Press Release: Think Pink. Help support the Kamfers Dam Lesser Flamingos

Lesser Flamingos

Aerial view of 2000 adult Lesser Flamingos, assembled on a specially constructed breeding island at Kamfers Dam, Kimberley, South Africa [Photo by Mark D. Anderson]

A unique fundraising exhibition of birdlife-inspired art in support of the Save The Flamingo charity. On Wednesday 23 March 2011 at 7.30pm, an exhibition of new works by Jeremy Houghton inspired by the spectacular Lesser Flamingo will open at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, Kings Road, London, SW3 4SQ. The exhibition will be raising funds in support of the Kamfers Dam wetlands, a conservation project centred on one of the last remaining breeding sites of the increasingly endangered Lesser Flamingo. [read more]

PRESS RELEASE: Local community helps to save seabirds

Cape Town, 29 April 2010: A remarkable partnership has formed to help save albatrosses and other seabirds from extinction. BirdLife South Africa and WWF-SA have pulled together Japanese longline fishermen, plastics and rope manufacturers and a community of challenged people in the coastal village of Ocean View.

streamers-noaa reduced

Saving seabirds from extinction is simpler than it might seem. In the 1980s a Japanese fisherman invented the ‘tori line’, a kind of marine scarecrow. It consists of a 100 m rope flown behind the boat over the baited hooks that are the fatal attraction to birds. Brightly coloured streamers dangle from the rope and scare the birds away. BirdLife South Africa’s Meidad Goren said “These tori lines have reduced seabird
bycatch by up to 80% in some fisheries”.

Continue reading PRESS RELEASE: Local community helps to save seabirds

PRESS RELEASE: Kamfers Dam: on the brink of collapse?

Kimberley may soon lose one of its most well-known attractions as deteriorating water quality and increasing water levels make Kamfers Dam progressively more unsuitable for Lesser Flamingos.

Lesser Flamingos Kamfers Dam

A recent water quality study, conducted by Dr Jan Roos from Water Quality Consultants in Bloemfontein, has found that Kamfers Dam’s water quality has deteriorated significantly during the past year. “The Kamfers Dam aquatic system is under severe pressure because of a massive cyanobacterial (algal) bloom and extreme oscillations in oxygen concentrations, driven by poor water quality”, said Dr Roos.

Not only is the water quality the worst it has ever been, but the water is now at its highest level ever. More than two-thirds of the Lesser Flamingo breeding island remains flooded, and two important railway lines are at risk. “This is a disaster” explained Jahn Hohne, Chairman of the Save the Flamingo Association. “Kimberley is about to lose one of its most important assets and tourist attractions, and the massive displays of thousands of flamingos which greet visitors as they arrive in Kimberley may soon be gone forever”.

According to Dr Roos, the nitrogen, ammonium, fluoride, phosphates of the inflowing sewage water are exceptionally high and way above the allowable Department of Water Affairs standards. “The non-compliance to treatment standards by the Homevale sewerage treatment works is still the biggest problem to ensure an acceptable water quality in Kamfers Dam”, stated Roos in his report. Kamfers Dam is a nutrient enriched system because of an excessive inflow of nutrients (sewage) and consequent high algal biomass. The Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), for example, in the discharge water is very high (206 mg/l) and above the maximum allowable limit of 75 mg/l.

Continue reading PRESS RELEASE: Kamfers Dam: on the brink of collapse?

PRESS RELEASE: Houbara Bustard threat to conservation in South Africa

Conservationists are concerned about the conservation threat of releasing Houbara Bustards into South Africa for hunting purposes.

Houbara Bustard reduced

We, the organizations listed below, react with dismay to the receipt of information suggesting that there is interest in the hunting of Houbara Bustards by means of falcons in South Africa. According to information received, there is intention by Arab falconers to establish a Houbara Bustard breeding facility in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and to release and hunt these bustards with large exotic falcons. We wish to state, in the strongest terms, that we are vehemently opposed to this suggestion.

