The workshop was organised under the framework of a project funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, which aims to sustain and secure capacity for biodiversity conservation in the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa. Extending from Guinea to Togo, this is one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots, with more than 15 endemic bird species.
In a dramatic day in Barcelona, UN officials were forced to step in after 55 African countries, in an unprecedented show of unity, called for a suspension of all further negotiations on the Kyoto protocol until substantial progress was made by rich countries on emission cuts.
Earlier, the UN chair had been forced to abandon two working groups after the Africa group refused to take part.
"In global terms, things continue to get worse – but there are some real conservation success stories this year to give us hope and point the way forward", said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife's Director of Science and Policy. Of the world's 9,998 birds, 137 are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, with 192 Critically Endangered, 362 Endangered and 669 Vulnerable.
Until recently, it was believed the species migrated east through the Mediterranean, then south via the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa to Madagascar, where 70% of the global population is estimated to converge in the winter. However, the new studies used satellite transmitters to show that these birds reach their destination by flying right across the centre of the African continent. Other secrets uncovered include the finding that they migrate by both day and night, crossing huge barriers such as the Sahara Desert.
Three-quarters of the world’s Lesser Flamingo population lives in East Africa, and Lake Natron is by far their most important breeding site. In 2007, the Indian-based multinational company, Lake Natron Resources Ltd., proposed to build a major soda ash extraction plant to exploit the very alkaline water of the lake. Breeding flamingos are very sensitive to disturbance, and quickly abandon their breeding effort. The proposed soda ash plant could, therefore, jeopardise Lesser Flamingo breeding in East Africa.
Some 450 bird species have been recorded in and around Lake Nakuru, including Endangered Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idae, Near Threatened Grey-crested Helmet Shrike Prionops poliolophus and Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus. The site is also key for regionally important numbers of congregatory waterbirds such as Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus, African Spoonbill Platalea alba, Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus and Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus.
Some of the greatest declines of birds in the UK are among migratory songbirds such as Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos and Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata. These species breeding in Europe and migrate to sub-Saharan Africa.
Recent figures suggest that more than 40 per cent of all migratory species passing between Europe and Africa have declined in the last three decades. Alarmingly, one in 10 of these are classified by BirdLife as Globally Threatened or Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
"It legalises the sale of illegally cut and collected wood onto the market (...) and constitutes a legal incentive for further corruption in the forestry sector. " said a communique published locally by WWF, Conservation International (CI) and the World Conservation Society (WCS).
The communique follows a Reuters report quoting Prime minister Monja Roindefo denying that the transitional government was legalising the plundering of forests, but refusing to rule out issuing future licences.
Following the change of government in March this year, all but essential humanitarian aid has been withdrawn by the international community, leaving Madagascar's national park and forestry services with little or no funding. Loggers have moved into the protected areas, stripping the forests of valuable hardwoods such as rosewood, ebony and mahogany. They work for influential business people who are in possession of illegal but "official" documentation permitting them to export these hardwoods.