Young conservationists’ awards for helping birds

This video says about itself:

Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa Finalist: Cosmas Mumba

2 December 2015

Cosmas shows great passion and commitment in his work at the Zambia Primate Project rescuing primates and through his dedication has personally developed an exemplary primate release programme. Despite humble beginnings and a general lack of recognition, he has achieved remarkable success and progress in his chosen field. He is an unsung hero and serves as a role model to other indigenous African would-be conservationists.

From BirdLife:

11 Apr 2017

7 projects led by young conservationists that are changing the avian world

Today winners have been announced for CLP and Birdfair project awards, all initiatives led by young conservationists. Discover their inspiring work in this roundup.

By Billy Fairburn & Charlotte Klinting

BirdLife is actively working to support young people in conservation through two separate programmes: the BirdLife/Birdfair Young Conservation Leaders and the Conservation Leadership Programme. We are pleased to announce the final projects selected for the 2017 awards!

Through the awards, the teams enter a process of valuable capacity development, with access to expert advice, establishing collaboration partnerships, and teams are invited to attend a 2-week training course on managing conservation projects.

The winners of the BirdLife/Birdfair grants will also benefit from being part of the CLP Alumni network, which comprises more than 2500 people, many of whom continue to contribute to conservation in their various fields. By being part of this network, more funding and training opportunities also open up to the grantees, e.g. a writing skills course, fundraising and leadership training, additional travel grants, and more.

BirdLife/Birdfair Young Conservation Leaders winners

Saving vultures in Nigeria

Vulture numbers are plummeting across Africa, with some populations in West Africa having lost 99% of their former numbers. A team of young conservation leaders from the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (BirdLife in Nigeria) are setting out to stem the decline in Gashaka-Gumti National Park.

They are gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes of the declines of vultures and other raptors at this Important Bird Area in Danger, and raising awareness in surrounding communities through a conservation soccer tournament.

Safeguarding wetlands in Rwanda

In Rwanda, Akanyaru and Nyabarongo wetlands are unprotected Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Danger, under increasing pressure from unplanned agricultural intensification and expansion. This is leading to wetland degradation and biodiversity loss. A team from Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda (BirdLife in Rwanda) are seeking to raise awareness, build capacity and inform national policy for wetlands management.

The team will map the current status of the two wetland sites, train local stakeholders in IBA monitoring techniques, and work with decision-makers in Rwanda to ensure their findings inform the sustainable management of Nyabarongo and Akanyaru wetlands. The team leader Gilbert Micomyiza said: “We truly believe that his award is a valuable support to our career as young conservationists and will surely contribute to sustainable conservation of the two IBAs in Danger in Rwanda”.

A clean slate for the Slaty Egret

The Slaty Egret Egretta vinaceigula (Vulnerable) is a Southern African Endemic bird, with a global population of just 3,000 to 5,000 individuals – the majority of which breed are known to breed in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. However, there are promising signs that the Slaty Egret also breeds in neighbouring Zambia, with large flocks often seen at some sites with recently fledged juveniles.

One such site is the Barotse floodplain (an Important Bird Area) where a team of early-career conservationists from Birdwatch Zambia (BirdLife in Zambia) is aiming to definitively prove that egrets are breeding. If they are successful, then their findings will have important implications for the management of the site.

Conservation Leadership Programme 2017 Award winners

This year additional funding from the Global Trees Campaign and Arcadia’s marine fund have enabled CLP to ensure the presence of marine and plant projects among the selected.

“This year we have projects ranging from marmosets to murrelets, from aquatic ecosystems in India’s Eastern Ghats to the Atlantic Forest, and from Borneo to the Black Sea, the spectrum of species and habitats – and the geographical spread of projects – are remarkably diverse. Our award winners will be conducting research into river tigers and reefs, red-handed howlers and helmeted hornbills, and delving deeper into the domains of diving ducks, dolphins and dragon trees“, said the CLP Awards Announcement.

The following are only the winners working on bird conservation. Discover the full list of projects here.

Velvet Scoter conservation in Georgia

The project on “Conservation of Velvet Scoter on Tabatskuri Lake in Georgia” focuses on the Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca, listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and only found at this particular lake as a result of population reduction from overfishing, habitat destruction and illegal hunting.

