Daily Archives: January 25, 2008

Extinction threat to Scots bird

BBC News

The Scottish crossbill, the UK’s only endemic bird which is native to the Highlands of Scotland, faces extinction, according to a new report.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warns that unless action is taken to halt a rise in global temperatures, the species is under severe threat.

The bird, which lives only in Scots pine forests, is already on the conservation body’s endangered list.

Other Scottish species, such as the capercaillie, could also suffer.

The Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds – published by the RSBP – shows that three quarters of all of Europe’s nesting bird species are likely to suffer declines in range.

The results of the study have hastened calls by the RSPB for urgent action to cut greenhouse gases.

Professor Rhys Green, an RSPB scientist and one of the authors, said: “Climatic change and wildlife’s responses to it are difficult to forecast with any precision, but this study helps us to appreciate the magnitude and scope of possible impacts and to identify species at most risk and those in need of urgent help and protection.”

Red and black grouse, ptarmigan and snow bunting are other birds likely to be affected in Scotland. The birds could be left with few areas of suitable climate and populations could drop.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “We must heed the wake-up call provided by this atlas and act immediately to curb climate change.”

He claimed that some investment should also be made to help wildlife adapt to an “inevitable” level of climate change.

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‘Vulture population declining alarmingly’

Nepal News

Four out of eight species of vulture found in Nepal are included in endangered list of the IUCN- the world conservation union. They are White Rumped (Gyps beldgalensis), Slender Billed (Gyps tenuirostris), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopteros) and Red headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus). Additionally, the first two are termed ‘critically endangered’.

White rumped Vulture (Photo Courtesy: BCN)

Following the warning from the IUCN over the possible extinction of vultures from Nepal, Birds Conservation Nepal (BCN) took several initiatives to increase the population of the birds here. Latest estimation show the number of nests found in west of Narayani River Chitwan National Park Buffer Zone Area and east Nawalparasi District  has doubled. President of BCN Shree Ram Subedi talked to Indra Adhikari of Nepalnews on the ongoing conservation efforts, causes of extinction and initiatives taken to increase their population. Excerpts:

What evidences show vultures are the endangered species of birds in Nepal?

We don’t have exact data to show how many vultures are found in Nepal. Practically it is impossible to maintain a reliable record. Yet there are few instances that show the number is declining at an alarming rate. In 2001 we counted 50 nests in Koshi Tappu. Next year it dropped to three and one in the following year. Since 2003, we have not found any nest in that wetland. Likewise, we had found 24 nests in Pokhara in 2004. This number dropped to 17 till 2006. Similarly, in the middle of the 1990s, these carnivorous birds could be seen in big flocks. This hasn’t been witnessed in recent years. IUCN conservationists have warned that population has decreased by 90 percent since 1990.

What are the causes of declining population of vultures?

Only in 1999, scientists came know that vultures are decreasing in this sub-continent. Since then, they explored to various studies and concluded in 2003 that diclofenic – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) – caused the death of these birds. Carcasses of the NSAID-fed animals were the major cause of death. When its complement – Maloxicam — was discovered, we lobbied for government ban on the use of diclofenic in 2006.

(Photo Courtesy: BCN)

Besides, use of pesticides by farmers, confinements of the nest colonies, lack of adequate food because people started burying dead animals and cutting down of the trees led to extinction of these birds. The practice of cattle rearing has decreased, causing scarcity of food, specifically safe food. The government lacks initiative to stop destroying forests where vultures live. All these are the major factors for decreasing population.

What is BCN doing for saving these birds from extinction?

We started ‘vulture restaurants’ in some nesting areas. This was meant to feed the vultures with safe food since this has become scarcer in recent years. We asked the villagers to provide us with old cattle. We rear the cattle and on their death keep in open places where the vultures can feed on. Similarly, we have improved coordination with the community forest user groups to protect the forests where the vultures nest. We successfully campaigned for ban in use of the diclofenic. Within a year, the use has dropped to 10 percent. Now, we have begun a new project to increase the vulture population – a breeding centre. To be located at an isolated place inside Chitwan National Park, a natural cage will be prepared where we project to keep 10 pairs each of the two critically endangered species.

Are the local communities cooperative to conservation?

(Photo Courtesy: BCN)
Slender billed Vulture (Photo Courtesy: BCN)

With efforts of BCN, WWF, IUCN and many forest user groups, awareness on importance of vulture among the villagers is increasing. In Nawalparasi where we have vulture restaurants, villagers supply us with old livestock. In few instances, we also bought animals. Many farmers have reported us about the chopping of big trees where vultures have nested. As we communicated the issue with ministry of forest, many vulture colonies have been saved from being destroyed.

Are conservation efforts for this endangered bird satisfactory?

Not much. Though the responses to our approach were positive, the government has not shown seriousness at par with the graveness of the situation. The government must be proactive. Since most forests have been handed over to the communities, the local communities have to be made proactive towards protection issue and increase their involvement. Derisory resources available with us also hindered conservation efforts. nepalnews.com Jan 17 08

(Editor’s Note: Nepalnews will continue this column by talking to officials, professionals, politicians, businessmen, diplomats, those who make outstanding achievements in their chosen field and newsmakers. Please post your suggestions/comments to feedback@mos.com.np)

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