Working for birds in Africa


Mon, 01/21/2013 - 13:31 -- abc_admin

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis adult male, Sokolo, Mali

Image Credit: 
Mary Crickmore

Drought in Mali since the early 1970s has exacerbated environmental degradation. Population pressures have led to depletion of many wooded areas to supply fuel for cooking and forage for goats. Malian law bans the cutting of live trees without special use permits, but the government has been unable to enforce this. Much wood is collected by subsistence farmers who sell it or make it into charcoal for transport to the cities. Furthermore, it is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 hectares per year are cleared for cultivation.

Hunting was traditionally the profession of a guild of initiates, but with advent of firearms everyone can hunt. The taking of animals, birds, and fish is regulated by law on paper but in practice happens without control. Both antelope and large birds such as bustards and ostriches have been extirpated in many areas. Bush fires also are prohibited, but are intentionally set in numerous places.

The Malian government has a system of classified forests in which use is specially regulated. These areas do seem to fare much better in comparison to others. There are also many tree-planting projects supported by various international organisations, and stands of Eucalyptus are visible near many villages. In addition, many development aid agencies in the country are trying to promote sustainable agro-forestry and use of wood-conserving stoves.

The African Bird Club made an award in 2004 for the study of the dry evergreen forests of Mali. The study was aimed at exploring in detail the riparian forests of the south to examine the status of a number of globally threatened and other species.

Conservation News

12th January 2006: Mali trade flitting away as ban looms

For these caged Senegalese Parrots, chirping away their morning in captivity, a European ban to combat an Asian virus may mean freedom or starvation.

In late October, a quarantined parrot from South America died in the United Kingdom from H51N strain of the avian bird influenza, prompting the European Union to impose a blanket prohibition on the importation of all exotic birds.

The temporary ban has shuttered the bird export industry in some of Africa's poorest countries, forcing traders here in Bamako to choose between feeding birds they might never sell, or letting their investment fly away.

The temporary ban was set to expire Jan. 31, and European experts were to meet today to discuss extending it. "A permanent ban is not foreseen for the moment," Haravgi-Nina Papadoulaki, a European Commission press officer, said this week.

Along the banks of the Niger River, the birds are so thick that dozens can be captured in a morning with nothing more than a simple net and the patience and quick wrists of men who have been catching birds for several generations.

Wending its way from a coastal jungle to a fertile savannah and finally to the Sahara before dipping south again, the Niger River makes Mali one of the most bio-diverse and bird-rich countries in Africa.

Mary Crickmore, a development officer with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Bamako, said the import ban had an immediate impact on the livelihood of both the urban exporters and the men in the field who catch the birds.

"From a development standpoint, you never want to do something this abrupt. There's a ripple effect, and all their families are hurt," she said.

However, as an active member of the African Bird Club who has identified over 500 birds in Mali, she said she supported the ban, although she doubted the trade had much effect on the bird population.

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