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Saturday, 12 May 2007
Birds 'starve' at S Korea wetland
A dead spoonbilled sandpiper on the dried-out Saemangeum wetlands

Fewer than 1,000 spoonbilled sandpipers remain in the wild

Photo: Nial Moores
A dead spoonbilled sandpiper on the dried-out Saemangeum wetlands
Fewer than 1,000 spoonbilled sandpipers remain in the wild
Tens of thousands of migratory birds are facing starvation in South Korea, the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says.
The group says a land reclamation project has destroyed key wetlands used by the birds on their way from Asia to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.
Without the food at the Saemangeum wetlands, on the east coast, many of the birds will not survive the journey.
Two endangered species of wading bird face extinction because of the changes.
There are believed to be fewer than 1,000 mature spoonbilled sandpipers and Nordmann's greenshanks left in the wild.
The RSPB and other wildlife and conservation groups are highlighting the environmental problems at Saemangeum to mark World Migratory Birds Day.
'Motorway service station'
Saemangeum was once an estuarine tidal flat on South Korea's Yellow Sea coast.
Bar-tailed godwits, eastern curlews, dunlins and great knots fly over the estuary before the sea wall was completed

Photo: Jvande Kam
Bar-tailed godwits, eastern curlews, dunlins and great knots fly over the estuary before the sea wall was completed
What we've lost here is one of the jewels in the crown of wetland habitats
Sarah Dawkins
It was an important feeding ground for about 400,000 migrating birds making their way on a 24,000km round-trip between Asia and Alaska and Russia.
But 15 years ago, the government revealed plans for the world's biggest land reclamation project in order to drain the estuary and create fertile paddy fields.
After a succession of legal challenges from conservationists, the 33km sea wall was finally closed a year ago.
Since then, according to the RSPB, the vast wetlands have been replaced by parched earth, shellfish beds and plants have been destroyed, and thousands of birds are starving as a result.
"What we've lost here is one of the jewels in the crown of wetland habitats," Sarah Dawkins, who is monitoring the impact of the sea wall on birds, told the BBC.
"The Yellow Sea is an amazingly important stopover point for birds travelling up from places like New Zealand and Australia to their breeding grounds in the Arctic."
"And Saemangeum was one of the most important areas in the Yellow Sea."
Ms Dawkins said the birds relied on the tidal flats at Saemangeum as somewhere where they could land and "refuel" after a nine-day flight from New Zealand.
Map showing Saemangeum
"It's a bit like losing a motorway service station and then your car running out of petrol," she explained.
Despite the damage, Ms Dawkins said there was still hope for the wetlands if the two sluice gates built into the sea wall were opened.
"That would restore a few thousand hectares of estuary system within Saemangeum and that would be at least something to help the birds," she said.
"The birds are still here.
"They're still coming.
"I think we really do need to still try to save some of their habitat."
Ms Dawkins also said it was critically important to mount a global effort to safeguard other estuaries around Saemangeum, one of which the government is planning to reclaim.
Great knot - Yatsu Higata Nature Observation Center, Chiba, Japan, April 12, 2003

Calidris tenuirostris

Described by: Horsfield (1821)
Alternate common names: Eastern Greater Knot, Great Sandpiper

