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Wise Wetland Use Promotion…

North African waterbird conservation gets a boost

A new 3-year project to ‘Strengthen waterbird and wetland conservation capacities in North Africa (WetCap)’ has just started. The project will build the capacity of wetland management activities at key sites in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania. It will also promote the wise-use of wetlands which benefit local people by providing clean water and opportunities for fishing, agriculture, recreation and tourism.
Through a series of regional and national workshops specifically tailored to the needs and requirements of the region, WetCap will provide training for conservation professionals from the five countries to improve the conservation status and management of waterbirds at key wetland sites. The project will also allocate small grants to local waterbird and wetland conservation projects.

WetCap is linked to the ongoing ‘Wings over Wetlands (WOW)’ project. “This unique project perfectly complements the WOW project by implementing its objectives in North Africa, a region which has not been in the focus of the WOW project so far”, said Bert Lenten – Executive Secretary of AEWA, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) administered international treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds across Africa and Eurasia.“Waterbird conservation work is often hampered by a lack of data on population sizes, the movements of the birds or the sites used by them”, said Dr Jonathan Barnard - Senior Programme Manager at BirdLife International. “WetCap will help familiarise conservation professionals with flyway-level information developed under the Wings over Wetlands project, and link this to local needs to ensure that the project benefits both people and nature ”.

WetCap is sponsored by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). It will be implemented under the umbrella of the UNEP Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), in cooperation with its project partners BirdLife International, SEO/BirdLife (Spanish BirdLife partner), Wetlands International and the Ramsar Convention.

AEWA provides the basis for international cooperation on the conservation of 255 species of migratory waterbirds and their habitats in Africa, Europe and parts of Asia and Canada.“Morocco is a bottleneck for bird migration from Europe to Africa”, said Juan Criado - Head of the International Unit of SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain). “This is why the cooperation between Spanish and Moroccan conservationists is very close”.

In the past SEO/BirdLife has worked in Morocco to establish a wetland centre of expertise in Rabat. “WetCap will profit from the centre, and at the same time strengthen the centre’s position as a base for knowledge and training for local conservation professionals”, said Juan Criado. “It is a real win-win situation”.

Waterbirds need an unbroken chain of wetlands to complete their annual life-cycles. Wetlands which also benefit people by providing clean water and opportunities for fishing, agriculture, recreation and tourism. However, despite their importance, wetlands are amongst the world’s most threatened ecosystems.

BirdLife believes migratory waterbirds can only be effectively conserved through international cooperation across the entire flyway. In response to these worrying declines, BirdLife has launched the Born to Travel Campaign to protect migratory waterbirds, soaring birds and songbirds along the African-Eurasian flyway. Born to Travel is a perfect example of how effectively our unique BirdLife Network meshes together as a united force to take action for conservation.

4th July 2014