This project aims to gain detailed information on its spatial distribution, its population size and breeding success based on which to provide objective recommendations to the stakeholders for conservation. The result of the project will provide a base for restoration and protection of Velvet Scoter populations in Georgia. Read more…

Advancing Hornbill conservation in Malaysia

In Malaysia, a project on “Conservation of Bornean Hornbills” aims to create nest boxes and restore natural tree cavities for the hornbills, as they are secondary hole-nesters and do not create these cavities themselves. This work will take place within Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, contributing to habitat restoration.

The team leader, Ravinder Kaur, had a moving message upon hearing the news: “Words failed me at that moment when I read the email, and instead, I reacted by tapping my team mate’s shoulder incessantly while pointing at the email. Truly our proudest moment. This is a great opportunity to advance our careers and hornbill conservation in Malaysia”. Read more…

A restoration plan for Craveri’s Murrelet

In Mexico, invasive mammals are threatening the Craveri’s Murrelet Synthliboramphus craveri (Vulnerable) on the islands where this small seabird comes to breed, which has caused colony extirpation in some areas. The objective of this project is to assess the breeding status of the species and identify the presence of invasive mammals on historical and potential breeding islands.

It will also focus on biosecurity to protect against the introduction of invasive species and create a restoration plan. Read more…

Learning more about the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Lastly, our very own Spoonie is also being supported by the CLP awards; in the Leizhou Peninsula in China, where a small percentage of the global population of Spoon-Billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (Critically Endangered) come to winter.

The project aims to establish knowledge of their wintering ecology, distribution and population in this particular area and evaluate the potential risks to Spoonie, as well as reaching out to local communities. Read more…

What’s next for young conservationists?

CLP continues to fund internships within BirdLife to support young people’s professional development and the call for next application round for the Team Awards will go out in the autumn.

Looking to 2018, Birdfair funding will enable BirdLife to support three projects to protect Important Bird Areas in the Pacific.

The Young Conservation Leaders Awards programme has been further strengthened with support from the Jensen Foundation, allowing us to also support the conservation leaders of the future in Asia in 2018.

Saving African penguins

This 2012 video from South Africa is called African Penguins at Boulders Beach, Cape Town.

From BirdLife:

10 Apr 2017

Saving Africa’s only native penguin species

Africa’s only native penguin species is inching towards extinction due to local food shortages. Conservationists are now trying to reconnect penguin and prey.

Penguin: the word elicits images of snowy landscapes, icebergs and tightly huddled groups of penguins bracing the harshest of elements. One penguin species that bucks this cold climate trend is the hardy African Penguin Spheniscus demersus, found only on the south-western tip of Africa, in South Africa and Namibia. This species is adapted to warmer subtropical environments, often having to survive temperatures of over 30° C, likely never to see snow or ice.

The African Penguin population, once numbering in the millions, has been reduced to just 1% of its size in the 1900s. Historical egg collecting between 1900 and 1930 resulted in the removal of a staggering 13 million eggs from southern African islands. At the same time, the “white gold rush” for guano, harvested for fertiliser resulted in widespread habitat alteration.

In the space of just a few decades, the guano that had accumulated over thousands of years was removed. Instead of making well-insulated burrows in the guano, penguins are now forced to nest on the surface at most colonies, leaving eggs and chicks exposed to the elements and predation. By the time these two devastating practices were halted in the 1960s, the penguin population had been reduced to just 300,000 breeding birds.

Shortly thereafter a new threat appeared in the form of industrialised fishing for sardine – the African penguin‘s preferred prey. With the advent of new technologies, fish catches increased to never-before-seen levels. Just 20 years later, the sardine fishery had collapsed. Despite expectations that fishing would be forced to slow down, attentions instead shifted to the smaller, less profitable anchovy, the alternate prey available to the penguins.

Growing penguin chicks need a diet very high in lipids – something that sardine and anchovy provide. Not dissimilar to humans, research suggests that when seabird chicks are fed on lower quality “junk food”, they are slower to develop and can experience decreased cognitive ability, making it harder for the young birds to find food once they have fledged.

As if conditions for the penguins weren’t bad enough, in the 1990s the remaining sardine and anchovy fish shocks started shifting away from their areas of historical abundance. “Because breeding penguins are limited to a 40 km radius from attention-needing nests and chicks, the bulk of the fish have now shifted out of reach of the penguins”, explains Dr Ross Wanless, Seabird Division Manager at BirdLife South Africa.

Scientists aren’t sure what has caused this shift in distribution but it is likely that both climate change and high levels of fishing on the west coast have played a part. To counter this change in distribution, a novel and innovative project was started to investigate whether new penguin colonies can be established in the areas of high fish abundance.

