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Following the change of government in March this year, all but essential humanitarian aid has been withdrawn by the international community, leaving Madagascar's national park and forestry services with little or no funding.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.
The Lake Qarun Protected Area LCG/SSG was established by Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE; BirdLife Affiliate) in 2008, with a grant from the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation.
The lake occupies the deepest part of the Fayoum Depression, more than 40 metres below sea level. Once a large body of fresh water supporting Nilotic flora and fauna, the lake now receives almost all its water as drainage from irrigated land. As a result, and because the only ‘outflow’ is via evaporation, levels of salinity have been steadily increasing. The lake is now slightly more salty than seawater.
The project, subtitled ‘Linking African children to the global conservation community - for the benefit of nature and people’, combines biodiversity conservation with education and sustainable development initiatives, and uses bird conservation to help bridge the digital divide in Africa.
This comes against a backdrop of recent reports of problems facing vultures in Africa and the ongoing ones in Asia. Across the Indian subcontinent, populations of three formerly very common species of vulture have declined by more than 97% as a result of consuming cattle carcasses contaminated with the veterinary drug diclofenac.