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More Important Bird Areas under threat?

New study finds that many of Panama`s key sites for wildlife are threatened

Panama City, Republic of Panama, 24th June 2003 ? The most detailed study to date of the status of birds and other wildlife in Panama, for its size one of the world`s most biologically diverse nations, has revealed that many of its most globally important sites enjoy no formal protection and are in danger from deforestation, development, and other threats. The Directory of Important Bird Areas in Panama, launched today, shows that El Chorogo-Palo Blanco, the best remaining site for the endemic birds of Panama`s western Pacific slope, and the Upper Bay of Panama, used by more than 1.3 million migratory shorebirds from North America each year, are in urgent need of conservation action. [The book can be obtained from the Panama Audubon Society, Aptdo 2026, Balboa, Republic of Panama, tel/fax +507 224 4740, email audupan@cwpanama.net or info@panamaaudubon.org Cost is US$25.00 each plus postage ($5.00 for western hemisphere, $10.00 rest of world)]The book has been produced by BirdLife International`s Partner in Panama, the Panama Audubon Society (PAS) with financing from Vogelbescherming Nederland (BirdLife`s Partner in the Netherlands) and the United States Forest Service, and is based on studies sponsored by Panama`s Fundaci?n Natura. Panama`s western Pacific lowlands, despite being home to many endemic birds such as Baird`s Trogon and White-crested Coquette and other endemic wildlife such as Red-backed Squirrel Monkey, have been almost entirely deforested. El Chorogo-Palo Blanco is the largest remaining refuge in Panama for many of these species, but is threatened by logging and conversion to cattle pasture. Now, however, PAS is working to have the area declared a wildlife refuge, and with support from the Amos Butler Audubon Society of Indianapolis and the American Bird Conservancy, has recently purchased about 10% of the area`s forest to form the core of a reserve. Data compiled by PAS have shown that the Upper Bay of Panama qualifies as a Wetland of International Importance under the international Ramsar Convention, and this designation has recently been approved by Panama`s National Environmental Authority. This site is used by more than 30% of the world population of Western Sandpipers and 20% of Semi-palmated Plovers, and is globally important for at least five other species of shorebirds. The 342-page book, written in both English and Spanish, describes each of the 88 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the country, and also includes a list of threatened birds, data on other threatened/endemic fauna, and conservation issues for each site. The directory was launched at the Ernesto J. Castillero National Library in Panama to an audience of Panamanian Government representatives, figures from the academic, business and political worlds, environmentalists, diplomats and media. The book`s other key findings include:

IBAs have been identified that include 210 of Panama`s 216 endangered, endemic and biome-restricted species, including two of Panama`s most threatened birds, the Yellow-billed Cotinga and Spiny-faced Antshrike.

IBAs cover almost 28% of Panama`s land area (75,516 sq km), and most are threatened at some level. Among the most serious threats are deforestation for cattle ranching and subsistence agriculture; logging; road-building and urban and other development; and, for a few species, over-hunting and capture for the pet trade.

Just 35 (40%) of Panama`s IBAs are formally protected.
Although the preparation and publication of this directory took six years, in reality it represents a culmination of over 30 years of constant discovery, observation and recording by past and present members of our society, comments Bill Adsett, Treasurer, Panama Audubon Society. Above all, the directory allows us and everyone else to know for certain where our efforts have to be concentrated so that Panama will remain one of the most biodiversity-rich countries ? for its size ? in the world.The Directory`s author, Dr George Angehr, says: While the majority of Panama`s Important Bird Areas are protected by law, some of the most important sites ? including the El Chorogo-Palo Blanco forests and the the Upper Bay of Panama ? have no formal protection and are in great danger of being destroyed. Urgent action will be needed to save them.

For further information, please contact Adrian Long at BirdLife International in Cambridge, UK: tel. +44 (0)1223 279812; adrian.long@birdlife.org.uk

4th July 2014