Manuals for empowering Africa’s citizens to conserve migratory birds
The wonder of migration has not ceased to captivate the minds of many as a science and a hobby, with records dating back to the 18th century, and even beyond to Aristotle’s Historia Animalium in 350 BC. Interest in bird migration in particular has increasingly gone up in most regions and Africa has not been left behind. To date, at least 14 countries in Africa, namely Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Republic of South Africa, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are actively participating in a project tagged Spring Alive that initially started in Europe in 2006. Spring Alive is a BirdLife International conservation education and action initiative targetted primarily at students, their teachers and then the wider community. The annual migration of these birds along the flyways is an ideal vehicle to illustrate the connectivity of sites, countries and continents on our dear planet Earth.
The five flagship species that have so far encapsulated the minds of the communities in Europe, Africa and Asia are the Barn Swallow, Common Swift, European Bee-eater, Common Cuckoo and the White Stork. While these birds are widely known for announcing spring in the European northern hemisphere, in the vast landscapes of motherland Africa, they represent the fruitfulness and vitality of seasonal change. Africa is home to these birds for many reasons, one being that they avoid the chilling temperatures that the northern hemisphere would be experiencing in winter. They start their journey from Europe into Africa in August, arriving from around the 1st of September every year. They inhabit the grasslands, rooftops, tree branches and can be seen soaring and circling through the air for a period of six months before they start their journey to Europe.
While the uptake of the Spring Alive project has been remarkable in Europe, Africa and Asia, more still needs to be done to engage more citizens in the conservation of habitats for migratory birds and to involve them in the fantastic exercise of observing them at different sites. The BirdLife Africa Secretariat in conjunction with BirdLife Poland recently adapted and launched an African teacher’s manuals for Grades 1-3 and 4-6. The teacher’s manuals cover topics such as bird identification, bird behavior, the concept of migration and the challenges birds face along the routes. The manuals also provide interactive and interesting games for the children. These resources are meant to deepen the engagement of children with birds, inspire their young minds and cultivate interests about the natural world around them. These manuals can also be used by local community groups as well as wildlife/nature clubs.
The Spring Alive Project, whose details can be found at: www.springalive.net and similarly on the BirdLife Africa website contributes to achieving the objectives of wider BirdLife programmes, especially the Local Empowerment Programme and the Migratory Birds and Flyway Programmes. The 14 African Spring Alive Partners also have individual portals on the Spring Alive website that allows people to find out about local activities in each country. These activities include Spring Alive drawing and photo competitions, bird watching events and other information.