Ugandan wetland shoebill homes in danger


This video is of a shoebill in a zoo.

This is a video of a shoebill in African nature.

From New Vision in Uganda:

Uganda: Destruction of Wetlands Has Endangered the Shoebill

New Vision (Kampala)

24 June 2007

John Kasozi

The continued destruction of wetlands and capture for trade has dealt a severe blow to the shoebill. The shoebill’s breeding nature – two eggs in five years – may make its population never recover unless their breeding places are tightly protected.

“In 1990, Wetlands International counted 600 shoebills in Uganda, but in 1998 when Nature Uganda did the recounting, they recorded only about 250 shoebills,” said Achilles Byaruhanga, the executive director of Nature Uganda.

The major stronghold of the shoebills in Uganda is the Lake Kyoga sudds. Other wetlands with shoebills include Mabamba, Lutembe, Sango Bay, Nabugabo, Murchison Falls, Nabajjuzi and areas around Lake George.

All birds have a tendency to move around the Lake Victoria wetlands that are interconnected. The world population for the shoebill is estimated at about 6,000. Southern Sudan is believed to have the biggest shoebill population in the world because of the large expanses of wetland sudds.

There are plans to carry proper studies in future after the region has stabilised. The shoebill lives, feeds and breeds in deep remote marshes. It also breeds in wetland sudds. It feeds on mainly lungfish and tilapia [see also here and here]. Mabamba wetlands, one of the sites where the shoebill is found, are located in Kasanje sub-county, Wakiso district along the shores of Lake Victoria. …

The wetlands are also an important bird area. Over 190 bird species exist in the wetlands. Mabamba’s system supports more than 75% of the population of migratory globally vulnerable bird species like the blue swallows, kingfisher, African jacana and African fish eagle.

The marshes are also breeding grounds for fish except the Nile perch. In addition, the system supports a high diversity of plant species and over 200 butterfly species have been recorded in Mabamba.

Released: a conservation plan for the Shoebill, king of the marshes: here.

10 thoughts on “Ugandan wetland shoebill homes in danger

  1. Kenya: Evolution Caught in the Act

    The Nation (Nairobi)

    6 October 2008
    Posted to the web 7 October 2008

    Gatonye Gathura And Cosmas Butunyi
    Nairobi

    In what could be a first in the world, scientists have caught evolution in the act of creating a new species in Lake Victoria as animals and plants try to cope with increased pollution and the effects of climate change.

    The scientists have tabled evidence indicating that it is not pollution and over-fishing alone that are responsible for the disappearance of some fish species in Lake Victoria and the evolving of others like the cichlid into new species.

    Researchers from Tokyo’s Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology have observed the cichlid, also called Pundamilia nyererei, evolve into a new species better adapted in sighting its prey and predator.

    In a study published in the journal Nature last Tuesday, the researchers say this explains the very rapid loss of pundamilia in Lake Victoria over the past 30 years, falling by half from 500.

    Researchers looked at two species, conspicuous by their red or blue colours. They determined through lab experiments that certain genetic mutations helped some fish adapt their vision at deeper levels to see the colour red and others in shallower water to recognise shades of blue.

    The researchers showed that the eyes have adapted to this difference so that fish that live in deeper water have a pigment in their eyes that is more sensitive to red light, while shallow-water fish were sensitive to blue. The study says the eye adaptations have also affected mating patterns.

    In clear waters, the study says, the colour that appears brighter shifts from red to blue gradually with depth, and red and blue fish stick to their zones, cementing their genetic differences.

    In murky waters, the transition from red to blue happens much quicker and blue and red fish sometimes interbreed, destroying species differences.

    Drastic fall

    Local researchers at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemfri), say surface water temperatures at the lake have been rising, resulting in a drastic fall in dissolved oxygen.

    “The water temperatures are higher than they were 10 years ago,” says Dr John Gichuki, Kemfri director at Kisumu.

    Apart from an overall reduction in the water in the lake, the researchers say, the strength and pattern of the winds have also changed. Normally, the lake’s water is turned by the wind twice a year, injecting oxygen into the water. “This has not been the case recently,” Dr Gichuki says.

    The winds are not strong enough, resulting in water at the bottom remaining unturned, restricting the entry of oxygen.

