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Europe`s Birds in trouble, Asia sites and Africa`s migration needs protection?

More of Europe`s birds in trouble, says BirdLife

The number of bird species in trouble across Europe is rising, warns BirdLife International. The latest assessment, published in BirdLife`s new in-depth study, Birds in Europe, reveals that 226 species of birds ? 43 per cent of all those occurring regularly in Europe ? are facing an uncertain future. Many are declining, rare or localised, whilst populations of others remain heavily depleted following huge declines suffered during the 1970s and `80s. Some are now so threatened that they may disappear from parts of Europe in the very near future. In the ten years since the publication of BirdLife`s original Birds in Europe study, 45 bird species have declined in numbers and now have an unfavourable conservation status. However, it is not all bad news. 14 bird species have seen their fortunes improve; thanks, in part, to concentrated conservation efforts.

Birds in Europe will be launched in the Netherlands on Monday 8 November, at a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of the European Union`s Birds Directive, along with its sister publication, Birds in the European Union, which looks specifically at how the EU has done in bird conservation. The publications, which span the whole of Europe from Greenland to Georgia and from the Canary Islands to Russia, assess population sizes and trends for all of Europe`s wild birds from 52 European countries or territories. Birds in the EU deals solely with the 25 Member States of the European Union. Across Europe, many bird species have begun to decline alarmingly. Of particular concern are:

* Wading birds, including Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) and Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), are declining rapidly, largely because of drainage of lowland river valleys and upland habitat
* Migratory birds wintering in sub-Saharan Africa, including Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and Northern House Martin (Delichon urbica)
* Farmland birds including Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) and Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
* Familiar urban birds including the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) and Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

However, the new assessment does provide some welcome news, too. Better protection, partly as a result of the European Union`s Birds Directive, has led to increases in the Audouin`s Gull (Larus audouinii) ? formerly one the continent`s most threatened seabirds. Other winners include the Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus) and the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) ? two of Europe`s largest birds of prey. Mike Rands, BirdLife International`s Director said: Conservation works. The increases in Audouin`s Gull and Eurasian Griffon numbers reflect the considerable attention given to these priority species. The European Union and conservation groups are right to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Birds Directive today, but everyone must remain level-headed. The struggles facing many of Europe`s birds are immense.Clairie Papazoglou, Head of BirdLife`s European Community Office in Brussels said: The European Union has promised to halt the loss of wildlife in Europe by 2010. The latest Birds in Europe assessment highlights the sheer enormity of that task. The third assessment, already planned for ten years` time, will reveal to the world whether the EU has kept its word or broken its promise. The fact that more birds in Europe face an uncertain future compared with a decade ago is deeply worrying. Birds are excellent environmental indicators and the continued decline of many species sends a clear signal about the health of Europe`s wildlife and the poor state of our environment.Europe must do more to avoid losing its wildlife, BirdLife warns

BirdLife International today urged EU Member States and the European Commission to take up a five-point challenge to stop the decline of wild birds in the EU. BirdLife`s request for immediate action in implementing the strategy was issued in response to the latest assessment of European bird populations, published in the global organisation`s new in-depth study, Birds in the European Union. The study reveals that despite EU legislation protecting many species, many are still declining at an alarming rate and still face an uncertain future. At an EU conference in Bergen op Zoom (Netherlands), celebrating the 25th anniversary of the European Union`s Birds Directive, BirdLife warned 150 delegates from European Institutions, Member States and NGOs, that without better implementation of EU wildlife protection laws, birds and other wildlife would continue to be lost forever.

Clairie Papazoglou, Head of BirdLife`s European Community Office in Brussels underlines: BirdLife very much welcomes the conclusions of this Conference, as they recognize that the EU Birds Directive has helped protecting many threatened birds over the last 25 years through targeted measures for species and sites.However, as the newest data show, we have to be very concerned about many species being in deep trouble, even common birds as the House Sparrow and the Starling are in rapid decline. This is mostly due to the fact that EU legislation like the Birds Directive is not fully implemented by Member States or that other policy areas, like the Common Agricultural Policy can jeopardize conservation efforts.

