Working for birds in Africa

Wader populations decline faster than ever

Date posted: 
Friday, June 5, 2009

According to a new publication by Wetlands International, more than half the populations of waders in Europe, West Asia and Africa are declining at an accelerating rate.

Waders are a group of relatively small waterbirds including species like lapwings, plovers, godwits, curlews and sandpipers. Many of them undertake long distance migrations from their Arctic breeding grounds to wintering areas as far away as Southern Africa. Some concentrate in huge numbers at just a few sites, making these wetlands critical for their survival.

The new ‘Wader Atlas’ is the first comprehensive overview of key site networks for waders in Europe, West Asia and Africa, and the publication highlights a need for better protection of the key wetlands along their flyways, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

The wetlands of the African west coast are under enormous pressures. The sparse water resources in the Sahelian zone are tapped by dams which have turned formerly shallow wetlands into permanently dry lands. Irrigation schemes for growing human population disrupt the water flow in wetlands such as the shrinking Lake Chad. The atlas also outlines that wetlands themselves are often converted to agricultural use - such as in the Tana River Delta in Kenya, which is threatened by conversion to sugar cane plantations.

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