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The World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), celebrated every year in May and October seeks to raise awareness on migratory birds and the need to conserve them. These birds travel over thousands of kilometres, in search of suitable conditions for feeding and breeding.

By Lewis Kihumba

Cover photo: Participants are shown how to make plastic bird feeders from plastics during WMBD celebrations in Kenya

This Year’s World Migratory Bird Day theme “Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution!”, highlighted plastic pollution and its negative effects on birds. Research shows that globally, there are about 6.3 billion tons of plastics lying around, which pose great danger to these birds when ingested. Additionally, sea migratory birds are at risk from plastic through entanglement by abandoned fishing gear leading to injuries or drowning.

It is with this background that BirdLife partners marked World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) in October, with various events and activities across Africa. In Botswana, BirdLife Botswana partnered with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) to undertake various activities in Sehithwa, North West Botswana. These activities held at Ngami Community Junior School brought together 240 school children, 34 teachers, Okavango Conservation Bird Club members, and staff from various government departments including Department of Meteorological Services, and Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control. Giving the keynote address during the celebrations, Botswana Wildlife Training Institution Deputy Director Mpiga Mangubuli said, “Botswana is home to more than a quarter of the world migratory bird’s population, and party to the Africa Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).  More than 90 species out of the 255 bird species under AEWA are found in Botswana, hence there is need to ensure quality habitats for these birds”, he further noted. The celebrations also included songs, drama and poetry performed by the students to highlight the dangers of plastics and their negative impact on the environment.

Nature Kenya celebrated World Migratory Bird Day with various activities. The celebrations which brought together over 5,000 participants including school children were marked in 21 local sites also known as Site Support Groups (SSG) across the country where conservation efforts are ongoing.  The sites include Arabuko-Sokoke Forests, Mt Kenya Forest, Lake Bogoria, Yala Swamp and Kinangop Plateau among others. Activities to mark this day included bird watching and creating awareness on bird migration. In Mt Kenya Forest SSG, participants marking WMBD were taught how to re-use plastic bottles to make bird feeders. Other activities to mark the day included radio talk shows and tree planting activities.

Schoolchildren watching birds as part of WMBD celebrations in Kenya

In line with this year’s WMBD celebrations of raising awareness on effect of plastic pollution on migratory birds, Nature Mauritanie marked the day with clean-up activities at the Banc d’Arguin National Park, an important biodiversity area in the country which is home to a number of migratory birds. Nature Mauritanie in conjunction with Noura school undertook a clean-up campaign along the coast. Participants also took part in birdwatching activities in addition, Nature Mauritanie screened a film on bird migration and plastic pollution in oceans to raise public awareness of the need to reduce plastic pollution affecting migratory birds.

In Ethiopia World Migratory Bird Day celebrations were held in Metehera and Logia towns in Eastern Ethiopia on October 12 and 15.  Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS) – BirdLife International partner in Ethiopia, in conjunction with the EV New Life Project organized these celebrations which entailed various activities to raise awareness about migratory birds, such as vultures. The celebrations brought together various participants including students, teachers, local communities and officials from various government agencies. Students performed various plays on nature conservation, and partook in a contest on the Egyptian Vulture, with winners being awarded prizes. EWNHS staff and external experts gave talks on WMBD, plastic pollution and the importance of vultures. “World Migratory Bird Day 2019 provides an opportunity to raise awareness on how plastic pollution is a major threat to migratory birds”, noted Dr Bruktawit Abdu, of Kotebe Metropolitan University (KMU).

Awareness raising activities to mark World Migratory Bird Day in Ethiopia

BirdWatch Zambia (BWZ) marked World Migratory Bird Day with a bird walk at Savanna Beef farm located on the outskirts of Lusaka Town. The farm is an important source of fingerlings for farmers and a suitable habitat for various bird species. The celebrations brought together representatives from Wildlife and Environmental Society of Zambia (WECSZ) and The International Crane foundation (ICF) in addition to 20 students from Rusangu University.  BWZ provided binoculars and spotting scope to facilitate the walk, with the students recording 28 different species of birds with the help of a local guide. “I did not know that bird watching can be such an interesting activity and that Zambia has such a diverse species of birds”, remarked Chipota Nkandu one of the students at the walk. The event also entailed a picnic and a talk by BWZ program manager on the importance of migratory birds and their conservation in line with BWZ programme objectives.

In Tunisia, the Association Les Amis des Oiseaux (AAO)/ Birdlife celebrated WMBD with a festival in Ghar El Mel town from October 19-20. The festival brought together various participants including government officials, conservation experts, environment experts among others. The festival included talks on migratory birds, plastic pollution and its impacts on man and nature, exhibition of local crafts, information stands on wetlands, film screenings, and clean-up activities. Bird walks were also organized for participants, while children partook in various activities including painting, waste sorting and bird drawing, all geared towards raising awareness on migratory birds and the dangers posed by plastic pollution.

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