Tag Archives: ornithology

Nordmann’s Greenshank bird on endangered list


New Delhi: Nordmann’s Greenshank, a beautiful Russian shorebird which migrates annually to many south Asian countries, including India, is listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The key threat to the bird is the rapid rate of reclamation and development of coastal wetlands throughout Asia for industry, infrastructure and aquaculture, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature, world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation.

Pollution in coastal wetlands, hunting and human disturbance also threaten this species, and the degradation of its breeding habitat is caused by grazing reindeer, the IUCN said.

A few protected and non-hunting areas have been established in Russia and along the migration route of the bird, also known as Spotted Greenshank.

According to Birdlife International, breeding adults of Nordmann’s Greenshank are boldly marked with whitish spots and spangling on blackish upper side, heavily streaked head and upper neck, broad blackish crescentic spots on lower neck and breast and darker lores.

“In flight, it shows all-white upper tail-coverts and rather uniform greyish tail. Toes do not extend beyond tail tip,” it said.

“Conservation priorities include establishing further protected areas in its breeding grounds, as well as at important sites in the winter range, drafting management plans for coastal wetlands to promote their conservation, banning the hunting of all shorebirds in its breeding grounds and providing full legal protection throughout the range,” the IUCN said.

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Endangered Icelandic swans shot during migration


Poachers are shooting hundreds of endangered swans during their annual migration across the North Atlantic. The news comes via a new report from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Scotland, which said that nearly a third of Bewick and Whooper swans that arrive in the United Kingdom each autumn have pellets embedded in their skin.

The two species, which are known to spend their summers in Iceland, are protected by law throughout their journey.

Julia Newth said on behalf of the WWT, “Both species are completely legally protected in every country they fly through and there should be a zero percentage being shot. It is incredible that we have 13.6 percent of Whoopers and almost 33 per cent of Bewicks being shot. It is likely hundreds are being killed – birds that die are not often retrieved. But if we are looking at 33 percent wounded and still alive, you image a great many more being shot dead,” the Scotsman news agency reports.

Newth said that some of the Bewick swans are probably shot by British hunters, or those in countries along the route, including Latvia, Russia and Estonia.

“But the Whooper swans only migrate from Iceland where they breed over the summer and make their way to Britain and Ireland. It means they are being shot in Britain, Iceland or Ireland,” she said.

“They haven’t far to go and they are being shot close to home. Although 13 percent carrying shotgun pellets in their bodies sounds a lot lower than the rate for the Bewicks, it is baffling when you consider their migration route.”
Read more: http://www.icenews.is/2012/11/10/endangered-icelandic-swans-shot-during-migration/#ixzz2CBD3j5wC

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Sweden’s only coral faces risk of extinction


Stockholm: Sweden’s only remaining cold-water coral reef, the Sacken reef in the Koster Fjord, may become extinct, warn scientists.

Alarmed by the possibility, University of Gothenburg researchers have started a restoration project where healthy corals from nearby reefs in Norway are being removed and placed on the Sacken reef.

Coral reefs are known for their rich biological diversity.

In Sweden, only one reef-building coral species exists, a cold-water coral called Lophelia pertusa, according to a Gothenburg statement.

“We’ve known since the mid-1920s that cold-water coral reefs exists here in Sweden,” said marine biologist and researcher Mikael Dahl from Gothenburg.

“At that time, corals could be found in three locations in the Koster Fjord. Today, only the Sacken reef remains, and it’s in poor condition.”

Some of the causes to this are the impact of trawling and increased sedimentation. Continuous observations with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) show that the health of the reef slowly continues to decline.

“The red list assessment is currently in the ‘under immediate threat’ category. The Sacken reef has been protected against trawling for more than a decade, but trawling damage have been observed on the reef several times after the legislation was set in place,” said Dahl, who led the study.

Three years ago, the protection of the reef was further strengthened when Sweden’s first national marine park, the Kosterhavet National Park, was created.

However, the Sacken reef remains in poor condition.

The genetic diversity on the Sacken reef is also much lower than observed in any other reef of this type.

“This means that it is highly unlikely that the Sacken reef will recover naturally. Instead, interventions are needed in order to ensure the survival of the reef,” he added.


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Vultures in South Asia face imminent extinction


Hyderabad: No vultures will be left in India and the rest of South Asia if no immediate steps are taken for their conservation, non-governmental organisations have warned.

South Asia once had millions of vultures but over the last one decade, 99 percent of them have disappeared.

“This is the fastest decline of any bird species ever reported anywhere in the world,” Asad R. Rahmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) said.

Rahmani, a scientist with over three decades of experience, said unlike some other bird species which face extinction because of poaching and habitat destruction, vultures were disappearing only because of a drug called diclofenac.

He pointed out that though the Indian government banned the drug for veterinary use in 2006 to save vultures, it was still being used. The pain killer for humans is being diverted for veterinary use.

Demanding that the government make it a prescriptive drug, Rahmani said vultures feeding on carcasses of cattle given diclofenac die in three to 10 days. “The study by Indian Veterinary Research Institute has shown that kidney failure occurs in such vultures and they don’t recover,” he said.

“For vultures, this drug is as lethal as cyanide,” he stressed.

India had once had four to five million vultures but only a few thousand of them are left now. South Asia’s all three Gyps species of vulture are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The BNHS, a 128-year-old NGO engaged in conservation of biological diversity, is also involved in captive conservation and breeding of vultures. “We will release these birds once diclofenac is completely phased out,” said Rahmani, one of the first to raise the issue in India.

Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE), a consortium of 10 national and international NGOs headed by the BNHS, is highlighting the problem during the ongoing United Nations Conference on Biodiversity here.

SAVE is spearheading efforts to phase out diclofenac, launch conservation breeding programmes and create “vulture safe zones” – 100 km radius areas in which intensive efforts are made to remove diclofenac, in preparation for future vulture releases.

The IUCN has also taken an initiative to develop a South Asia Regional Vulture Recovery Project for submission to Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The governments of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan adopted a regional declaration in May this year for co-ordination and collaboration in vulture conservation.

The NGOs described the loss of the vultures as the loss of a critically important ecosystem service. Animal carcasses are now being left to rot, leading to an enormous waste disposal problem and to a number of health concerns. Feral dogs, dog attacks and the risk of rabies have all increased, they said.

The loss of vultures has also had social impacts on some communities, such as the Parsis, who traditionally offered their dead to the vultures in “Towers of Silence”, and the Jains, whose “Panjrapores” (animal shelters) also relied on vultures.


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Global bird extinctions are increasing warns new research


The rate of bird extinctions is accelerating at an alarming rate according to a new paper by BirdLife International and Charles Darwin University.

Global Patterns and Drivers of Avian Extinctions at the Species and Subspecies Level, published in PLoS One, reveals 279 bird species and subspecies from across the globe have become extinct in the last 500 years. The study shows that species extinctions peaked in the early 20th century, then fell until the mid-20th century, and have subsequently accelerated.

“Until this study it had been hoped the rate of extinction was slowing”, said lead author Dr Judit Szabo of Charles Darwin University.

“Historically most extinctions have occurred on islands, particularly those in the Pacific, but most of the really susceptible species are long gone.”

The study shows that the destruction of native habitat for agriculture is currently the main cause of extinctions. Unsustainable hunting and the introduction of alien species, such as cats and rats, have been the main causes of extinctions in the past.

“Humans are directly or indirectly responsible for this loss”, Dr Szabo said.

The world’s nations had agreed through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to slow biodiversity loss by 2010, and having failed to reach this goal, the target has now been adjusted to 2020.

Report co-author Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s Global Research Coordinator, said many species survive only because of conservation interventions.

“This list would have been much longer were it not for the work being done around the world to stop extinctions. But we need to scale up our efforts substantially to avoid further human-induced extinctions”, said Dr Butchart.

“Our analysis provides the most detailed picture to date of recent extinctions and will help us identify strategies to tackle the loss of biodiversity and halt future human-induced extinctions. The Conference of the Parties of the CBD that starts today in Hyderabad, India will need some firm action to achieve its target of achieving this by 2020.”

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Fears for endangered parrot as numbers drop


This year’s winter conservation count for one of Australia’s rarest birds has returned the lowest number of sightings since counting began.

It is estimated there are only about 50 orange-bellied parrots left in the wild.

About 20 parrots were seen in last year’s winter counts across South Australia and Victoria, but this year only one bird was spotted.

Count coordinator Bob Green says there could be a number of reasons for the decline.

“Numbers were down generally this year. The birds were a lot harder to find,” he said.

“Conditions were pretty good so there was a lot of seed out there and I think that just because of that, the birds had a lot bigger areas they could choose to feed in.

“We’ve always found it really hard to get a good population estimate from the winter counts.”

Mark Holdsworth from the Orange Bellied Parrot Recovery Program says the focus is now on bolstering the insurance population in captivity.

Once that happens birds will be released into the wild, but he says the wild population needs to hold on.

“Those captive birds need to learn from the wild birds, learn how to migrate, learn how to forage,” he said.

“We’ve got over 200 birds in captivity at the moment and ultimately those birds will be used to repopulate the wild.

“So we’ll be building the population up to 350 over the next year or two and we’ll be releasing hopefully large numbers of birds back into the wild.”

Wild birds are due to migrate to Tasmania for the breeding season within the next few weeks.

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Action crucial to save kea from extinction


Known as a cheeky character and scourge of the skifield, the kea certainly has its own brand of charisma but there are now fewer than 5000 of the endangered mountain parrots left in the wild.

Vulnerable to threats by exotic pests, toxins such as lead, and sometimes human cruelty, the kea has an ally in the Kea Conservation Trust, which aims to protect the species by pinpointing local threats and increasing awareness.

Trust chairwoman Tamsin Orr-Walker says the Watson brothers’ ambitious 21 peaks in 21 days fundraising expedition is a “creative and inspiring” way to address the plight of the kea, which could become extinct in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

“The brothers’ efforts will not only raise awareness of the issues facing kea in Nelson Lakes National Park and throughout the South Island, but will also raise vital funds to help us continue our work to save kea.”

Trust research in the late 1990s showed Nelson Lakes had a stable population but new studies between 2009 and 2012 have shown kea declined by 80 per cent during a decade.

The trust surveyed about 14,000 hectares of the national park and found just three resident pairs, only one of which was breeding at an average of two chicks a year.

In the 1990s there were 11 confirmed pairs over 7000ha producing 10 chicks on average each year.

To combat the alarming decline, the trust is working with the Conservation Department’s St Arnaud branch, by setting up pest control around nests.

Intensive yearly nest monitoring is being done.

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