IBA Caretaker network established in Latvia
LOB (BirdLife in Latvia) recently completed a two-year project to establish a network of volunteer Caretakers at Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across the country, and to create an online database for nature observations.
Important Bird Areas (IBAs) form a worldwide network of sites for the conservation of birds. When complete, this global network is likely to comprise around 15,000 IBAs covering some 10 million km2 (c.7% of the world’s land surface) identified on the basis of about 40% of the world’s bird species. The effective conservation of these sites will contribute substantially to the protection of the world's biological diversity.
In total, 71 IBAs have been identified in Latvia, 64 of those are inland sites with a total of 534,056 hectares, covering 8.3% of the country’s land surface. The other seven areas are marine territories including ca. 339,470 hectares of the Baltic Sea and Riga Gulf waters. Approximately 97 % of IBAs territories are included in specially protected areas preserved by the Government.
Presently 70 voluntary Caretakers are involved in the management of IBAs and they have created five Caretaker groups in different Latvian regions. Their main objectives are to ensure the protection of IBAs; to regularly visit the sites, report threats and illegal activities and monitor birds. For example, LOB’s honorary member Mrs. Zigrīda Jansone, together with the Saldus Caretaker group, have already averted illegal hunting of beavers and guarded nesting Osprey Pandion haliaetus from disturbance in the “Sātiņu dīķi” IBA, in the west of the country.
"In times when our valuable forests are threatened, it is crucial to cooperate with volunteers who are willing to be the watchdogs for mismanagement of nature" —Viesturs Ķerus, LOBís Chairman of the Board
During the project, LOB prepared a training programme, an IBA Caretaker manual and three training seminars. The manual includes a description of IBA monitoring methods, an introduction to birdwatching and identification of bird species, and a classification and identification guide to habitat types. Special focus was put on legislation concerning the protection of habitats and species - showing Caretakers how to recognise illegal actions.
One of the most important benefits for IBA Caretakers has been the launch of a new online database for bird records, which was prepared in collaboration with the Latvian Fund for Nature and Swedbank. On this website people can register their observations of birds and other wildlife, including mammals, plants and fungi. The database will also be used for IBA monitoring and protection purposes.
Following the completion of the project, LOB is now inviting Caretakers to a seminar organised by the State Environmental Service, where they will receive the status of ‘public environmental inspectors’. This will empower them to be able to officially identify illegal actions, and report them to the authorities.
Viesturs Ķerus, LOB’s Chairman of the Board, emphasised: “In times when our nature conservation system is being weakened and our valuable forests are threatened due to the economic crisis, it is crucial to cooperate with volunteers who are less dependent on fluctuations in the national budget and who are willing to be the watchdogs for mismanagement of nature”.
“For most BirdLife Partners, with a small staff, the conservation of IBAs wouldn’t be possible without an effective IBA-Caretaker network. Throughout Europe, the activities carried out by Caretakers,including monitoring, early warning of threats, and education and awareness, provide an essential front-line in efforts to conserve the globally important biodiversity for which these sites have been designated” says Boris Barov, Conservation Manager for Europe at the BirdLife European Division.
The project was funded by Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway within the EEA Financial Mechanism and Norwegian Financial Mechanism and Latvian Sate through Society Integration Foundation.
To see the online database, please visit www.dabasdati.lv
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Credits: LOB (BirdLife in Latvia)