Wildlife Conservation News

 
Wildlife and our last remaining wild places are being destroyed because of human action or inaction and because of our own short –term greed.

Peter Fearnhead, CEO, African Parks Network, South Africa


 

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Category: Wetland Conservation

  1. 41 new Marine Conservation Zones expands England’s Blue Belt

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    In the run up to World Oceans Day (8th June every year), Environment Secretary Michael Gove has created 41 new Marine Conservation Zones.

    This represents the most significant expansion of England’s Blue Belt of Protected Areas to date.

    Stretching from Northumberland (where eider ducks live) to the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall (basking sharks, seabirds and fish) , the action Gove has taken safeguards 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat.   A substantial number of additional zones were created in waters away from the coast – some in the deep sea – thus giving protection to habitats and species such as coral gardens, fan mussel and sea pens.

    Here’s a map showing the Marine Protected Areas

    Vulnerable marine wildlife will now have an opportunity to recover.    And if there are richer habitats for marine life, so there life will be better for those whose livelihoods depend on a healthy coastline and sea. 

    WWF has discovered that in marine protected areas, fish breed more readily and populations recover.  In the Apo Island (Philippines), communities depend heavily on fish.   After a marine protected area was created, catch per unit increased 50%.  Fish populations tripled.  Fisherman were able to save fuel and spend less time at sea.

    The UK now has over 350 Marine Protected Areas, covering 220,000 square kilometres – that’s twice the size of England.

    The areas protected include wildlife such as worms, seahorse and oyster.   Sand, tidal mud, rocky reefs and gravel will be protected.  Each as a role to play in the balance of nature. 

    The evidence about the importance of these new sites was gathered by volunteer divers who dive  for Seasearch, a programme co-ordinated by the Marine Conservation Society.    Divers spent hours diving very diverse seabed habitats to record the marine plants and animals living in our inshore seas.   There were extensive consultations with local fishermen too, and members of the public.

    This citizen science enabled groups such as the Marine Conservation Society to make a case for protecting many of these sites, and they will now be involved in developing management and monitoring plans for these newly protected areas.

    After all, protection must be active if it is to mean anything.  It’s no good allocating a protected status to an area if action isn’t taken to ensure that the area IS protected.

    Bodies such as the Marine Management Organisation and local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities will have the responsibility of ensuring that the zones are protected, working with local fishing communities and other organisations.

    The UK government has called for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.  It has co-chaired the creation of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance with Vanuatu. 

    Later this year, the government will publish an international strategy setting out more action to conserve the ocean and use it in a sustainable way.

    Meantime, its next step closer to home is to stop damaging activities in the Marine Protected Zones which affect wildlife.   Beam trawling, dredging for scallops and langoustines are among these – and surely there must be some action to stop some leisure activities, too. 

    But this is a great start, and the fact that citizen scientists (e.g. willing volunteers) and world-class marine scientists have worked together to contribute towards such an outcome is heart-warming.

    Watch this space!

     

  2. Argentina set to get its biggest National Park

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    The British Birdwatching Fair takes place every August. 

    Birdfair takes place between 17th and 19th August 2018 in Rutland, the smallest county in the UK.    

    This year, bird lovers in the UK support the creation of largest Argentina’s National Park!

    Let me tell you more.

    The fifth largest salt lake in the world, Mar Chiquita is South America’s second largest water body.  And it’s home to most of the world’s Chilean flamingo (about 318,000 of them, they are Nearly Threatened) and nearly half of its Andean Flamingo (18,000 in winter (Vulnerable) and Puna Flamingo as well (and they’re Near Threatened).

    Mar Chiquita is home to about 318,000 Chilean flamingos

    ©Pablo Rodriguez Merkel
    Mar Chiquita is home to about 318,000 Chilean flamingos

    In addition, there are tens of thousands of American Golden Plover, White-rumped and Lesser Yellowlegs who migrate here.

    Oh, and don’t forget the 600,000 Wilson's Phalaropes – about a third of the world’s population.

    So let’s move away from the Little Sea (as Mar Chiquita means) to grasslands.  These are home to the Greater Rhea, Bearded Tachuri, a Maned Wolf and Sickle-winged Nightjar (Near Threatened).  The swampy areas have  Dot-winged Crake, and Dinelli's Doradito, while Crowned Solitary Eagles Buteogallus coronatus fly over Chaco forest.


    Absolutely stunning...

    Mar Chiquita has all the credentials but...

    Mar Chiquita is a Ramsar Site, one of Argentina's top Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA), a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve and a provincial reserve so you would have thought that would keep it safe.

    Unfortunately dear reader, that is not the case.  It’s in danger. Why?  Well, the human race is at it again.

    • Water extracted from the lake at an unsustainable lake
    • The lake is polluted, thanks to local industry
    • Agricultural intensification
    • Above average deforestation rate
    • Unregulated tourism.

    And action is needed urgently.  Which is where the supporters of Birdfair in the UK come in and the human race is working to put things right.  

    Aves Argentinas is a partner of BirdLife International.  It has undertaken bird surveys, raised awareness, improved management of the area and clarified land ownership at Mar Chiquita for years.