Continue reading PRESS RELEASE: Houbara Bustard threat to conservation in South Africa

Fiji Petrel sighted at sea

fiji petrel the- tubenoses project copyright h shirihai. 1n7j9177

The elusive Fiji Petrel (Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi) has finally been photographed at sea. This from Birdlife International:

Known from just one specimen collected in 1855 on Gau Island, Fiji, the Fiji Petrel was lost for the next 130 years. Since 1984 there have been a handful of reports of “grounded” birds that had crashed onto village roofs on Gau. Until now there had been no confirmed sightings of the seabird at sea. The search for the elusive petrel is described in a paper in the latest Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club. Up to eight individuals were seen over eleven days in an area around 25 nautical miles south of Gau. The species’ flight, behaviour and detailed comparison to other species are also described for the first time. The paper’s lead author, Hadoram Shirihai, said: “Finding this bird and capturing such images was a fantastic and exhilarating experience”. Fellow expedition member Tony Pym commented, “To see such a little-known bird at such close range was magical.”

Press Release: New population of Northern Shrike-tits discovered in Australia

Northern Shrike Tit by Trevor Colins

Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS) scientists and Yirralka Rangers have found a new population of the threatened bird species, the Northern Shrike-tit, during a recent survey of Laynhapuy Homelands in North-east Arnhem Land. NRETAS research scientist Dr Simon Ward said that it is an exciting find because these rare birds, listed nationally and in the Northern Territory as “vulnerable”, have never been recorded in the region before. “Northern Shrike-tits are small birds, thinly-spread and difficult to see, so we have only about 30 records for them, scattered across the Top End,” Dr Ward said. “Most recent sightings have been in the Katherine region, so it is excellent to find them in Northeast Arnhem Land.” [more here]

New “bald” bulbul species discovered in Laos

Bare-face Bulbul by Iain Woxvold/University of MelbourneThis is most bizarre. Not only has a new bird species to science been discovered, but it has a featherless head! Here’s an extract from the press release:

An odd songbird with a bald head living in a rugged region in Laos has been discovered by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Melbourne.  Dubbed the “Bare-faced Bulbul” because of the lack of feathers on its face and part of its head, it is the only example of a bald songbird in mainland Asia according to scientists. It is the first new species of bulbul – a family of about 130 species – described in Asia in over 100 years.A description of the new species is published in the July issue of the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail. Authors include Iain Woxvold of the University of Melbourne, along with Wildlife Conservation Society researchers Will Duckworth and Rob Timmins. “It’s always exciting to discover a new species, but this one is especially unique because it is the only bald songbird in Asia,” said Colin Poole, director of Asia programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “The discovery also underscores how much there is still to learn from wild places around the world.” [more here]

Citizen scientists hit 1 million species!

Birders by Daniel SchwenSouthern Africa’s citizen scientists have managed to record 1 million bird species in the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (II)  in just two years! Read the full press release here.

Peruvian Amazon rainforests under threat

Andean Cock of the Rock by Snowmanradio

It seems the Peruvian government is trying to change laws to allow the development of large tracts of Amazon rain forest. The government does not appear to be consulting all stakeholders (indigenous people) effectively. Not cool. If you want to sign a petition against this click here.

This just through from

“The Peruvian government has pushed through legislation that could allow extractive and large-scale farming companies to rapidly destroy their Amazon rainforest.

Indigenous peoples have peacefully protested for two months demanding their lawful say in decrees that will contribute to the devastation of the Amazon’s ecology and peoples, and be disastrous for the global climate. But last weekend President Garcia responded: sending in special forces to suppress protests in violent clashes, and labelling the protesters as terrorists.

These indigenous groups are on the frontline of the struggle to protect our earth — Let’s stand with them and call on President Alan Garcia (who is widely known to be sensitive to his international reputation) to immediately stop the violence and open up dialogue. Click below to sign the urgent global petition and a prominent and well-respected Latin-American politician will deliver it to the government on our behalf.

