BirdLife Species Guardians from Associação de Biólogos Santomenses (ABS, the BirdLife contact NGO in São Tomé and Príncipe) found the hunters whilst carrying out surveys in Monte Carmo in Obô Natural Park, one of the main strongholds for the ibis.
Sadly, the overall rate of rehabilitation of the rescued penguins has been extremely low, with around an 88% mortality rate amongst those birds that were moved to Tristan. This is a much higher mortality than in other oiling incidents, and we hope that lessons can be learned that will improve this figure in any future incidents.
African IBAs cover 2.1 million km2, an area comparable to the extent of African PAs (2.2 million km2). However, PAs in Africa are often sited opportunistically or targeted at charismatic and financially important megafauna, resulting in an inefficient representation of species and habitats within the PA network. Two-thirds of African IBAs support significant populations of globally threatened species.
Evidence of the extent of illegal logging was provided by the local communities around Tsitongambarika, who supplied photographs and video material. Asity Madagascar has been working with these communities to develop sustainable ways of using the forest, which was suffering encroachment from slash-and-burn agriculture.
Lake Natron is the only regular breeding site for Lesser Flamingos in Eastern Africa. The 1.5-2.5 million Lesser Flamingos – which represents three quarters of the world population – breed only at Lake Natron. Food is plentiful, nesting sites abound – and above all, the lake is isolated and undisturbed. The Lake is an Important Bird Area and also a Ramsar Site.
“The penguins were selected from the strongest ones, with no visible oil on their outer plumage,” reports Trevor Glass Tristan da Cunha Conservation Officer. “Of the many tested to see if they were ready for release, only 24 had perfectly waterproof plumage.”
The Kinangop grasslands are also a crucial habitat for hundreds of thousands of European birds that migrate to Africa every winter – from Barn Swallows, Common Swifts and House Martins, to Northern Wheatears, Common Quails and Pallid Harriers. The disappearance of this habitat could have a devastating impact on the birds that Europeans consider to be ‘our’ summer birds.
Local conservationists, volunteers and now experts from the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds have been working tirelessly to help the threatened birds. Almost 500 penguins are already in a rehab shed where a team has begun efforts to stabilise them with fluid, vitamins and charcoal to absorb ingested oil. Another 500 penguins arrived on a rescue boat late last night and a further 500 are awaiting transport to Tristan for the same treatment.
It was thought at first that the environmental threat was small but the ship has subsequently broken up causing penguins and other seabirds to be oiled. Oil from the stricken MS Oliva stretches eight miles offshore and is more or less around the whole island. The slick ranges from thin films of oil, small balls and larger clumps of tar with the smell of diesel everywhere.
These funds (£242,000) will be used by the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, the BirdLife Partner in the country, to work with local communities to reduce the impact of over-grazing livestock and prevent conversion of the land to arable farming. Helping the grasslands recover will benefit both the lark and the pastoralists living there.