Working for birds in Africa


Tue, 02/05/2013 - 13:17 -- abc_admin

Djebel Bent Saidane, Tunisia

Image Credit: 
Hichem Azafzaf

Tunisia has a number of environmental Issues in common with many African countries, such as limited natural fresh water resources, deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion and desertification.

The country is party to a number of international agreements including Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea and Wetlands.

Ichkeul National Park is a Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage and Ramsar site 25 km south-west of Bizerte and has been one of the most important wetlands in the western Mediterranean for huge numbers of passage and wintering waterbirds. The ecology of the lake and marshes has been much altered as a result of the construction of dams, the consequence of which has been a reduction of freshwater inflow and an increase in salt water inflow, and a crash in the number of waterbirds. Various studies have been carried out and a plan put in place to allocate additional fresh water resources.

In January 2003, a search for Slender-billed Curlew Slender-billed Curlews Numenius tenuirostris were found. However, surveys of other waterbirds were carried out and a public awareness campaign was organised.

A five-year study by Mohsen Chammem et al on the status and distribution of Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata in Tunisia undertaken from 1996 to 2001 found that the species is on the verge of extinction in the country. This is due to excessive hunting by foreign falconers, habitat destruction by agricultural expansion, disturbance by livestock, petrol and gas exploration, and inclement climate conditions in an area where the species has taken refuge. Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata is now only found in the extreme south, where it occurs in sub-optimal habitats that are exposed to little human disturbance - see reference (iii).

A two year study of the breeding population of European White Stork Ciconia ciconia has been carried out by Hichem Azafzaf. The population which was initially located in the north-west of the country is now found over nearly the whole northern part of Tunisia (records of the last 5 years). For that reason, particular attention was given to the population trends in order to find out if the new colonies are simply the result of a displacement of breeding pairs from the north-west region or if the phenomenon results from an overall increase of the population. 231 nests with young were censused in 1998 and 303 in 1999. The findings were that the species extended its breeding range towards the east and the south without really increasing its breeding numbers - AZAFZAF, H. (2002).

The 11th Pan-African Ornithological Congress was held at Djerba, Tunisia from 20th to 25th November 2004. The theme was ‘Birds crossing borders — linking people and habitats throughout Africa’.

The Tunisian authorities have announced (2005) that 15 wetlands are to be recognised as Ramsar sites. The total area to be protected comprises more than 750,000 ha and includes salt lakes, swamps, peat bogs, oases and lagoons.

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