Ducks Unlimited NZ
Friday, 16 February 2018 21:38

Illegal killing,

Written by Liz Brook
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Illegal killing,
taking and trade of migratory birds

Each year an estimated 50 billion migratory birds travel thousands of kilometers. 

On their migratory routes the birds have to overcome enormous obstacles. One is illegal killing. Many wild birds are illegally taken or killed due to hunting for subsistence, recreational activities and traditional practice. 

This year’s World Migratory Bird Day was celebrating the natural miracle of bird migration and is calling for action to end the illegal killing and trade of birds. Illegal hunting leads not only to drastic declines of bird populations, but it also harms society in general, our very existence and our natural resources.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has since its inception in 1971, paid particular attention to migratory birds. Of the current 2,240 Ramsar Sites (covering over 215 million hectares of wetlands worldwide) 1,103 (49 percent of all Sites) have been specifically designated as key sites for migratory waterbirds. 

The Ramsar Convention collaborates closely with many international organisations that actively and successfully protect migratory birds across continents.

In Asia, the Ramsar Convention is a partner to the East AsianAustralasian Flyway Partnership, one of the world’s great flyways encompassing 22 countries, extending from Alaska and Arctic Russia down to East Asia and New Zealand. This migration route comprises a network of 124 wetlands, 78 of which are Ramsar Sites. These include Poyang Lake Ramsar Site in China which supports nearly the entire wintering population of Siberian crane. Poyang Lake is also critical for swan goose and other wildfowl and crane species. Mai Po Ramsar Site in Hong Kong is another vital wetland for wintering black-faced spoonbills. 

Illegal hunting has recently become a high profile issue within the East Asian-Australasian Flyway especially along the coast of East Asia where a lot of illegal mist nets are being spread. To reduce this trend the Flyway Partnership carries out awareness-raising campaigns and works with local communities. In Southern Asia, local patrolling by forestry offices has brought positive results; there is a big reduction of illegal mist netting.

Spike Millington, East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Chief Executive speaks about threats birds face today and encourages us to take part in bird conservation.

In Europe the Ramsar Convention collaborates with the charitable foundation Euronatur based in Germany and its Adriatic Flyway project. The Adriatic Flyway runs across the Balkan Peninsula down to the African continent. Twice a year millions of birds migrate between their wintering and their breeding grounds on this route.

The most important resting areas and wetlands (Ramsar Sites) along the  Adriatic Flyway include: the transboundary Neretva Delta Ramsar Site in Croatia and Hutovo Blato Ramsar Site in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Skadarsko Jezero Ramsar Site in Montenegro and the neighbouring Lake Shkodra and River Buna in Albania; the karst plain Livansko Polje Ramsar Site in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slano Kopovo Ramsar Site in Serbia.

Particularly during migration periods bird populations are dramatically depleted by bird crime in the western Balkans. Illegal bird hunters make the Eastern Adriatic coast a death trap for migratory birds. 55 percent of migratory wader populations along the Adriatic Flyway are in decline. Law enforcement and control is missing; however in some areas nature conservation NGOs, local communities and administrations are successfully managing important bird areas. 

Another European project related to migratory birds is taking place in Greece. Responding to the need to safeguard the rarest waterbird in Europe, in September 2011, the Hellenic Ornithological Society (BirdLife Greece), took on the coordination of an ambitious multistakeholder flyway conservation project. Conservation actions span the entire range of the lesser white-fronted goose in Europe, from its breeding grounds in Scandinavia to its wintering sites in Greece. Hunting and illegal killing are recognised as major threats and patrolling units in Greece were formed to ensure that Kerkini Lake and Evros Delta, both designated Ramsar Sites, remain safe for these geese. In Africa  the Ramsar Convention collaborates with African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). AEWA brings together countries and the wider international conservation community in an effort to establish  coordinated conservation and management of migratory water birds throughout their entire migratory range.

The most important resting areas and wetlands (Ramsar Sites), which are critical for some AEWA species in Africa are the Chad portion of the Lake Chad; Parc national du Banc d’Arguin in Mauritania, where over two million birds winter each year; Parc National du Diawling in Mauritania; Delta du Saloum in Senegal; one of the largest tropical wetlands in the world - the Sudd in Southern Sudan; and finally the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

AEWA and CMS (Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals), have undertaken some key actions to end illegal killing of birds in Africa. One of them is a development of a multi-stakeholder Plan of Action to address bird trapping along the Mediterranean coasts of Egypt and Libya. An International Task Force was established in November 2013 in Bonn, Germany, to implement the Plan of Action and to ensure that in future, bird trapping activities in Egypt and Libya will be legal and sustainable.

By joining forces and starting dialogues between all social groups and  decision makers involved we can make migratory bird flyways safer places and preserve a healthy and rich environment for humans as well. 

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