November 3, 2010

SOUTH AFRICAN BIRDS IN TROUBLE

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species ranks plants and animals according to threat levels and risk of extinction, thus providing an indication of biodiversity loss. This has become a key tool used by scientists and conservationists to determine which species are most urgently in need of conservation attention, both on a regional and global scale, thus guiding the work of governmental conservation departments and environmental NGOs.


In South Africa, a number of birds are listed on the IUCN Red List, with several heading for extinction should some of the threats continue and should the NGOs who are implementing conservation action halt their important work.

The Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus is the most severely threatened crane on the African continent. Recent surveys in Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, countries long thought to be strongholds for the Wattled Crane, show that the global population is only half of what has been reported in recent years. Some of the greatest losses have occurred in South Africa, where a 38% decline between 1980 and 2000 left the national population Critically Endangered. Only about 250 individuals remain in South Africa, mostly concentrated in isolated pockets of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. Kerryn Morrison of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s African Crane Conservation Programme says, “G enetic diversity studies indicate that this sub-population is genetically different from populations in other regions of Africa, making Wattled Crane conservation urgent in South Africa.” The programme works with local communities to protect the wetland habitat of this species. Through this work both the cranes and the communities benefit, as wetlands provide resources and services to these communities in the form of clean drinking water, reeds for crafts, medicinal plants and fertile land in which to grow crops.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is one of the most signed onto treaties in the world, and deals with the need to sustain the rich diversity of life on Earth. In 2002 the CBD adopted the 2010 Biodiversity Target, an international commitment to reduce biodiversity decline by 2010. However, the Target was never met. The impacts on livelihoods, human health, economies and our way of life will be severe if we do not quickly correct this situation.
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