Tag Archives: conservation

Vultures need you

agami-vale-gier-griffon-vulture.jpg(Shaun Hurrell; 24 March 2017)

Let’s face it: vultures are special. Part of human culture, they are seen as disgusting by some, yet loved by others (including us and you). Asia’s vultures have suffered some of the fastest population declines ever recorded in a bird, and Africa’s recent severe declines mean that now most old-world vultures are on the edge of extinction. With a unique scavenging niche, this group of birds clean our landscapes and help to prevent the spread of disease—among the many reasons why we are doing all we can to save them. BirdLife’s vulture campaign has already shown how many people love and value vultures, and now there is a chance for some of you to input technical comments on the draft plan that sets out how best to conserve them.

Today we promote a public consultation on a new draft Multi-Species Action Plan to conserve African-Eurasian Vultures, launched by the Coordinating Unit of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Raptors MOU, in collaboration with BirdLife International, Vulture Conservation Foundation and the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group. (The CMS Raptors MoU is the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia—an international, legally non-binding agreement to protect migratory birds of prey.)

In total, 127 countries are lucky to have recorded vultures in their skies.

This plan, if adopted by the Parties to CMS in October this year, would mean these countries being requested to take decisive action over twelve years to save vultures. The Plan would also guide states that are not Parties to CMS, as well as many other actors. This includes actions to protect vultures across Africa, Asia and Europe from all of threats sadly faced by these birds: poisoning, persecution, collision with energy infrastructure, habitat loss, and many more.

Whilst we are doing all we can to ensure a future for these special birds it is, above all, Governments that have the resources to solve this problem at the huge scale required.

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New Study Supports the Rarity and Limited Range of a Kauai Endemic Bird

A little brown bird sitting on a branch
(USGS 16 March 2017)

A new study provides the first rigorous population estimate of an enigmatic endangered bird species found only on Kauai, the Puaiohi or Small Kauai Thrush: 494 birds. Scientists have long believed that the species was very rare, but it had heretofore eluded a precise count due to its secretive demeanor and the rugged, inaccessible terrain it inhabits deep in Kauai’s Alakai Plateau.

The Puaiohi was listed as Endangered in 1967, when the Endangered Species Act became law, because of its rarity and single-island residency. One of the first goals mentioned in the plan for its recovery was to estimate the size of the population. Accomplishing this goal was hampered by a lack of resources, the species’ cryptic nature and its remote habitat.

“Population estimates are a cornerstone of species conservation efforts,” said Dr. Eben Paxton of the U.S. Geological Survey, a co-author of the study. “They are the benchmark against which managers monitor the success of their conservation efforts. If managers don’t know how many individuals exist to begin with, it is impossible to tell if a population is increasing or decreasing in response to conservation activities.”

Dr. Lisa Crampton, the lead author of the study, added: “We are thrilled that we finally have accomplished this objective.”

Once found island-wide, the Puaiohi’s range and population size has been reduced by a number of threats: habitat loss and degradation, non-native predators, and introduced mosquito-borne diseases, such as avian malaria. Previous research by Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project and its colleagues has suggested that Puaiohi are somewhat tolerant of avian malaria, and rat predation on nesting females is likely limiting the Puaiohi population’s ability to grow in size. The new study also suggests invasive weeds at lower elevation may restrict Puaiohi’s range.

Given these results, conservation efforts for this species will focus on controlling introduced predators and reversing habitat loss from degradation and invasive weeds.

“Three hundred self-resetting rodent traps have been deployed in the core of the Puaiohi’s range, thanks to funding from the successful crowdfunding campaign – #BirdsNotRats, American Bird Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and US Fish and Wildlife Federation,” stated Dr. Crampton. She continued, “This study allowed us to estimate Puaiohi distribution in remote parts of the species’ range that are difficult to survey, and identify new hotspots of Puaiohi where we should implement these management activities, which will accelerate the species’ rate of recovery.”

