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Participants during birdwatching contest in El Sunt Forest Reserve © SWS

Safe skies for migratory birds in Sudan

By Ibrahim M. Hashim/Sudanese Wildlife Society

The Sudanese Wildlife Society (SWS) held a one day workshop to mark World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) on 23rd May 2016  that was hosted by the Wildlife Conservation General Authority (WCGA). This year’s theme on ‘ …. and when the skies fall silent? Stop the illegal killing, taking and trade’ guided the discussions. Sixty-one participants drawn from Universities, Sudanese Electricity Transmission Company, Wildlife Research Center, the Sudan Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR), the media, wildlife conservation officers and members of SWS attended the workshop. Personnel from the security agency were also not left out. The main issues discussed during the workshop included: unsustainable bird hunting, conservation and exploitation of migratory birds in Sudan, the impact of climate change on migratory birds and the role of media in conservation of migratory birds and wildlife.

During the workshop, the Representative from the Ministry of Tourism Antiques and Wildlife, His Excellency Hafiz Aljack praised the work between SWS and Sudanese Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (SETD) to mainstream migratory soaring birds in the national development plans. He further highlighted on the historical background of bird migration and its direct and indirect economic benefits, the related international conventions and agreements that Sudan is party to such as the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), and finally efforts being made to declare Umjar Wetland as a protected area.

In her remarks, the representative of the HCENR, Dr. Khatmia Al Awad congratulated SWS for organizing the event and WCGA for hosting it. Dr. Al Wad emphasized on the ecological role played by birds as well as the economic benefits. She also pointed out on the declining number of birds due to illegal hunting and habitat loss, and enquired about the effectiveness of wildlife laws in protecting birds. She also highlighted on the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets and specifically 11 and 12 that focus on maintaining well connected systems of protected areas and preventing extinction of threatened species.

Mrs. Hadia Sabah Elkhair, a journalist from the Al Ray Alaam daily stressed on the role of the media to increase awareness on importance of  birds and dangers of unregulated hunting in Sudan. She further stressed on the need to have media, government agencies such as WCGA, local communities, and other stakeholders to work together  to promote conservation of migratory birds beyond the WMBD celebrations as well as adequately address illegal hunting. Mrs Hadia also  called for a workshop bringing together media professionals to enlighten them more on the problems facing migratory birds so as to assist them follow up on progress in regard to implementation of laws regarding protection and conservation of birds in Sudan.

On his part, the President of SWS, Professor Ibrahim Hashim said the event also served as an appropriate platform to also educate staff from the security agency on their role in regard to protection of birds. He urged them to stop shooting birds especially those that have rings attached on their legs as they are only meant for scientific studies and in no way pose a security threat. Local communities have also been reported to shoot birds once they spot the ones with ‘strange’ (rings or tags) objects on them. The shot birds are then taken to the security agency hoping to receive an incentive not knowing they are contributing to the decline of the birds.

Other than the workshop, a birdwatching contest was held that attracted photographers, university students and ornithologists. The birdwatching contest took place at El Sunt Forest Reserve where birds were recorded and photos taken. Presentations from the contest were made at the end of the workshop and a photo exhibition followed thereafter. Professional photographers had their photos showcased from which issues such as illegal hunting, shooting of ringed birds by local communities and the aesthetic value of migratory birds were brought to the attention of the all those who attended.

The President of SWS was thankful to BirdLife International, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and UNEP-AEWA Secretariat in Germany for the support towards the WMBD celebrations in Sudan. 

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