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Good News from BirdLife for 2006

Spoonbills, rice paddies and Ibis counts?

Record spoonbill count in Taiwan

The total population of the Black-faced Spoonbill in the Tainan area of Taiwan has reached a historical high, with a record count of 939 birds on 21 November 2005. In the winter of 1989-1990, the known global population of Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor was just 294 birds. The species recovered slowly during the 1990s, before suffering a setback at the end of 2002 with an outbreak of botulism that killed 73 birds. Subsequently however, numbers of the species have shown an excellent increase. The species was classified by BirdLife for the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered from 1994 until 2000, when it was donwlisted to Endangered.Rice paddies proposed as Cuban IBAs

Two rice paddies with neighbouring coastal areas are unusual candidates among the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) proposed for Cuba. IBAs are normally located in natural areas, and single-crop cultivation is not what typically comes to mind when one thinks of bird conservation. However, in Cuba, rice cultivation goes through a wet and dry cycle, and since rice is grown constantly over large expanses, there are always fields in varying stages of flooding and draining, leading to high levels of vertebrate and invertebrate biodiversity. Another important factor is that in the last 15 years chemical use has been reduced by c. 50%, which has turned the rice paddies into important bird feeding areas, while neighbouring wetlands are resting and nesting areas.The first of these proposed IBAs is the Costa Sur de Sancti Spiritus. It encompasses the Sur del Jíbaro, one of the country's most important rice paddies and a place widely held to host large concentrations of aquatic birds. To the south, it includes a coastal strip of wetlands composed of several important lagoons, such as El Basto and La Limeta, and a strip of mangroves that is several kilometres wide at some points. The area is c. 60,593 ha and 107 species of birds have been recorded there. Numerous migratory species also gather here, especially wading birds and ducks.

The second IBA has a similar environment and is located in the south of Pinar del Río province. It includes a group of natural coastal wetlands and the adjacent rice paddies between Los Palacios and Consolación del Sur. The area has more than 101 species of bird, with a notable abundance of aquatic birds, particularly herons and an estimated 20,000 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus. There are thought to be more than one hundred of the globally threatened West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea in the area.

A conservation project titled Rice Paddies and Natural Wetlands as Conservation Sites for Aquatic Birds is being developed in both areas. Financed by the Whitley Fund for Nature and implemented by the group Ecología de Aves from the Universidad de la Habana's Biology Department, this effort has gathered the information needed to propose IBA status.Record counts of threatened ibis

In November 2005, BirdLife International Cambodia project staff recorded up to 70 White-shouldered Ibis at wetlands in Western Siem Pang Important Bird Area (IBA). This extraordinary November count represents a significant increase in the numbers of White-shouldered Ibis recorded. Previously the highest counts were 23 in January 2003 and 33 in November 2004. These new counts are highly significant as upper estimates of this Critically Endangered species' population are of just 250 mature individuals. 40 individuals were still present in December 2005.The White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni is a large ibis which inhabits lakes, pools, marshes and slow-flowing watercourses in open lowland dipterocarp forest, often subject to seasonal flooding. It also occurs in sparsely wooded, dry or wet grasslands and wide rivers with sand and gravel bars. Populations have declined as a result of habitat loss, through logging and drainage of wetlands for agriculture (most of the Mekong floodplain in southern Laos has been converted to rice paddies), livestock grazing, grass harvesting, and development. Habitat loss has been compounded by hunting for food and disturbance, leading to the loss of secure feeding, roosting and nesting areas. Disturbance and persecution are probably now the greatest threats to the ibis.

The global population of the White-shouldered Ibis is thought to number no more than 250 mature individuals

BirdLife International's Cambodia Programme Office has been working in north-east Cambodia since 2003 to undertake a range of community-based conservation activities.A priority area within the region is Western Siem Pang IBA, a mosaic of open deciduous forest and small seasonal wetlands (trapeangs), together with semi-evergreen and mixed deciduous riverine forest along the Sekong River, and semi-evergreen forest on hills near the international border with Laos. The site is arguably the most important in Cambodia for the conservation of globally threatened bird species and supports the only known potentially viable population of White-shouldered Ibis in mainland south-east Asia, as well as populations of three other Critically Endangered birds: Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantean, White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis and Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris.

The Cambodia Programme is working with relevant government departments to promote Western Siem Pang as a protected area thereby greatly increasing the viability of these small critical White-shouldered Ibis populations. Ongoing work in partnership with local communities aims to educate about the status of these bird populations, ensure their protection from persecution, and establish activities to mitigate further population declines.

4th July 2014