BirdLife News Round-up: February 2008
As a global network, those involved in the BirdLife Partnership are no strangers to travel. But when it comes to moving long-distances, birds really do have the edge. Whether it’s in search of a suitable climate, plentiful food or the best location to meet with others, nothing matches the speed and endurance of our flying feathered friends.
This was highlighted in February with new information regarding the wintering ranges of two of our most threatened birds. A pair of Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwings was observed to fly more than 5,000 miles, from Kazakhstan central Sudan, where they have been spending the winter (Sociable Lapwings tracked to Sudan, 27 February).
News broke on Valentines Day of the discovery of a wintering population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Myanmar sent our hearts fluttering on a day when some European countries traditionally exchange love-spoons as tokens of affection (Spoon-billed bird looks for love, 14 February). Urging people to support the BirdLife Preventing Extinction Programme, Programme Development Manager Jim Lawrence commented: “What better way of pledging your undying love than helping to guarantee a future for these charismatic little birds?".
This followed the fantastic announcement that our work on preventing extinctions received funds of £226,000 ($445,000) from the 2007 British Birdwatching Fair (World’s biggest birdfair provides record funding for preventing extinctions, 1 February). Let’s hope the cash keeps rolling in, and that more Species Champions step forward soon to support this landmark project.
Birds face many threats during their lives – not least when they’re on the move. Sadly, many albatrosses – one of our most graceful of flyers – are killed each year by longlining fishing-vessels. We applauded fresh measures announced this month by New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton to reduce the number of seabirds killed in New Zealand's fisheries (New Zealand announces measures for albatross, 25 February).
Hunting was another threat making the news at Birdlife.org. Poachers involved in the shocking massacre of 52 Red-footed Falcons in Cyprus were fined a derisory €1,250 each (BirdLife Cyprus cries foul over weak penalty for falcon slaughterers, 29 February). This followed news that Maltese personalities embraced BirdLife Malta’s campaign against illegal spring hunting - asking political leaders to end the practice once and for all (Maltese celebrities stand strong against spring hunting, 13 February). How many more birds need to die before the Maltese government adheres to the EU Birds Directive? The continuing conflict on the island reached a head in February with the unpleasant arson attack on cars belonging to BirdLife Malta volunteers (BirdLife International condemns violent act against its Maltese Partner, 19 February).
With migratory birds relying on a chain of locations to continue their annual cycles, the importance of identifying and protecting networks of sites has never been more crucial. It came as great news that monitoring of shorebirds by Guyra Paraguay (BirdLife Paraguay) has resulted in the designation of the country’s first Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site (Paraguay’s first WHSRN site – right on the capital’s doorstep! 27 February). The IBA wetland of Bahía de Asunción joins a network of sites which aims to conserve shorebirds and their habitats across the Americas.
As I write, a workshop on the conservation and livelihoods issues faced by Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in India is in full swing (Workshop seeks safeguards for India’s unprotected IBAs, 29 February). The workshop is seeking to explore to what extent existing laws in India can be used to safeguard unprotected IBAs, whilst also identifying best practices and key lessons from Asia.
Also getting underway this month is the Spring Alive event which is inviting children to enjoy watching and recording the return of migratory birds as they complete their long journeys back to Europe (Children unite across Europe to record arrival of migratory birds, 1 February). If you know anybody who may wish to take part, please visit the Spring Alive website and register. Good luck to all those budding young bird-watchers out there!
Finally, we were reminded this month that not all travellers are particularly welcome. Introduced rats are found throughout the Pacific region. Each year they predate large numbers of eggs and chicks; posing a threat to the long-term survival of many seabird colonies. It was fantastic to hear of the successful work of BirdLife International Fiji and the Vatuira island-people which has resulted in the successful eradication of Pacific Rats from this internationally important seabird colony (Fijian island beats the rat-race…, 28 February). Already ground-nesting species such as Bridled and Black-naped Terns have been observed raising chicks for the first time on the island. Congratulations to all those involved!
It just goes to show, good news can also travel fast these days…
Credits: Nick Askew