. 

“We will initiate a participatory process that will culminate in conferring these breeding grounds with the highest possible protection”, said Mr. Sadiki Lotha Laisser , the Communication Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) Officer on Sustainable Wetlands Management who spoke on behalf of the Director, Wildlife Division.  “We thank UNWTO, BirdLife International, local leadership and other stakeholders for joining hands with us to protect this important site”.

The event was collaboratively organised by BirdLife International, the Wildlife Division in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and presided over by Mr. Sixbert Byorushengo on behalf of District Commissioner, Ngorongoro, Mr. Elias Wawa Lali.  It was attended by representatives of the Director of Wildlife Division; Director of Tanzania National Parks(TANAPA); District Commissioner, Longido and Kenya’s African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) Focal Point; other district and local leaders; political leaders; Malihai Clubs of Tanzania; school children and the press.

The Chief Guest highlighted the link between Lake Natron as a site for migratory birds and tourism, saying this potential needed to be utilized for the benefit of the people.  “That this site has been recognised as a Destination Flyway is a great honour for us Tanzanians.  We should do everything possible to ensure we do not allow activities that could harm the lake.  We welcome tourism investors to come to our districts and work with us to promote sustainable tourism”, said Mr Lali.

The Lake Natron event was also marked with song, dance, skits, drawings and compositions highlighting the importance of the day.  Pupils and Students from Ngare Sero and Monic Primary and Lake Natron Secondary Schools, respectively, presented entertaining pieces that left the participants in stitches.  If it was not the pictorial presentation by Monic lauding the beauty of flamingos, it was Ngare Sero Primary School doing a jig in praise of the Lake.  In their dramatised dance, Lake Natron Secondary School powerfully demonstrated the benefits of conserving birds to local and national economy.

Lake Natron Secondary School in a dramatised dance on the value of conserving migratory birds (Photo: Semanini/Lebaraka)                  Ngare Sero Primary School in a jig in praise of Lake Natron  (Photo: Semanini/Lebaraka)

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A representative of Longido District Commissioner Mr. James Ole Miliyai emphasised the need for harmonised Land Use Planning at district level of areas on the shores of Lake Natron.  Haphazard grazing and other unsustainable land uses were resulting in siltation and degradation of the Lake.  Longido and Ngorongoro Districts were called upon to include wetland areas in their planning. “Harmonised planning at this level will ensure these ecologically sensitive areas are not degraded”, he said.

TANAPA representative and Chief Park Warden, Manyara Natrional Park, Mr Dominician Njau, said migratory birds connect continents adding, protection of birds contributes to the protection of elephants, rhinos and other species.  He challenged children to take up the conservation mantle, quoting former President Julius Nyerere who said: “We will do what we can to hand over a heritage to our children”. 

Celebration of this year’s WMBD event at Lake Natron is significant in many ways. First, the site is critical not only for Tanzania but for the greater East Africa region, and, indeed, for the world.  It is a stopover for many migratory birds and is the only regular breeding location for the 1.5 million - 2.5 million Lesser Flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) found in Eastern Africa. This population represents 75% of the global population of the species.  

Secondly, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has selected Lake Natron as one of eight sites globally for Destination Flyways, a new global initiative linking migratory birds and sustainable tourism development.  Lake Natron is one of only three such sites in  Africa.  A UNWTO mission visited Lake Natron in March 2014, and held consultations with local communities and other stakeholders regarding the initiative and they warmly welcomed it.

“BirdLife International is delighted to see such enthusiastic participation and commitment by stakeholders at this inaugural event.  We will work with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and other stakeholders to make this an annual event”, said Mr. Festo Semanini, Head of BirdLife Tanzania Office.  “We thank the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) through the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (UNEP/AEWA), for financing this year’s event”.

The event was covered and aired by three national TV Stations: Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), ITV and Star TV.  It was also covered by print media, with stories appearing in three local dialies.

For more on the World Migratory Bird Day please see: www.worldmigratorybirdday.org

For more information please contact: Festo Semanini, BirdLife Tanzania Project Office Tel: +255755766552 Email: Festo.Semanini@birdlife.org or Sadiki Lotha Laisser , Wildlife Division, Ministry of natural Resources and Tourism Tel: +255754203925 Email laissersadiki@yahoo.com

World Migratory Bird Day Event photos.

 

Story by Ken Mwathe and Festo Semanini ( Ken.Mwathe@birdlife.org )