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Many bird species declining in numbers: BirdLife International

Many of the world’s best-known bird species are now at risk of extinction, according to the State of the World’s Birds, a report issued today by the international conservation organisation, BirdLife International.

The report shows that many of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in dire straits. At least 40 per cent of these species are declining in numbers and one in eight bird species is globally threatened with extinction, it says.

“Although the report provides a sobering update on the state of birds and biodiversity and of the challenges ahead,” says the organisation’s CEO, Patricia Zurita, “it also clearly demonstrates that solutions do exist and that significant, lasting success can be achieved.”

The release of the report coincides with the holding in Abu Dhabi this week of a major conference on bird conservation, ‘A summit for the Flyways’, organised by BirdLife in association with the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia, OSME, the UN Environment Programme’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, CMS, the Swiss-based Mava Foundation and the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD. The conference, which formally opens this evening and runs until Thursday 26th April, is being hosted by the Abu Dhabi-based International Fund for Houbara Conservation, IFHC.

The report notes that many bird species known for being widespread and common are now at risk of extinction. Among species now classified as Globally Endangered is the Egyptian Vulture, a resident in small numbers in the UAE, where it is most commonly seen on Jebel Hafit, while the Eurasian Curlew, which migrates to the UAE in autumn from breeding grounds further north, is classified as Near Threatened.

The report says that the continued deterioration of the world’s birds is “a major concern for the health of our planet.” Birds provide a wide variety of services to the world’s ecosystems, the report notes, such as controlling insect pest populations, and dispersing plant seeds. Vultures, one of the most threatened bird groups, provide crucial sanitary services across South Asia and Africa through the disposal of animal carcasses.

Overall, BirdLife International says, human actions are responsible for most threats to birds. Foremost among these threats are: agricultural expansion and intensification, which impacts 1,091 globally threatened birds (74%); logging, affecting 734 species (50%); invasive alien species, which threaten 578 (39%) species; and hunting and trapping, which put 517 (35%) species at risk. The report warns that climate change represents an emerging and increasingly serious threat currently affecting 33% of globally threatened species and one that often exacerbates existing threats.

Despite the report’s worrying findings, conservation efforts can have an effect, the report says, noting that in recent decades at least 25 species have been saved from extinction.

The report goes on to note that BirdLife is responsible for identifying a network of Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) around the world. A number of such areas have been identified within the United Arab Emirates, with the support of local groups such as the Emirates Bird Records Committee.

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership, with partner organisations in 120 countries and with almost 11 million supporters, 7,000 local conservation groups and 7,400 staff.

Running from 23rd-26th April, the Summit for the Flyways, being launched tonight at a dinner to be addressed by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Thani Al Zeyoudi, and Majid Al Mansouri, managing director of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, brings together key scientists, conservationists, donors and policy influencers from across the world to discuss how best to tackle the threats driving declines among the world’s migratory birds. Among topics to be discussed will be the conservation of the African and Asian houbara and the development of a global action plan for conservation of the saker falcon.

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