KFBRP, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, Diegmann Science Services, and University of Hawaii Hilo Hawaii Cooperative Studies Unit worked together develop a special methodology to survey this cryptic bird species in this difficult environment and to use both field-collected and remoted-sensed data to generate a population estimate. KFBRP is a collaboration of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at the University of Hawaii Manoa that is responsible for conducting research that aids the conservation of Kauai’s endangered forest birds


Mapping the world’s most threatened bird habitats


(Author: Alex Dale; Photo Peter Steward; 15 March 2017)

Since the 1970s, BirdLife International and its Partners has worked to identify and protect the areas on our planet – over both land and sea – that are of great significance to the conservation of the world’s threatened birds.

The result is the largest global network of significant biodiversity sites in the world – to date, over 12,000 Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) have been documented. And that number continues to grow all the time as our reach and our knowledge expands.

Unfortunately, the future of some of these IBAs is far from secure. Many IBAs lack any form of formal protection, and whether it be deforestation, climate change, war, urbanization or whatever, many of these crucial sites and habitats – and those that live within them – face being lost forever.

But we’re working to save them. Our IBAs in Danger initiative provides an essential focus for governments, development agencies, the international environmental and conservation conventions, business and wider civil society to act to prevent the further damage or loss of these sites.

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The Long-billed Forest-warbler, endemic to Tanzania, is thriving in its natural habitat.


(N.J. Cordeiro, L. Borghesio, K. Ndang’ang’a, Jude Fuhnwi; 15 March 2017)

One of the world’s rarest birds appears to occur in slightly higher numbers than previously thought. The bird is also responding positively to conservation efforts that involve working with farmers to allow re-growth of vegetation necessary for the birds. This has offered the opportunity for the bird to recolonise some areas, in what bird conservation experts say provides new hope for the species’ small population found only in Tanzania, East Africa.

About 100 – 200 pairs of the Long-billed Forest-warbler Artisornis moreaui (previously also known as Long-billed Tailorbird) are present in the East Usambara Mountains in north-eastern Tanzania, the only place where the species is found, according to annual surveys. Intensive research and conservation work had previously focused on Amani Nature Reserve. However, recent emphasis in Nilo Nature Reserve, a protected area found north of the Amani Nature Reserve, has resulted in more records. Surveys were done by the BirdLife Species Guardian, the local field team and other experts from the University of Dar es Salaam. This new figure represents more than 50% of population assessment made in 2000, when only 150 – 200 individuals were estimated to be in the Amani Nature Reserve.

BirdLife supports conservation of the tailorbird on farms bordering the forest, where the land is leased and vegetation allowed to regenerate naturally without disturbance. These farm plots started as an experiment in 2012 by Nsajigwa Kyonjola, a masters student of the University of Dar es Salaam and was supported in part by the African Bird Club. Results after four years of natural regeneration on these farm plots show that the tailorbird has colonised 50% of these restored plots.

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Now is the time to build a brighter future for our seas

havssula2.jpg(RSPB; Andy Hay; 13 March 2017)

The number of overfished stocks in the northeast Atlantic has dropped by a quarter in the last 10 years, but the latest data show close to half of all assessed stocks are still being overfished.
• Eight conservation organisations are today calling on governments to develop new fisheries law that puts sustainability at the heart of fisheries management enabling fish stocks to continue recovering.
• The organisations have published 10 principles for governments to follow to help build a brighter future for our seas, which include effective legislation that goes beyond current EU commitments, and the setting of sustainable fishing levels.
Conservationists are today calling on the UK and developed governments to work together as we prepare to leave the European Union to develop new fisheries law that will allow fish stocks to recover while putting our traditional fishing industries and coastal communities on a sustainable footing.
As an island nation our coastal communities and connection to the sea hold a special place in our cultural identity. Our seas are also home to or visited by an amazing variety of wildlife such as puffins, Minke whale, lesser sandeel and basking shark.
Over the last 10 years progress has been made on reducing overfishing in the northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters. In this period the number of assessed stocks being overfished dropped by over a quarter. However, the latest official information confirms that 47% of assessed stocks are still being overfished, which doesn’t just impact on the profitability of our fisheries but also the food supplies and habitats that support other marine life.