    The available oxygen is eventually used up and fish that are not tolerant to the new conditions flee the “dead zones” to the top layers, where they are easy prey.

    The effects of climate change are being reflected in the fish composition and densities, according to Dr Jembe Tsuma, another researcher at Kemfri.

    While Nile Perch, which requires high oxygen conditions, has been on the decline, there has been a resurgence of species which are tolerant to low oxygen conditions, but have a low commercial value.

    Must change

    “The mud fish now accounts for over 20 per cent of the fish landings in the Nyanza Gulf,” Dr Tsuma explains.ecent surveys found that 2.93 tonnes of Nile Perch are landed per square kilometre, down from 11.08 four years ago.

    As the fish evolve, researchers say the fisher folk communities must also change. “Due to higher temperatures, there is increased water loss and lower lake levels, thus reducing productivity,” says Ms Marisa Goulden, a researcher at the Tyndall Centre of the University of East Anglia.

    This comes in the wake of another startling revelation that tonnes of water hyacinth and hippo grass are decomposing at the bottom of Lake Victoria.

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  2. The East African (Nairobi)

    East Africa: Zoos Paying Top Dollar to Buy Threatened Shoebills

    Halima Abdallah

    26 April 2010

    Nairobi — The rising demand for the shoebill by zoos across the world that has made it the most expensive birds in the world now threatens the species with extinction.

    Due to threats to its existence, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species discourages trade on the bird, but the high prices put on the bird is even more tempting.

    Conservationists are concerned that the high prices will only serve to encourage the capture of the birds for sale to zoos globally.

    “Just to help sneak them out of Uganda, one can be paid $20,000 even before the bird reaches its final destination. This is one of the most preferred birds in zoo trade and if nothing is done they are bound to disappear in the next 25 years,” Nature Uganda director Achiles Byaruhanga said.Nature Uganda is a non governmental organisation working on the conservation of Uganda’s birds.

    Although native to Africa, the birds have been sighted at VogePark Walsrode zoo in Germany. Shoebill (balaeniceps rex), also known as whale head, derives its name from its massive shoe shaped bill. It is a tall wading bird, long legs, broad wings and muscular head. It is greyish and has sharp eyelids. Its unique features and characteristics make the bird more attractive to bird lovers and zoos. Indeed the shoebill has baffled the taxonomists over its affinities: it shows the similarities to stork, pelican, and herons in some respect yet remaining different in others.

    Globally shoebills are estimated to be around 6,000; about 600 of them found in Uganda.The East African country attaches economic value to the shoebills as part of the ecotourism circuit for, unlike other countries, it is the only place where it is easy to see the shoebill in the wild.

    Conservationists are optimistic that if the shoebill is well promoted alongside 1,040 other birds’ species in the country, bird watching alone can bring an estimated $80 million annually. Globally bird watching has a potential of raising $40 billion.

    Habitat

    The birds are found in large swamp in Uganda and Kigosi swamp in western Tanzania. In Sudan they are found in transitional zones where slow deep water shift down channel and through lagoons to lower lake and where fish concentrate.

    In Zambia, they are found in the Akavango Delta. The birds can also survive in Rwanda, Malawi and Kenya. It lives in muddy water, preying on lung fish, frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles, rats and young crocodiles. It usually feeds at night by ambush. The sharp beak grips and crushes its prey.

    The birds are also threatened by human activities like farming in wetlands, development or burning. In some communities around Lake Kyoga, an area boasting the highest concentration of shoebill in the country, fishermen believe it is a bad omen to meet a shoebill before a fishing expedition, so they kill them.

    Shoebill breeding coincides with the start of the dry season, when human activities in the mashes like burning or collecting papyrus reeds is at its peak. This eventually contributes to the disturbances or destruction of the laid eggs.

    Unfortunately, the shoebill has a slow reproduction rate with a bird laying between two to three eggs in a breeding season while it takes three to four years before the young birds reach reproduction age.

    Although the birds live longer in captivity — up to 36 years — they rarely breed there.The shoebill does not flock and only when food is scarce will they forage near each other. Often the male and the female of breeding pair will forage on opposite sides of their territory. They are non migratory as long as good foraging condition exist.

    Bird-Life International has classified it as vulnerable and conservationists are calling for countries to declare shoebill habitats protected areas as marches get increasingly destroyed.

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