BirdLife`s five-point recovery plan for the European Union`s wildlife includes:

* Full implementation of existing wildlife conservation laws (in particular the EU Birds and Habitats Directives) in all EU Member States.
* Ensuring integration of this legislation into other EU policies, such as agriculture and transport.
* Urgent action by Member States to complete and properly manage the network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds, by classifying all Important Bird Areas (IBAs) as such (IBAs have been scientifically selected by BirdLife International according to EU criteria).
* Adequate and targeted EU co-funding for nature conservation measures, provided and secured through the Commission`s LIFE Nature fund (or an equivalent instrument), in addition to Rural Development and Structural Funds.
* Setting up of monitoring schemes for birds by the European Commission with adequate information and support provided by all Member States, as well as adoption of birds as a headline structural indicator for the EU`s sustainable development strategy.

Clairie Papazoglou: If these challenges are not met, it is hard to see how the EU and governments can fulfil their joint commitment to halt the loss of wildlife by 2010, on which they have agreed back in 2001 in Gothenburg.Hot spots for cool birds

Scientists name danger zones for at-risk seabirds
Global research highlighting the most important areas for albatross migration and breeding may yet help save these magical birds from extinction. Satellite tracking data for 16 species of albatross and three petrel species, all of them endangered by commercial and pirate longline fishing, have been collated by BirdLife International, an alliance of conservation groups. Its report, Tracking Ocean Wanderers, highlights areas where longline fleets are putting seabirds at most risk. The report is a unique collaboration between scientists worldwide and should help determine action governments take to stop albatrosses and petrels becoming extinct.

Cleo Small, International Marine Policy Officer at BirdLife International said: Identifying areas where albatrosses and fishermen overlap is a crucial conservation step. To save these birds from extinction, the fishing industry, government and conservationists need to collaborate to devise simple, innovative and effective initiatives to reduce seabird mortality across all oceanic waters, regardless of their jurisdiction. This kind of collaboration will ensure that albatrosses continue to grace the world`s oceans ? rather than being confined to history.Tracking Ocean Wanderers is being published as parties to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) meet for the first time, in Tasmania, this week. It highlights four key findings:

* Hotspots where concentrations of both longliners and seabirds occur are identified. These include the waters around New Zealand and South-East Australia, the South-West Indian Ocean, South Atlantic and North Pacific.
* The importance of coastal shelf areas for albatrosses and petrels whilst breeding, and of highly productive oceanic regions such as the Humboldt Current, the Patagonian Shelf, the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone, and the Benguela Current.
* The differences in foraging areas used by breeding and non-breeding adults, and young and mature birds. Brooding albatrosses rely on foraging grounds close to breeding sites and, as chicks grow, the range of adult breeding birds extends.
* The huge distances travelled on migration by some species; the northern royal albatross flies up to 1,800 kilometres in 24 hours and the grey-headed albatross can circle the globe in 42 days.

More than 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses, die as bycatch at the hands of longline fleets every year. This has left all 21 albatross species officially classed as under global threat of extinction. Lines of up to 80 miles (130 kilometres), each carrying thousands of baited hooks, lure the birds, which are dragged under and drowned. These slow-breeding seabirds are being lost faster than they can repopulate. Cleo Small said: This research could not be more timely. It will focus minds on exactly what needs to be done to save these magnificent seabirds and where that action is most urgent. John Croxall, Head of Conservation Biology, British Antarctic Survey said: The data, and the results presented in this report, will be of immense assistance in developing the work of the new ACAP.Over half of Asia`s most important wildlife sites inadequately protected