    Then came its light bulb moment – a plan to create what should become Argentina’s largest national park.

    Creating a national park to keep the area safe

    The plan has been developed with provincial and national authorities.  Back in 2017, a concordat was signed by Argentina’s environment minister, National Parks Administration and the governor of the Córdoba province.  And the Ansenuza National Park will protect up to 800,000 hectares which will be managed at the national level.

    Crucial to the plan is the involvement and engagement (how I hate that word but I can never think of another) of the local community.

    Planning involving them, empowering local stake holders and establishing a network of local conservation guardians has been a key part of Aves Argentina’s strategy from the start.

    And there’s more – bolstering the local economy through nature-based tourism is essential to the project’s success.  So the Ministry of Tourism is very pleased indeed. Ecotourism will lengthen the tourist seasons and help provide sustainable livelihoods over a wider area.  That should also help local communities commit to the long term conservation of the area.

    This is a Maned Wolf - they are also known as the fox on stilts!
    ©Spencer Wright
    This is a Maned Wolf - also dubbed the Fox on Stilts!  They live on nearby grassland.

    And the lake’s colloquial name in the national park title says a great deal.

    The British Birdwatching Fair helps in two key ways:

    Raising awareness

    An international event like this is vital in building political awareness back in Argentina as to why this area needs to be protected.  It will help build support from the bird world and show that the Ansenuza really is a birding paradise.

    As a bird lover, I want to go and see birds in a beautiful, natural environment.  I don’t want to go to see a polluted lake where a lot of the water has been sucked out and drive through an area where local forests have been destroyed to get there. 

    Raising funds to support the project

    In 2017, the theme was ‘Saving paradise in the Pacific’.  The aim was to remove invasive predators from the French Polynesian island of Rapa Iti.  Last year, Birdfair raised a jaw-dropping £333,000 was raised towards the work.

    The 2018 project is an ambitious one.   A project to create and protect a national park and all its wildlife, whilst helping locals through eco-tourism.  And surely a model for other conservation organisations to look at? 

    Useful links

    Visit the Birdfair website here.  It's been conserving nature worldwide since 1989.

    Aves Argentinas - I hope you speak Spanish!  But do take a look anyway.  

    BirdLife International - BirdLife International is a global partnership of conservation organisations (NGOs) that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. 121 BirdLife Partners worldwide.

  3. 664,484 acres protected in Bolivia

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    There's good news from Bolivia.

    The World Land Trust and Nature and Culture International have jointly funded the creation of Heroes del Chaco Historical and Wildlife Municipal Reserve.

    This is protection a whopping 664,484 acres of Dry Chaco forest in Bolivia!

    The project was given community support, and on the ground, it's Natura Bolivia who run it.   

    World Land Trust says the plains of Gran Chaco extend from the base of hte Andes across Northern Argentina, western Paraguay and south east Bolivia.

    It is ihome to the largest Dry Forest in South America, and has swamps, savannahs, marshes, salt flats and scrubelands.

    It supports about 500 species of birds, 150 species of mammals, 120 species of reptiles and 100 species of amphibians, so it's a very important area for wildlife.  Threats to the area are deforestation, hunting and unsustainable cattle farming.  

    Natura is working with locals in the area to develop a conservation model which works for both wildlife and people in the area.   For instance, the govenrment has given support for conservation incentives.   

    This is very exciting, especially the work to develop conservation models which work for people and wildlife and it will be interesting to see how the project develops.  

    Meantime, it's great to think that over 664,000 acres are being protected. 

     

  4. Celebrating World Wetland Day in Canada....

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    The 2 February is World Wetlands Day. It's held on the same day every year.

    And to honour the day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada announced that a 593 hectare parcel of land had been donated for use as a conservation area.

    Situated on the north west shore of Gough Lake and known as the Ferrier property, the area is essential for deer, small mammals, grassland birds, shorebirds and waterfowl that live and migrate through the region.

    And a number of species that are considered to be at risk have been discovered in the area, such as the Baird's sparrow and Sprague's pipit.

    The wetlands are valuable as shorebird nesting and staging habitat for waterfowl.  Unfortunately research suggests that 64% of slough and marsh wetlands have disappeared in settled areas of the province. 

    The Ferrier family owned the land since 1904.   Agnes Isabelle Ferrier left the site to the Nature Conservancy of Canada in her will. 

    This property is one of 4 new wetland conservation rojects that were announced on Friday, so this has got to be good news for wildlife needing wetlands.  Find out more about it here.

    In addition to the above news, the Nature Conservancy of Canada bought 160 acres, which had ecologically significent wetland habitat north of Good Spirit Provincial Park, Saskatchewan.  It has a number of species of waterfowl during breeding and migration, and a diversity of other birds and wildlife.  Moose needed the forest and shoreline for shelter and habitat.

    The Nature Conservancy of Canada also conserved a 61-acre island which has a plant rare to Canada and which is listed as threatened under the Canadian Species at Risk Act.  The location is  Lobster Bay, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia.  Find out more here

    Conservation volunteers do vital work for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, as the video below shows: