Birds and People
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|Birds and People No.22 June 2009||Newsletter||
The lead article in this issue is about an exciting and important initiative that has longterm implications for the protection and sustainable management of the Okavango River and Delta. This particular project, under the auspices of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) aims to predict the response of the Okavango ecosystem to changes in water flow resulting from different water-development scenarios. Central to the project is a predictive model which can be interrogated to provide information on the impacts (both positive and negative) of these potential scenarios on the ecological integrity of the system, as well as on the social and economic benefits.
|Birds and People No.21 March 2009||Newsletter||
BirdLife Botswana has taken a quantum leap forward with the signing of a contract with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for a four year project in the Makgadikgadi area (see lead article overleaf). This is the first time that a Non-Governmental Organisation in Botswana has accessed funds from the Medium-scale GEF which is usually reserved for Government projects, and confirms BirdLife Botswana’s role as a major player in the conservation field in Botswana. It is a huge and demanding project, with substantial funding, which will stretch our organisation’s expertise and resources to their limit – we will grow to meet these challenges! As with all things worthwhile, this has not come easy, and the dogged perseverance with which BirdLife Botswana’s Director, Kabelo Senyatso, has pursued this project and funding over the past few years has to have been seen to be believed - it is a tribute to his foresight and energy that BirdLife Botswana is now in a position to make a really meaningful contribution to conservation in general, and birds in particular, in Botswana. Pete Hancock
|Birds and People No.20 December 2008||Newsletter||
In recent months, there have been two major vulture poisoning incidents in northern Botswana. During August, 50 vultures were killed in one incident in the Hainaveld, and this was followed during October by a further 50 in the Xudum concession in the Okavango Delta. The tragedy of these senseless killings is that the vultures were killed for nothing – the prime target of the poisoning was ‘problem’ predators, and the vultures were innocent victims of the thoughtless method adopted by the perpetrators. These two incidents are undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg – how many other similar incidents have taken place without being brought to BirdLife Botswana’s attention? From our work, illegal poisoning of vultures is emerging as the most serious threat to this globally threatened group of birds – at this rate, the rarer species may soon disappear. Poison is freely available in hardware shops throughout the country and it is easy to poison a carcass and disappear from the scene before being detected. What can be done to address this problem? Should BirdLife Botswana embark on an education and awareness campaign, or should we be lobbying for the banning of domestic poisons? This is not a new problem, although it is now reaching serious proportions in Botswana, and fellow conservationists must have made some inroads into addressing this insidious issue – if so, we’d like to hear from you. Pete Hancock.
|Birds and People- No.19 September 2007||Newsletter||
The Pan African Ornithological Congress is the premier meeting for ornithologists from throughout Africa, and PAOC 12, which was held in South Africa earlier this month, was attended by over 200 participants from all corners of the continent.
|Birds and People- No.18 June 2008||Newsletter||
In this issue, you can read about the exciting, ground-breaking study of Wattled Crane movements to be undertaken by BirdLife Botswana later this year – we will be fitting six birds with satellite transmitters to track their movements throughout the region, the first time that this high-tech method has been used with this species. This study has been made possible by the generous support of three local conservation-minded businesses – Ngami Toyota, Ngamiland Adventure Safaris and CCAfrica.
|Bird Conservation No.17 March 2008||Newsletter||
Welcome to the first issue of BirdLife Botswana’s Bird Conservation newsletter for 2008. Yes, it does look a bit different, but then 2008 is not the same as 2007 was! During October 2007, I had the good fortune to attend the Council for Africa Partnership (CAP) meeting in Nairobi – an annual event where representatives from all the BirdLife partners in Africa meet to shape the BirdLife Africa Programme and report on progress made in their respective countries. CAP 2007 coincided with the meeting of the Global Council of BirdLife International, also held in Nairobi, so we had the opportunity to meet the representatives from the different regions where the BirdLife partnership is active – Asia, Caribbean and North America, Central and South America, Europe, Middle East and Pacific. From their unique perspective, almost all were struck by the contribution that grassroots, local communities were making to bird conservation in Africa – they highlighted this as one of the great strengths of the Africa programme and encouraged us to continue working with Site Support Groups. This inextricable link between birds and people is indeed central to BirdLife’s vision and philosophy, as encapsulated in the by-line “Working together for birds and people”. A major part of BirdLife Botswana’s work is devoted to promoting mutually beneficial relationships between birds and people, and thus it seems appropriate to call our newsletter “Birds and People”. The participation of local citizens in our work is gathering momentum and the newsletter will in future feature more articles that showcase this aspect. Pete Hancock.
