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Americas IBAs Crucial & Uganda Stork Cull Condemned

Conservationists have met in Ecuador to announce the formal designation of the latest in a list of sites highlighted as being of global importance for shorebirds. The announcement was made during the meeting of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) and Waterbird Conservation Councils. The meeting represented the first meeting of the Councils in South America, with the intention being to expand the Waterbird Conservation for the Americas initiative to address the full hemisphere including the interests of 29 nations. The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) is a partnership of organisations working to protect waterbirds and their habitats by conserving key sites across the Americas.

The meeting was hosted by Aves and Conservacion (BirdLife in Ecuador). Lagunas de Ecuasal, a coastal lagoon, was first listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) in 2004. The area has now been announced as a WHSRN Site of Regional Importance, the first to be identified in Ecuador. It joins those of eight other nations in a regional effort to conserve migratory birds at important sites across the Americas.Sandra Loor-Vela, Director of Aves & Conservacion, said: "Ecuasal’s designation is a great opportunity to demonstrate that conservation can be carried out in conjunction with major economic activities. We are very excited that land owners and managers within Ecuasal are supportive of such efforts on their land.”

Lagunas de Ecuasal is an artificial wetland system that has become an important site for many resident species. It also constitutes a unique refuge for migratory birds, especially in August and September when large flocks of shorebirds can be found along the water edges and dams.

Upon hearing of the site’s designation as a Site of Hemispheric Importance, Nicolás Febres Cordero Gallardo, Site Manager for Ecuasal operations said: “We are proud that it will be recognized globally and that it will benefit from the support of the international community in its conservation.” The site is thought to hold two percent of the global population of Wilson’s Phalarope Steganopus tricolor – up to 32,000 birds.

"We are delighted that the Ecuasal owner, Nicolás Febres Cordero Rivadeneira and the site managers, will continue to help promote such amazing diversity and decidedly contribute to the conservation of these wonderful birds.” said Sandra Loor-Vela.

Another IBA, the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri, U.S. was also announced as a WHSRN Site of Regional Importance at the meeting.

“Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent site to recognize as part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.” commented John Cecil, Director of the IBA Programme at Audubon (BirdLife in the U.S.). “Squaw Creek is an outstanding site for shorebirds in Missouri and hence has also been designated an Important Bird Area by Audubon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does an excellent job managing the habitat for shorebirds.”NatureUganda condemns killing of Kampala’s scavenging storks

Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus
Executive Director of NatureUganda (BirdLife in Uganda), said that the action breached the city’s own environmental guidelines. “Kampala City Council has an environmental officer who should have advised them on the right time to cut the trees. They should have waited until their chicks had grown.”The Marabou Storks began nesting in large numbers in Kampala, after a near 20-fold growth in the city’s population over four decades combined with rising levels of affluence to overwhelm the city’s rubbish collection services. In 2004, City Engineer Abraham Byandala told The EastAfrican that only 30 percent of the city’s rubbish is collected. In the 1990s, a campaign to poison the storks was halted after a public outcry.

In his 2004 interview, Mr Byandala told the The EastAfrican that if City Hall had the means, it would have “broken their breeding cycle by disrupting their nesting season”.

Whether or not this was the city council’s intention, Achilles Byaruhanga says that because it is now the peak of the breeding season for Marabous, “the actions could devastate the storks’ breeding success”.Conservationists point out that the scavenging storks are helping the city deal with its rubbish problems. While not universally loved either by city residents or visitors, they are also a tourist attraction. Achilles Byaruhanga says tourism is the second highest foreign exchange earner in Uganda, and having 200 bird species in the city centre is a huge opportunity for Uganda’s tourism industry.

Achilles Byaruhanga says the birds will leave only when the city improves its refuse collection services, taking up residence instead around dumps on the outskirts, where they will continue to perform a valuable scavenging role. “But according to the state of affairs today in the country and in the city, this may take very many years to come. In the meantime, the city council must not act irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

4th July 2014