More than 70 per cent of the Peruvian Amazon is now up for grabs. Giant oil and gas companies, like the Anglo-French Perenco and the North Americans ConocoPhillips and Talisman Energy, have already pledged multi-billionaire investments in the region. These extractive industries have a very poor record of bringing benefits to local people and preserving the environment in developing countries – which is why indigenous groups are asking for internationally-recognized rights to consultation on the new laws.

For decades the world and indigenous peoples have watched as extractive industries devastated the rainforest that is home to some and a vital treasure to us all (some climate scientists call the Amazon the “lungs of the planet” – breathing in the carbon emissions that cause global warming and producing oxygen).

The protests in Peru are the biggest yet and the most desperate, we can’t afford to let them fail. Sign the petition, and encourage your friends and family to join us, so we can help bring justice to the indigenous peoples of Peru and prevent further acts of violence from all parties.”

Sign the petition here.

Press release: South Africa’s bustards threatened

Ludwig's Bustard by Hans HillewaertWorld Migratory Bird Day was earlier this month and, as detailed here, the main drive of this event was to highlight the impact that human obstacles are having on migratory species. With migration one tends to only think about the long distance movement of birds, but the local movement of species is equally important. Birdlife South Africa recently sent out a press release about the plight of South Africa’s Bustard species; six out of the ten species that occur in South Africa are listed in the South African Red Data Book!

If you haven’t seen or know what a bustard is then have a quick read of what wiki has to say:

Bustards, including floricans and korhaans, are large terrestrial birds mainly associated with dry open country and steppes in the Old World. They make up the family Otididae (formerly known as Otidae). They were renowned by the ancient Arabs for being unnaturally stupid. Bustards are omnivorous and nest on the ground. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. They have long broad wings with “fingered” wingtips, and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays, such as inflating throat sacs or elevating elaborate feathered crests. The female lays three to five dark, speckled, eggs in a scrape in the ground, and incubates them alone. Bustards are gregarious outside the breeding season, but are very wary and difficult to approach in the open habitats they prefer. [more here]

For some excellent bustard photos take a look at Warwick Tarboton’s website. His pictures of Blue Korhaan (a Korhaan is a small bustard) are superb.

Here’s a portion of the press release from Birdlife South Africa:

South Africa’s bustards are in trouble, with six of the country’s ten species listed in the South African Red Data Book. “They are threatened by a variety of factors”, says Mark Anderson, Executive Director of BirdLife South Africa “…with some of the most important threats being habitat destruction and power-line mortalities”.

BirdLife South Africa is concerned about the precarious conservation status of the country’s bustards and korhaans. At a workshop in Johannesburg in May, the status, threats and necessary conservation measures relevant to these birds were discussed by the country’s bustard experts.

Populations of Ludwig’s Bustard and Denham’s Bustard are probably in decline due to a single mortality factor, collisions with the cables of power-lines. “These birds fly in groups during low light conditions and due to their limited manoeuvrability are not able to avoid electricity cables in their flight path”, says Jon Smallie, Manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) Wildlife Energy Interaction Group (WEIG) and the Eskom-EWT Strategic Partnership. Studies by Mark Anderson and the University of Cape Town’s Dr Andrew Jenkins, have found that, on average across six patrolled sites, about one Ludwig’s Bustard collides per kilometre of power-line per year at these sites. There are approximately 16,000 km of transmission (>132000volts) power-lines criss-crossing the Karoo indicating the potential severity of this problem. The Eskom-EWT Partnership’s Central Incident Register documents no less than 265 confirmed Ludwig’s Bustard mortalities from power-lines. In response, Eskom is currently funding research into bustard collision rates, movement patterns and visual acuity – all critical aspects if we are to mitigate this threat. According to David Allan, ornithologist at the Durban Natural Science Museum and a world authority on the biology of bustards, “The global population of Ludwig’s Bustard has been estimated to only number between 56,000 and 81,000 individuals. The thought that we could be potentially losing them at a rate of over 10,000 birds killed annually by this factor alone is terrifying”. [more here]