Bangkok, Thailand ? The first comprehensive inventory of Asia`s most important places for birds and biodiversity reveals that more than half have no legal designation, or are only partially protected by law. Important Bird Areas in Asia, published today by BirdLife International, identifies 2,293 sites, covering 7.6% of the region`s total land area, of which 976 (43%) are unprotected and a further 325 (14%) are only partially protected. [1,2] The inventory warns that one in eight of the region`s 2,700 birds are threatened with extinction unless these areas are adequately protected and managed. BirdLife`s Honorary President, HIH Princess Takamado of Japan launches Important Bird Areas in Asia today at the IUCN`s World Conservation Congress in Bangkok. BirdLife believes the Asian IBA inventory provides a sound basis for the development of national conservation strategies and protected areas programmes, and highlights areas that should be safeguarded through wise policies and land-use planning, comments the Princess in the book`s foreword.Important Bird Areas in Asia took 8 years to complete, involving hundreds of ornithologists, volunteers and government staff in 28 countries and territories across the entire Asia region. It received support from the governments of Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as the private sector in Japan. Dr Mike Rands, Director of BirdLife said, One of the big conservation challenges for the next few years is to fill these gaps in the region`s protected areas network. The inventory of sites in Important Bird Areas in Asia shows where the effort needs to be concentrated. Dr Rands added: It is also vital that those areas which have protection on paper are protected and managed in practice in a proper and sustainable way. We must ensure that their unique value for wildlife is recognised by local and national authorities, as part of the broader social and political process.

Noritaka Ichida, Director of BirdLife International`s Asia Division, based in Tokyo, commented: The major threat affecting IBAs in Asia is the loss or degradation of habitat ? particularly the clearance of rainforests for palm oil and other estate crops, the conversion of wetlands and grasslands for agricultural land, and the development of infrastructure such as road networks and dams. Other threats ? pollution, introduced species and wild bird trade ? all increase the pressure for these precious areas and their wildlife.

One of BirdLife`s key strategies to address the conservation needs of Asia`s Important Bird Areas is to develop a grass-roots community of Asian conservationists through its Site Support Group (SSG) network. This consists of local people with a commitment to local sites and habitats and a willingness to work with NGOs and other agencies to ensure sites are managed in a mutually beneficial way for people, birds and other wildlife. Also launched at the same time is The Directory of Important Bird Areas in the Kingdom of Thailand. This provides details of the 62 IBAs in Thailand of which 22 are unprotected or only partially protected. A number of IBAs in Thailand are facing threats including the Inner Gulf of Thailand IBA, which will be affected by a planned road bridge. New initiative to safeguard migrating birds in North Africa and the Middle East

Djerba, Tunisia ? BirdLife International has launched a new three-year sustainable hunting initiative that will ensure a safer flight path for migrating birds as they move through North Africa and the Middle East. Hunters kill millions of birds annually as they migrate through the Mediterranean region each year. Many of these are killed in southern Europe, but a significant proportion are shot or trapped in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Most are species that breed in Europe and winter in Africa. Many of those killed are listed as threatened species on Annex 1 of the European Union`s Birds Directive.

Hunting, which includes shooting, trapping using nets, snares, lime sticks, traps and decoys, use of poisons and other methods to kill birds, is an important socio-economic activity in the region, involving hundreds of thousands of people and large areas of land. It supports a variety of groups, including subsistence hunters and trappers, weapon and ammunition manufacturers, bird-trap makers, caged bird sellers and restaurant owners. Bird hunting in the region is a complex issue, often characterised by poor legal regulation and law enforcement. As a result of poor awareness of the impact of hunting and past conflicts between hunters and conservationists, there is a need for a fresh dialogue to develop collaborative efforts and partnerships between all groups concerned.

This new initiative will help to improve the prospects for migrating birds as they pass through Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Syria. David Thomas, Head of BirdLife`s Site Action Unit said, The project`s overall aim is to strengthen the management of bird hunting and to reduce excessive, indiscriminate and illegal hunting in the region. We aim to promote more sustainable hunting practices, and make local people aware of the dangers facing the seemingly inexhaustible, but in reality fragile, stream of migrating birds which passes spectacularly through their skies each year.

4th July 2014