|Bird Conservation No.16 December 2007||Newsletter||
It is a peculiar quirk of many conservationists, shared by birdwatchers too, that they place an inordinate amount of emphasis and importance on Red Data books. Admittedly these doomsday books are useful for highlighting species requiring urgent conservation attention, but no-one seems to dwell much on their negative connotations or pay much attention to the fact that Red Data books are an indictment on our effectiveness in conserving birds. Countries with more globally threatened species are considered more important than those which have healthy bird populations – gone are the days of prevention being better than cure! This perversity is mirrored by birdwatchers who would rather go to a biologically impoverished area to see the few remaining individuals of a species, than visit a pristine environment such as the Okavango Delta which harbours a large number of more common birds. Similarly, donors seem more impressed by lists of Critically Endangered species than by requests for funding to maintain core populations of a large number of bird species. Against this background, Red Data lists seem to be continually expanding, reflecting our reluctance to remove birds from the list, and/or our inability to stem biodiversity loss?
|Bird Conservation No.15 September 2007||Newsletter||
This issue contains a wealth of interesting information on vultures (among other things), and readers may wonder why we have chosen to focus on this particular group of birds. It is because all African vultures, with very few exceptions, are now recognised as being Globally Threatened – including even the seemingly abundant White-backed Vulture. The well-known, catastrophic decline of Asian vultures in the short space of little more than a decade, has also highlighted the vulnerability of this group of birds to extinction. Vultures occupy a precarious position at the top of the food pyramid, as any disorder lower down in the food chain impacts particularly severely on scavengers. The Cape Vulture has long been regarded as a bird of concern in Botswana and the proclamation of Mannyelanong Game Reserve by the Botswana Government in 1985 was one of the first initiatives on the continent to protect a vulture’s breeding area. However, the Lappet-faced Vulture was also subsequently recognised as a ‘red data book’ species, followed recently by the White-headed and White-backed Vultures. It is for this reason that BirdLife Botswana has launched a project entitled ‘The Lappet-faced Vulture – a flagship for threatened raptors in Botswana’ and we are slowly gathering data on the numbers and distribution of vultures and other raptors, as well as an insight into the threats that face them. Botswana undoubtedly has important populations of the five major southern African vulture species, but this situation seems set to change if conservation action for the species is not undertaken. Particularly disturbing has been the discovery of a poisoning incident on a Hainaveld farm late last year where 80 vultures were needlessly killed when a Sketch: D Butchart Bird Conservation Newsletter # 15 - September, 2007 2 farmer put out poison for lions that had been marauding his cattle – this may just be ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Hence this editorial – vultures are a beleaguered group, and we urge members of the public to continue to send us information on all species in Botswana. Pete Hancock.
