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Azerbaijan ecotourism success

In an unprecedented move, the government of Azerbaijan has recently included 52 Important Bird Areas across the country into its official national tourism action plan for the coming 9 years, ensuring the protection of the areas and even the provision of infrastructure for birdwatching tours. This marks the first time Important Bird Areas (IBAs), as developed by BirdLife International, have been officially recognised in a national tourism plan.

The move complements the work of local BirdLife partner, the Azerbaijan Ornithological Society (AOS), who, with funding from the European Union Institutional Building Partnerships Programme, has been running a nature-based tourism educational campaign since the start of 2006With the support of local and national authorities and stakeholders, AOS has been working on a project called ‘Career Development for Azeri people on nature tourism at protected areas’, which has been raising awareness and providing training and support in eco-based tourism to local people around three protected regions of the country – the Turianchay State Reserve, Zagatala State Reserve and Shirvan National Park.

The project has the full support of the Minister for Tourism Abulfez Garayev, and AOS has also formed a strategic relationship with AtaTourizm, a leading Azeri tourist company, who will help to promote eco-tours to the country.

“In a country with enormous natural beauty and an incredible wealth of biodiversity, especially birds, it is important to educate the local people to not only appreciate their amazing assets, but to learn how to protect and interact with them.” said Elchin Sultanov, the Chairman of AOS. “The inclusion into the government planning process and tourism action plan has been a real bonus, and one which will ensure the conservation of the areas, which in turn will mean more tourists will be able to experience the natural wonders of Azerbaijan.” he continued.A bridge to disaster between Germany and Denmark

A proposed road bridge linking Denmark and Germany could have serious consequences for more than 90 millions birds, as well as marine life like seals and porpoises, according to the German BirdLife Partner NABU, who have launched an e-petition to raise the alarm.

Conservationists are concerned about the intention of the European Union, the Kingdom of Denmark and the Federal Republic of Germany to build a huge cable-stayed bridge linking the Isle of Fehmarn (GER) and Lolland (DK) – currently linked by a ferry service – across the Fehmarnbelt.

Plans show that most of the traffic between Central Europe and Scandinavia will be routed across this bridge – but this is also an area where huge numbers of migrating birds fly from Scandanavia to the Wadden Sea and further south. The construction will affect one of Europe´s most important bird migration routes, used by up to 90 million migratory birds annually, including almost 20,000 raptors, around 300,000 Eider ducks, 50,000 – 80,000 Brent and Barnacle geese, together with 1,000 Divers. (from a study conducted by the Ornithologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für (Ornithologist Working group) Schleswig-Holstein und Hamburg (OAG))

“The current Feasibility study only gives limited information on the impact on migrating bird. So far, no assessment under the EU Habitats Directive has been done, even though the area in question lies within and very close to three Important Bird Areas, which are partly protected by EU law as Special Protection Areas. It is vital a proper impact assessment is carried out before any further plans are made or improved.” said Ingo Ludwichowski, NABU spokesperson. “We are also concerned about the impact on endangered marine mammals such as the harbour porpoise and seals. Any construction works would severely impact populations, and the resulting sea flow changes would also harm marine fauna in the area.” he continued.

NABU also contends that the economic criteria for the project is unlikely to prove tenable. Recent experience with the construction of bridges and tunnels throughout Europe demonstrate that the refinancing of the capital investment (approximately 5.2 billion Euros) in such projects through toll fees is unlikely to be successful in the short and midterm if other transport alternatives are available. State subsidies will be a substantial burden for the public budget.

4th July 2014