Why we need to protect the Ngaruroro River

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More than a year after Forest & Bird applied for a water conservation order to protect the natural values of the Ngaruroro River in Hawke’s Bay, the Minister for the Environment has appointed a special tribunal to consider the application. Amelia Geary writes about why the river is so important.

While most rivers in the North Island have a single channel, the Ngaruroro is a rare example of a braided river.

Starting high in the Kaweka and Kaimanawa Ranges, it ducks and weaves through the tussock dominated landscape, before winding through forested valleys and the gorges of Kaweka Forest Park and breaking into lots of smaller channels on the Heretaunga Plains at Whanawhana.

But once the Ngaruroro enters the plains, there is change in the character of the catchment and river. Almost all the native vegetation on the plains has been cleared and there is extensive agricultural land use on the river’s flanks.

Despite the intense modification of the river’s lower reaches, you will find a range of native wildlife and plants on the Ngaruroro – some threatened with extinction. It is a breeding ground for banded dotterels and black-billed gulls, which (along with 25 other species) share the conservation status of “threatened” meaning they are at risk of extinction.

It is also home to braided river birds that rely on this habitat for food and shelter, including New Zealand pipits, bitterns, Caspian terns, grey ducks, pied stilts, and red-billed gulls.

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Caribbean Against Wildlife Smuggling

St. Vincent Parrots, endemic to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in flight. (Photo courtesy of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority)

(Scott Johnson; 5 March, 2017)

Scott Johnson, Science Officer with the Bahamas National Trust, shares the work that he and his fellow conservationists are doing to help raise awareness about the issue of wildlife smuggling.

As a Caribbean native, I can wholeheartedly understand people’s obsession with our region. The lush green vegetation, white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, delicious food, and warm tropical climate are all hallmarks of the Caribbean experience. Every year many people, aka “snowbirds” flock to this region by the millions for a welcome respite from the frozen north.

In addition to “sun, sea and sand,” visitors also enjoy the Caribbean’s abundant wildlife, including the chance to spot spectacular native birds like parrots, trogons and todies, swim with sharks and rays, snorkel on a tropical reef, interact with rock iguanas, and even watch sea turtles laying their eggs in a nest they dig right on the beach. Unfortunately, some people want to do more than just observe the wildlife—they want to take a souvenir home, purchasing wildlife products for fashion, pets, and novel foods. This is causing a serious threat to the long-term survival of many native species.

The Caribbean is a virtual treasure trove of biological diversity. In fact, it is one of the most important biological hotspots in the world, home to thousands of endemic plants and animals. For example, 172 species of birds are Caribbean endemics, found no place else on earth. Many of these species are found on only one or two islands in the entire region. The novelty of these species unfortunately makes them key targets for smugglers.

Wildlife smuggling is one of the largest illegal activities in the world, a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. Every year, tens of thousands of animals and animal products are smuggled to places like Asia, the US and other countries to satisfy people’s insatiable appetites for the new and exotic. In Trinidad and Tobago, birds like the Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch and Blue-and-Yellow Macaw are key species targeted by smugglers. In 2011, 74 eggs from both Black-billed Parrots and Yellow-billed Parrots were smuggled out of Jamaica into Austria in rum cake boxes by tourists visiting Jamaica. On the island of Hispaniola, Hispaniolan Parrots have been captured and sold in the wildlife trade and are illegally kept as pets, while a single St. Vincent Parrot is said to be worth $100,000 on the black market.

What’s being done to help curb this threat in the Caribbean?

Law enforcement is an extremely important tool in the battle against wildlife smuggling. Sadly, protection of native wildlife from illegal capture and smuggling has not been a major priority for many Caribbean countries. In addition, many enforcers do not have a well-rounded knowledge about their native species. This is where wildlife sensitization comes in.  For the past two years……….

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