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Petrel shortage not as bad as feared…

New Colony of Europe`s Rarest Breeding Bird Discovered

A new colony of Europe`s rarest breeding bird, Zino`s Petrel, Pterodroma Madeira, has been found in the central mountains of the island of Madeira, Portugal. The colony, with 20 chicks and at least 9 occupied nests, is also the largest known for this bird, which was previously thought to number only 20-30 pairs and is listed under IUCN Red List criteria as Critically Endangered.The colony was discovered in the Pico do Areeiro area of Madeira Natural Park by the park authorities who have now closed off access to the breeding site until the exact size of the colony and potential risks from visitors are assessed. The site is located some distance from the only other three previously known colonies, all on inaccessible mountain ledges. The Pico do Areeiro is located in the Central Mountain Massif area which is a Special Protection Area and a Natura 2000 site under European Union protection, and an Important Bird Area (IBA).This recent discovery reinforces the significance of this Important Bird Area for the conservation of this highly threatened species and moreover, it shows that more research is needed to locate and protect the breeding grounds of the species says Helder Costa, President of SPEA, BirdLife International`s Portuguese Partner.Although Paulo Oliveira, head of the conservation division at the park, said that he believes further colonies may be found and that work was continuing to locate them, Zino`s Petrel continues to teeter on the brink of extinction. Its continued survival has been jeopardised by introduced black rats and feral cats, as well as humans, predating eggs and chicks, and by its habitat of well-vegetated ledges being reduced by grazing and trampling by goats and sheep. However, a more recent threat comes from Portugal`s proposed construction of a NATO radar station near the summit of Pico do Areeiro. Since 2000, BirdLife and SPEA have been concerned about the development, and successfully campaigned for a new location for the radar in a building currently used as a hostel, thus reducing the impact of construction, and for a public Impact Assessment Study. The organisations also encouraged the European Commission (who supports a LIFE project to protect the Zino`s Petrel) to ask the Portuguese Government to justify its decision to house the station near the breeding colonies and now demand the Precautionary Principle be applied, given that the area has the highest level of protection under European law.The discovery of a new colony of Europe`s rarest breeding bird has come not a moment too soon, and increases the possibility that further colonies may still be discovered says BirdLife International`s Director and Chief Executive, Dr Michael Rands. However, there are still too many threats to the survival of the Zino`s Petrel, and this discovery gives additional weight to BirdLife/SPEA`s request that another location for the forthcoming NATO radar station should still be found.For further information, contact Manuela Nunes, at SPEA in Portugal: tel. +351 21 3220434; +351 964529313 (mobile) manuela.nunes@spea.pt or Gareth Gardiner-Jones at BirdLife International in Cambridge, UK: tel. + 44 (0)1223 279903; +44 (0)7779 018 332 (mobile) gareth.gardiner@birdlife.org.uk

4th July 2014