Tag Archives: human impact

Spring hunting season now open; birds flying towards their breeding grounds should be protected not killed


(Birdlife Malta; Photo: Aron Tanti; 24 March 2017)

The 2017 spring hunting season will be open for Quail only following a moratorium imposed last year on the Turtle Dove in reaction to statements by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella regarding the sustainability of a spring hunting season on the vulnerable species. The IUCN had revised the conservation status of the Turtle Dove to ‘vulnerable’ in June 2015 in response to further population declines across its breeding range. This will be the first time since 2009 that Turtle Dove will not be legally hunted in spring.

The hunting season will open via Legal Notices 82 and 83 of 2017 which authorise the dates between Saturday 25th March and Friday 14th April for hunting along with setting quotas for Quail. The national hunting bag limit has been set at 5,000 Quail and hunters are not to exceed the daily bag limit of five Quails and the seasonal bag limit of ten Quails per hunter. These have increased compared to previous years whilst timing remains the same with hunting being permitted between two hours before sunrise and noon for every day of the season. Hunters are required to report their catch by calling the telephone number specified in the Special Licence.

The dates announced are meant to coincide with Quail migration and to avoid Turtle Dove migration which peaks around the second half of April. Just over 6,650 hunters have applied for this year’s season according to information supplied by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) during the last Ornis Committee meeting. Over 60 officers will be deployed from the Police and the Armed Forces of Malta.

BirdLife Malta’s position in regard to this year’s spring hunting season remains that there is no scientific justification for spring hunting.

Summing up the reasons for this………….

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Carnage in Victoria’s wetlands


(Birdlife Australia; 26 March 2017)

BirdLife Australia is calling upon the Victorian Government to close wetlands supporting large numbers of threatened birds to duck shooters after the illegal slaughter of hundreds of protected and threatened waterbird species on the opening weekend of the season.

At least 118 Freckled Ducks and 38 Blue-billed Ducks, both threatened species, were killed at First Marsh near Kerang last weekend.

The Game Management Authority (GMA), a statutory authority that regulates hunting and advises the relevant minister on wetland closures, rejected BirdLife Australia’s pre-season call for this wetland to be closed due to the presence of at least 200 Blue-billed Ducks. The GMA argued that Blue-billed Ducks are “rarely shot”—as “reluctant,” weak flyers that inhabit deep water and tend to dive rather than fly, they were at low risk of being in the firing line.

With almost 20 per cent of these birds now dead, it is clear that the GMA couldn’t have been more wrong.

Worse still, the carnage happened in plain sight of GMA staff, police and other authorities—but it’s highly unlikely that anyone will be prosecuted.

GMA have released a statement condemning the actions of hunters who have “done the wrong thing.” With over 1,000 ducks and other waterbirds left for dead on the First Marsh, it is clear that this admonishment is too little too late and that too many shooters are either unwilling or incapable of following the rules.

Only a fraction of the wetlands open to shooting were monitored last weekend and the numbers killed and left by shooters at The Marshes area alone far surpasses the infamous ‘Box Flat Massacre’ of 2013 where over 700 birds were illegally shot, including more than 100 threatened Freckled Ducks.

There is an unequivocal case that First Marsh and other wetlands carrying significant numbers of protected and threatened species should be immediately closed to shooters. The illegal shooting of over 1,000 birds on the opening weekend of the season brutally demonstrated the weakness of the GMA’s case and Ministers Jaala Pulford and Lily D’Ambrosio will have yet more blood on their hands if they do not act immediately to prevent these disgraceful yet predictable events being repeated.

A light of hope for seabirds

albatross.jpg(Francisco González Táboas & Leo Tamini; 21 march 2017)

A new light of hope opened last week for large seabirds when Argentina established the use of measures to prevent its death in fisheries.

The days are not easy in the South Atlantic. Life is hard on the ship. The bad weather, the waves of several meters of height and the constant movement make the tasks of the sailors more difficult. The days, weeks and months away from the families accumulate and make the mainland a very coveted good. However, most of these men – and women – on board love the sea. They love their fish, which give them work and livelihood to live. And they love birds too. The immense and impressive albatrosses and petrels are, along with dolphins and whales, faithful companions of the days on the high seas.

And there are a few times when they have to kill or sacrifice some of these birds, which are caught in the dragging cables of the nets. In fact they are many. It is estimated that every year between 9,000 and 18,000 black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophrys die on only thirty Argentine freezer vessels fishing for hake.

With the help of the Albatross Task Force Argentina of Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in the country), boat workers have learned to recognize and identify each species: the black-browed mollymawk Thalassarche melanophris, the Daption capense petrel, the Southern giant petrel Macronectes giganteus, the white capped albatross Thalassarche cauta, the Southern royal albatros of the south Diomedea epomophora and, of course, the king of the seas, the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans, among others, are part of the varied avifauna of those icy Seas.

Each death of one of them hurts. However they have also learned that things can be done to prevent these birds from dying while fishing.…..

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Använd fågelarter som landskapsindikatorer för skyddsvärd skog i nordvästra Sverige!