|Bird Conservation No.14 June 2007||Newsletter||
BirdLife Botswana is an organisation on the move. Since 2002, our staff complement has increased to seven full-time employees (including one Japanese volunteer). Our annual income has also increased - almost fifty-fold, from a mere P20,000 per annum to close to P1 million in 2006 as our efforts to conserve Botswana’s birds have escalated. A great deal of the success of our organisation is directly attributed to the efforts of (among others) Kabelo Senyatso who, in 2002, was identified by the BirdLife Botswana Committee in Gaborone as its first full-time employee. He subsequently received a scholarship from BirdLife Botswana to undertake an MSc in Conservation Biology at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. Since completing in 2004, he has made BirdLife Botswana his calling in life. He has been working tirelessly to set the organisation’s direction and to generate bird conservation projects and secure funding while at the same time building partnerships with other stakeholders. It is therefore appropriate that Kabelo has been appointed as the first Director of BirdLife Botswana as from May this year. I hope that all readers of this newsletter will join with me in congratulating him on his well-deserved promotion. In addition to his workload as Director, he will be embarking on his PhD early in 2008. Pete Hancock
|Bird Conservation No.13 March 2007||Newsletter||
The African continent is home to an amazing 2,313 of the world’s 9,917 bird species, of which just over 10% (234) are globally threatened. One of the significant threats to Africa’s birds is the illegal trade in wild birds, and at a recent Council meeting of the African Partnership of BirdLife (CAP) it was agreed that a position statement on bird trade should be developed. The factor prompting discussion about the bird trade was primarily its effect on the African Grey Parrot, and the BirdLife partnership has subsequently worked (successfully) towards achieving a total ban on trade in this species. However, numerous other species are negatively affected by the bird trade, for example the Grey Crowned Crane and Shoebill. (Closer to home, there has been some cross-border trade in Kori Bustards – one of our Birds of Concern). At the CAP meeting, partners were unanimous in opposing the trade in wild birds with one cautionary proviso – that an exception be made in cases where rural communities benefit from organised legal trade. In Botswana, there is very little trade in wild birds, and certainly none undertaken by rural communities. Despite the small-scale capture and trade operations currently being carried out, problems have been experienced with determining sustainable offtake quotas and monitoring these operations. In view of this, and the potential the bird trade may have in spreading avian flu, it is BirdLife Botswana’s contention that trade in any wild birds should be totally banned in this country. If you have any different views, or a contribution to make to this discussion, we’d appreciate hearing from you. Pete Hancock.
|Bird Conservation No.12 December 2006||Newsletter||
The 12 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Botswana are vital for the long-term survival of Botswana’s avifauna. Not surprisingly, since birds are well-known as useful environmental indicators, they are also increasingly being recognised as important reservoirs of biodiversity generally. This means that BirdLife Botswana, in its quest to improve the status of these IBAs, is making a valuable contribution to biodiversity conservation in the country, and helping to meet Botswana’s commitments under the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). BirdLife has developed a scientific framework for monitoring IBAs, and this is being implemented by BirdLife Botswana and other partners. The monitoring strategy involves measuring the condition (or state) of the IBA, scoring the pressures (or threats) that exist, and ranking the response (conservation action taken to address the threats) in such a way that an overall score can be obtained for each IBA at a given time. By repeating this monitoring at prescribed intervals, and relating the score obtained to the previous score, it can be seen whether or not there has been an improvement in the state of each IBA. The implication of this over-simplified description of BirdLife’s IBA monitoring system is that there is now a simple, objective way of measuring the success (or otherwise) of biodiversity conservation activities. Although signatories to the CBD are obliged to show that they have made significant improvements to biodiversity conservation, this has not been easy to do in the absence of a credible, unbiased system. BirdLife has been breaking new ground and has developed one of the first workable models that will enable Governments to measure changes in the state of the environment based on their biodiversity conservation efforts. This is just one way in which BirdLife remains relevant to a wider audience, and contributes to addressing mainstream issues throughout the world. Pete Hancock.
|Bird Conservation No.11 September 2006||Newsletter||
Botswana’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs), of which there are currently 12, have been identified on the basis of objective international criteria and, together with other sites worldwide form a network of areas, at a biogeographic scale, critical for the long-term viability of naturally occurring bird populations. Not surprisingly, given that birds are good environmental indicators, these IBAs are also sites of high biodiversity importance. Thus the recognition and establishment of IBAs is a direct contribution to biodiversity conservation in Botswana, and IBA monitoring will go a long way towards meeting Botswana’s obligations as a signatory of the Convention on Biodiversity. Birds, perhaps more than any other life-forms, lend themselves to monitoring, and the BirdLife partnership has developed a global monitoring framework for IBAs that can be applied across the board – again using objective, scientifically defensible criteria, the status and trends of our IBAs can be measured. BirdLife Botswana is currently formalising its monitoring protocols for IBAs and will soon be in a position to report on any changes in bird diversity in these areas. Pressures on our IBAs will be identified, and appropriate conservation action taken to address these. The monitoring system will also allow us to measure whether or not the response to particular threats has been successful in mitigating them. The IBA monitoring framework is thus a valuable tool to have and will ensure that BirdLife’s activities result in tangible improvements to biodiversity conservation efforts in the country. As always, we recognise the power of partnerships and invite any like-minded organisations and individuals to join hands with us in our quest to improve biodiversity conservation in Botswana. In this way, we will make the world a better place for both birds and people. Together we can, and do, make a difference! Pete Hancock.