“Extinct colonies of seabirds have been re-established for flying seabirds, such as the Atlantic Puffin in Maine and several species of petrel from New Zealand, but it has only been attempted once for a penguin species, and never for African Penguins”, says Wanless.

“This project has the potential to increase the penguin population and provide “insurance” by increasing the number of colonies, reducing vulnerability to catastrophic events.” BirdLife South Africa, with the support of several other local and international organisations, has identified two sites at which to attempt the establishment of penguin colonies.

“We’ve decided first to re-establish a colony which started naturally in 2003 but was prevented from taking hold due to predation by terrestrial predators”, says Wanless. By setting up an effective predator-proof fence we plan to avoid that happening again.” Decoys and the playing of penguin calls will be used to attract birds in from sea and just-fledged chicks will be moved to the new areas to encourage them to return there to breed.

Once penguins start breeding in a colony they return there year after year – a trait which helps them find the same mate again – which is why young chicks need to be encouraged to breed at the new sites, before they chose somewhere else. “The aim of the new colonies is to assist penguins to move to these relatively new regions of high food availability.

While this process could occur naturally over several hundreds of years, we need to help it happen faster”, says Wanless. African Penguins also face a number of other threats, from predation to oil spills to the lack of nesting habitat, and there are conservation interventions in place to address these. Artificial nest boxes are provided to improve breeding success and rehabilitation centres have been set up to care for oiled and injured birds.

“But a lack of food remains the biggest challenge”, says Dr Taryn Morris, Coastal Seabirds Conservation Manager at BirdLife South Africa. “Our focus is on driving protection of their feeding grounds and working with fisheries and government to ensure the ecosystem needs are taken into account.”

The African Penguin is facing an uncertain future but there is a group of dedicated organisations and passionate individuals who are working to ensure the survival of the species. But by moving penguins closer to their food and trying to ensure there are more fish in the sea, we hope tip the balance in their favour.

Western Bonelli’s warbler video

This is a western Bonelli’s warbler video.

These south European birds spend the winter in Africa.

Kill African child soldiers, Canadian general says

This video from the USA says about itself:

World News: Somalia’s Child Soldiers | The New York Times

14 June 2010

More and more children are being recruited to become soldiers by Somalia’s transitional government, which is partially funded by the U.S. taxpayer. Some of them are as young as nine years old.

By Laurent Lafrance in Canada:

Canadian Armed Forces’ document calls for “heavier weapons” to confront child soldiers in Africa

25 March 2017

A Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) directive, published at the beginning of the month, calls on the military to better prepare personnel—both psychologically and in terms of equipment—to confront child soldiers. The paper has been prepared as Canada’s Liberal government prepares to send hundreds of troops to Africa to participate in counter-insurgency operations.

The “joint doctrine note,” drafted in collaboration with Roméo Dallaire, a retired CAF Lieutenant-General and well-known proponent of “humanitarian” military interventions who served in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, is the first time the Canadian military has produced a document specifically outlining strategic guidelines concerning child soldiers.

The document begins by warning that “Encounters with child soldiers during operations can have significant psychological impacts for the personnel involved” and that Canadian soldiers “must be prepared for the possibility they will have to engage child soldiers with deadly force to defend themselves or others,” i.e. to kill them.

The directive then explains that troops are likely to face child soldiers “on an increasing basis” in future UN or NATO-led missions. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 300,000 child soldiers—recruited as suicide bombers, fighters, spies, manual labourers or sex slaves—are involved in conflicts around the world. They are widely used in African countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Mali.

In the case of Mali, the children’s rights group Humanium reported in 2014 that children make up more than half of the country’s population and that “their recruitment has been coupled with the destruction and closure of schools” resulting from the bloody war that has raged in the country between Islamist forces and the US and French-backed Malian government since 2012.

But the directive argues the Canadian Army should not be disturbed by such a reality and, on the contrary, should respond with more brutality. Dallaire declared, “These kids are under duress, a lot of them are drugged up, a lot of them are indoctrinated … You may in certain circumstances still have to use lethal force.” Dallaire went on to say, “Pulling away … has been so much the norm and gives the advantage to the guy who is recruiting these kids.”

The document also underlines that if soldiers are not sufficiently armed they could be vulnerable to “human wave attacks” using child soldiers, i.e. frontal assaults where the target is overrun. It therefore concludes that “consideration should be given” to providing Canadian troops with “heavier,” i.e. more deadly, weapons.

