Soaring high: BirdLife launches new migratory bird project
BirdLife’s newest flyways project is being launched this week at an inception workshop in Jordan. “This marks a significant increase in our efforts to conserve migratory soaring birds in one of world’s most important migratory flyways”, said Dr Jonathan Barnard, Senior Programme Manager at BirdLife International.
Government and NGO partners from eleven countries across the Middle East and Africa have come together in Amman, Jordan, to discuss and launch the UNDP-GEF / BirdLife International ‘Migratory Soaring Birds’ project.
“We need to acknowledge the importance of international and regional conservation to reduce threats to significant populations of Globally Threatened migratory soaring birds”, said H.E Eng. Khaled Irani - Minister of Environment of Jordan.
Soaring birds migrate by spiraling upwards within areas of rising hot air and then gliding downwards to their next thermal. This method cannot be used over large water bodies or high mountains, and therefore concentrates birds into migratory corridors known as flyways; making soaring migrants highly vulnerable to localised threats.
“The Jordan Rift Valley-Red Sea Flyway is recognised as the most significant corridor for bird migration in the world” —H.E Eng. Khaled Irani, Minister of Environment of Jordan
However, many parts of the flyway are undergoing a period of rapid development. At the migration bottlenecks, expanding urban, industrial, agricultural and tourism development are creating hazards to birds in areas where previously no threats existed.
Migratory raptor species in the African-Eurasian flyway are particularly at risk from threats to their survival. “More than two-thirds of migratory soaring bird species which glide through the Rift Valley and Red Sea flyway have an unfavourable conservation status”, added Jonathan Barnard.
Hazards include direct threats from development, habitat alteration, pollution, and the construction of barriers such as power lines that obstruct the flyway resulting in fatal collisions. Soaring birds are also directly threatened by illegal and unsustainable hunting.
The nature of the threats to soaring birds and their pattern of migration, means that their conservation can only be achieved by considering land-use beyond the boundaries of protected areas, and by working alongside key industries to create safer flyways.
The Migratory Soaring Birds project is seeking to ensure that soaring bird conservation is incorporated into the energy, agriculture, waste, development and tourism sectors within the Rift Valley and Red Sea Flyways. “By focused collaboration with these industries BirdLife’s newest flyways project will help to make one of world’s most important bird migration flyways safer for soaring birds”, added Jonathan Barnard.
“This marks a significant increase in our efforts to conserve migratory soaring birds” —Dr Jonathan Barnard, Senior Programme Manager at BirdLife International
“The government of Jordan will work with other regional governments, ministries and BirdLife International partners in the implementation process”, said H.E Eng. Khaled Irani. “We are looking forward to cooperate regionally and internationally to ensure that the Migratory Soaring Birds Project proceeds as successfully as possible … with the aim to make the flyway system ‘soaring bird friendly’”.
Delegates had the chance to visit the Mujib Important Bird Area to witness one of nature’s greatest miracles. “Here in the Great Rift Valley, we’ve been enjoying the incredible sight of large migratory birds gliding overhead”, said Dr Abdelkader Bensada, the regional project manager. “The Migratory Soaring Birds project will help to ensure that our grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same spectacle”.
BirdLife has for many decades championed the protection of birds of prey from illegal and indiscriminate hunting, and advocated the full implementation of European Union laws. Campaigns have highlighted this issue at bottleneck sites in the Mediterranean, and these site are now much safer places for migratory birds.
‘Mainstreaming Conservation of Migratory Soaring Birds into Key Productive Sectors along the Rift Valley / Red Sea Flyway’ project is being executed by BirdLife International in partnership with national NGO partners and government agencies in Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The project is funded through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
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