(Christer Johansson, Dennis Kraft; 2017-03-13)

”Öppet brev till Herman Sundqvist, generaldirektör på Skogsstyrelsen”
Herman Sundqvist generaldirektör för Skogsstyrelsen skrev på DN-debatt 9 mars att man nu tar en paus i inventeringen av nyckelbiotoper i nordvästra Sverige. Huruvida det blir någon paus i avverkad skyddsvärd skog har han däremot ingen aning om. Detta betyder att det under obestämd tid framåt är fritt fram att avverka skyddsvärd skog i det sista sammanhållna naturskogslandskapet vi har i landet. Det är denna form av avsaknad av kontroll vi brukar förknippa med regnskogsskövling i Brasilien och Indonesien, och för all del på senare tid även i Europas sista urskog Bialowieza i Polen och Vitryssland. Nu sker det i vårt land i vårt sista sammanhållna naturskogslandskap! VI ANSER ATT DETTA ÄR FULLSTÄNDIGT OACCEPTABELT!
Det är uppenbart att Hermans Sundqvist och skogsstyrelsen har svårt att hantera värdefulla landskap med de vanliga struktur- och artinventeringar man använder vid nyckelbiotopinventeringar. Man är helt enkelt van att kunna avsätta mindre områden på några hektar med värdefull skog som nyckelbiotop. När arealen växer upp mot hundra hektar saknar man verktyg och väljer då att helt sluta med att göra inventeringar, men avverkningståget kommer inte att stanna för det. Det kommer att fortsätta, men utan att myndigheten, i det här fallet Skogsstyrelsen, tar sitt ansvar!
Låt oss ta ett parallell från Baltikum……


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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Illegal bird trapping levels remain tragically high

(Birdlife Cyprus, 16 March 2017)

With 2.3 million birds estimated to have been killed in Cyprus in autumn 2016, BirdLife Cyprus highlights the urgent need for action by both the Cyprus Government and the SBA Administration.

The latest findings of the BirdLife Cyprus surveillance programme show that 21km of mist net rides were active during autumn 2016 within the survey area, which covers the Larnaka-Famagusta and the Ayios Theodoros-Maroni areas. Based on the data gathered systematically in the field, BirdLife Cyprus estimates that nearly 2.3 million birds could have been killed across the whole of Cyprus in autumn 2016. Illegal bird trapping is a serious and persistent problem both in the Republic of Cyprus and the SBAs. In the Republic, the use of limesticks is widespread and there are restaurants illegally offering ambelopoulia, while in the SBAs there is extensive mist netting activity and widespread use of calling devices to draw in birds to their death.

The extensive and widespread use of mist nets is further verified by enforcement statistics, where for the months August to October 2016 more than 850 mist nets were confiscated by the competent authorities, the highest number confiscated in the last 6 years. With regards to limesticks, more than 3,500 were confiscated by enforcement agencies.

This wildlife crime is taking place both in the Republic of Cyprus and the SBAs, making it very clear that a joint effort is necessary to address this persistent issue. In particular, within the Dhekelia SBA area, mist netting activity remained around record levels last autumn, with Cape Pyla recorded as the worst trapping location for mist nets in Cyprus. Furthermore, other developments highlight the lack of political will on the part of  the Republic of Cyprus to take serious action to tackle this persistent problem. In addition to the inclusion of the ‘alternative plan’ to the Strategic Plan for the ‘selective hunting of blackcaps by derogation’ in 2015, the Game and Fauna Service has proposed a catastrophic law amendment, introducing a series of relaxations and loopholes in the existing legislative framework.

Martin Hellicar, Director of BirdLife Cyprus, stated: “The proposals included in the amendment would be completely counterproductive to anti poaching and illegal bird trapping efforts and we call the plenary of the Cyprus Parliament to vote against this bill.

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Good news for a Friday: the recovery of the stone-curlew and other animals…

I have been wearing a stone-curlew pin badge on my lapel this week to mark the recovery of this fabulous species.

Stone-curlews were once widespread in England and numbered two thousand pairs in the 1930s.  However, numbers declined dramatically over the next 50 years when changes in land use resulted in catastrophic habitat loss.  By 1991, only 168 pairs remained

Yet, this is a story with a happy ending.  Through 30 years of hard graft, the RSPB and Natural England have forged a powerful partnership with landowners, farmers and volunteers in Wessex and the Brecks to help bring the population to its current 400 pairs. Not only has the stone-curlew been downgraded from a species of Red Conservation Concern to Amber, but through a five year EU Life funded project we now think the stone-curlew population is large enough to support itself, given enough safe nesting habitat.

On Tuesday we held a conference to mark this achievement and, as part of the day, we heard about other species recovery successes from across Europe (such as the Azores bullfinch) and elsewhere in the UK (such as the cirl bunting).  It was quite a day. I joined the afternoon and evening session having spent the morning being updated on our work to protect 350,000 hectares of Gola rainforest on the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia and even sniffed the first chocolate made by cocoa farmers on land between the forested areas.  We want to support cocoa farming that is good for wildlife, prevents pressure on the rainforest and also creates sustainable livelihoods for the people living around the forest.  Our ambition, of course, is to be able one day to say to our members “eat this chocolate and help save Gola rainforest”.

Reflecting on the day, I was struck by the similarities of the various conservation successes which had been showcased.  The ingredients of success in each of these conservation projects were common:  more, bigger, connected protected areas with sustainable land use in intervening areas, coupled with targeted action and funding for threatened species, supported by committed partners from national/local government, business and local people.  And, of course, all these projects all contribute to the global plan for halting the loss of biodiversity expressed through the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi targets – targets 11 (for well managed land and sea) and 12 (for recovering threatened species).

Putting a spotlight on success is important as it reminds us that, as well as documenting declines, we can improve the natural environment.  Our collective experience gives hope and confidence that together we can make the world a better place for people and wildlife.  What  we need now is for decision-makers to stick to their ambitions to restore wildlife in a generation and come up with plans which build on the success of these projects, with resources commensurate to the scale of the challenge.

And, given the uncertainties around Brexit (especially about future status of internationally important protected areas and future funding for nature friendly farming), we within civil society must continue to make the case for action. This is why we are delighted to have 41 MPs, 83 MSPs, 25 AMs (in Wales) and even 4 MEPs who are Species Champions and who are prepared to use their political voices for the protection and recovery of threatened wildlife. Together, we can turn things around.