The doctrine says child soldiers taken prisoner should be handled differently from adult combatants, such as by placing “greater focus on rehabilitation.” The real concern of the ruling class and the military brass, however, is not the fate of the child soldiers, but the potential loss of Western troops and fears that the Canadian military’s implication in atrocities will fuel antiwar sentiment at home.

“What caught a lot of these guys by surprise—the Dutch, the Germans and the Italians and the Chadians—in Mali was they were facing these Boko Haram kids and they didn’t know what the hell to do,” said Dallaire.

While government officials have not yet confirmed where the next Canadian deployment to Africa will be, Mali is high on the list of potential locations. France has been pressuring Canada for military support in Western Africa, including in Mali, where France, the United States and Germany are seeking to eradicate Islamist rebels they themselves armed and financed back in 2011 to oust Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

The UN had held open command of its “peacekeeping mission” in Mali for a Canadian officer, but the UN planners, impatient and uncertain about Canada’s involvement, recently announced that Maj.-Gen. Jean-Paul Deconinck of Belgium will take over.

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has made two separate trips to Mali in the last year. An anonymous source recently told the Toronto Star that personnel from the Defence Department and Global Affairs Canada have made “non-stop” visits to the African country in recent months. The most recent visit came several weeks ago when officials attached to the newly formed Peace and Stabilization Operations Program in Global Affairs Canada spent several days in Bamako.

One of the reasons for the delay in finalizing a new Canadian military intervention in Africa is that the Trudeau government wanted to make sure the Trump administration approved of the deployment. According to the Globe and Mail, the Trump administration has now given the “green light” to Canada to dispatch troops to Mali. However, the Trudeau government, which seeks to camouflage an aggressive imperialist foreign policy in “humanitarian” rhetoric, has become concerned that the CAF’s implication in atrocities that involve children will alienate the population, expose the real, imperialist character of such “peace-keeping” missions, and undermine it plans to hike overall Canadian military spending.

As the CAF directive notes, if an engagement with child soldiers “is not well-handled, and communicated effectively, there is strong potential for significant negative impact on the mission, locally, in Canada, and at the international level.”

The Liberals are also concerned over how to sell to the public a combat mission that will likely involve a high number of civilian and Canadian casualties —more than 110 UN “peacekeeping” troops have been killed in Mali during the past four years—and one that is likely to prove only the prelude to a far broader military adventure across the region.

The intervention in Mali, where 13,000 troops and 2,000 police from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and various other countries are active, is being conducted under the United Nations umbrella. But it is also part of the broader French-led Operation Barkhane, which includes missions in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger.

Although the various African missions, whether under the banner of the UN, France, or the US-led AFRICOM, are presented as counter-terrorism or even peace-keeping missions, they are part of a new scramble for Africa, in which the major powers are seeking to gain control over resources, markets and strategic countries.

Canadian imperialism is determined to have its share of the spoils. Canadian businesses, most of all the mining companies, have billions of dollars in investment throughout Africa and are eager to see the CAF increase its presence on the continent. The Canadian Army has been increasingly involved in West Africa. In 2011, Canadian Special Forces began attending the annual US-led Operation Flintlock exercise in West Africa, which brings together Special Forces from a number of neighbouring countries to undergo training.

When France sent troops to Mali in 2013, Canadian military transport planes were sent to ferry in French weaponry and supplies. The Liberal government agreed to similar assistance following its election in 2015.

A small contingent of 25 Canadian soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, based in the French-speaking province of Quebec, will soon take part in a revamped Canadian Armed Forces’ mission to train security forces in Niger, which shares a border with Mali. These new forces will take over from an ongoing deployment, known as Operation Naberius, that was kept secret for almost three years and involved Canadian Special Forces providing similar training.

To fund increased military deployments, the Trudeau government is significantly hiking military spending. In its first budget it maintained the commitment of its Conservative predecessors to increase defence spending by 3 percent annually for a decade. More recently, it has repeatedly signaled, including in Wednesday’s budget, that bigger increases, aimed at moving Canada far closer to the NATO goal of a military budget equivalent to at least 2 percent of GDP, will be announced once the Liberals complete a year-long “defence policy review.”

White-crowned wheatear on video

This is a white-crowned wheatear video.

This bird of North Africa and the Arab peninsula comes rarely to Western Europe.

I was privileged to see this species in Morocco.