Photo: © William Hull
Great knot — Yatsu Higata Nature Observation Center, Chiba, Japan
Photo: © William Hull
Proyecto Ognorhynchos/Paul Salaman
The Yellow-eared Parrot is Critically Endangered and numbers around 150 individuals.
It lives in the Colombian Andes outside of any protected areas.
More than 700 threatened species remain completely unprotected
Analysis of 11,000 mammal, amphibian and bird species — new study shows major gaps in global coverage
Durban, South Africa .— At least 223 bird, 140 mammal and 346 amphibian species threatened with extinction currently have no protection whatsoever over any part of their ranges, according to the most comprehensive analysis of its kind of the world’s protected area system.
In addition, many existing protected areas are so small in size as to be virtually ineffective in conserving species, placing another 943, and probably many more bird, mammal and amphibian species, at risk.   Without an immediate and strategic expansion of the protected area system, scientists expect a major wave of extinctions within the next few decades.
The "global gap analysis" provides an overview of how well the world’s species are covered by the global network of protected areas.   The study was released by the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at Conservation International (CI) in a joint project with the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN/WCPA).
Jon Riley
The Caerulean Paradise-flycatcher Eutrichomyas rowleyi is endemic to Sangihe island, Indonesia, and was lost, feared extinct, for more than 100 years.
"This analysis clearly shows that there are severe gaps in the protected area system," said Gustavo Fonseca, CI’s Executive Vice President for Programs and Science.
"Nevertheless, by identifying the most urgent priorities that require protection and acting strategically and quickly, we still have a chance to save the vast majority of these species."
The analysis builds upon the work of thousands of scientists and dozens of institutions around the world.
Based on their work, CABS scientists compared a map of all protected areas for which reliable information was available to maps of more than 11,000 species ranges from three species groups.
They then identified places where species live without any protection, and analysed where the highest priority gaps in protection existed.   In total, 1,183 threatened bird species, and 4,734 mammal and 5,254 amphibian species, were included.
Tropical areas, specifically rainforests, and islands stood out as particular concerns for immediate conservation action.   Of the areas identified as urgent priorities for the creation of new protected areas, fully 80 percent of the land area falls within the tropics.   Islands, which constitute only 5.2 percent of the planet’s land surface, hold 45 percent of all species analyzed, of which more than half are endemics not found on continents.
"The single most effective way to conserve species is to maintain their natural habitats," said Mohamed Bakarr, Vice President for Research for CABS at CI and Deputy Chair of IUCN/WCPA.   "The results of this analysis must be used to identify those places on Earth where we need immediate protection.   By doing so, we still stand a good chance of conserving these species."
Of the 4,734 mammal species analysed for this study, 260 are "gap species," meaning that they have no protection over any part of their ranges.   Of those, fully 54 percent, or 140, are threatened.   Still, of the three groups studied, mammals have the best coverage, due in part to their larger average range size.
Rarest fruit bats in the world
Critically Endangered mammals currently unprotected include one of the rarest fruit bats in the world, the Comoro Black Flying Fox Pteropus livingstonii found in the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean and the Handley’s Slender Mouse Opossum Marmosa handleyi from Colombia.
Of the 5,254 amphibian species analyzed, 825 are gap species.   Of those, 346 are threatened.   As a group, amphibians have significantly less coverage than mammals or birds, mainly due to their small ranges, but also because they have received much less conservation action.  
Critically Endangered amphibians without current protection include the Bernhard’s Mantella Mantella bernhardi from Madagascar and the Wuchuan Frog Rana wuchuanensis found only in a cave in Guizhou, China.
Phil Hansbro
Pitt Island Shag Phalacrocorax featherstoni has a tiny range and population in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand.
"This global gap analysis reveals just how many of the most biodiverse areas are left without any protection."
—Dr Michael Rands, Director, BirdLife International
The world’s 1,183 threatened bird species, mapped and assessed by BirdLife International, were also analysed, revealing 223 gap species.  
Though birds are the best-studied group, close to 20 percent of threatened species have absolutely no protection.   The largest concentration of unprotected birds is found in the Andes and Indonesia.  
Critically Endangered bird species without current protection include the Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis which has fewer than 150 known individuals remaining and is found only in the Colombian Andes, and the Caerulean Paradise-flycatcher Eutrichomyias rowleyi of which fewer than 100 individuals are known to exist, only on Indonesia’s Sangihe Island.
Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable are categories defined by IUCN for the assessment of each species’ extinction risk, and published in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The analysis found that by adding a small percentage of the Earth’s land area to the world’s existing protected area system, a disproportionately large number of species could be brought into protection.   For example, adding just 2.6 percent of the world’s land area would bring approximately two-thirds of unprotected species into the protected area system.   However, scientists urge caution in interpreting the results of the study.
"The global gap analysis should be regarded as a useful tool to guide the worldwide allocation of conservation spending, but cannot be regarded as the final word," said Ana Rodrigues, Research Fellow with CABS at CI.   "More detailed analyses using more comprehensive data will reveal numerous additional areas and species groups not highlighted by this study that also need urgent protection."
"This global gap analysis reveals just how many of the most biodiverse areas are left without any protection," says Dr Michael Rands, BirdLife International’s Director and Chief Executive.   "Islands, especially those in tropical areas, warrant special attention for conservation action".
Maps and Photos Available to Journalists on Request from Conservation International.   Images of relevant bird species available from BirdLife International.
  • For further information about the global gap analysis, visit

  • BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working in more than 100 countries who, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life.
  • Copyright © 2003 BirdLife International.   All rights reserved.
    Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Mai Po Marshes, Hong Kong - May 12, 2005

Spoon-billed Sandpiper is bottom right corner.

Photo: © Neil Fifer
    Mai Po Marshes, Hong Kong
    Spoon-billed Sandpiper is bottom right corner
    Photo: © Neil Fifer
    Newly found bird loses only known habitat
    Thursday, October 23, 2003
    Carrizal Seedeater

Photo: Miguel Lentino
    Carrizal Seedeater
    CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) — Naturalists celebrated the discovery of a new species of bird — a blue-flecked, seed-eating finch — in Venezuela, but they mourned that a state electricity company destroyed its only known habitat to make way for a dam.
    U.K.-based BirdLife International, which unites conservation groups worldwide, said the species was first spotted on Carrizal Island, an uninhabited islet on the Caroni river in biodiverse southeastern Venezuela, in July 2001.
    It took two years for researchers to conclude the bird, of which three examples were found, was a new species.   They called it the Carrizal Seedeater.
    In that time, the bird's habitat of thickets of spiny bamboo on the island were razed as part of the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam, Birdlife International said in a statement Wednesday sent to Reuters.
    "The discovery of the Carrizal Seedeater is an exciting development for global bird life, but the discovery is tempered with the knowledge that we have now destroyed the place where it hid from us for so long," said Robin Restall, one of the naturalists who made the discovery.
    "This bird may now be losing the most favorable habitat for its continued survival," he added.
    BirdLife International said the bird had a larger bill than other finches and small plumage differences. The male was gray with splashes of blue, the female was varying shades of brown.
    Venezuela world's last unspoiled jungle
    Venezuela has some of the world's last unspoiled jungle housing exotic tropical species.
    In August, scientists announced the discovery in the South American nation of 10 new fish species, including a "punk" catfish with a spiky head and a piranha that eats fruit as well as fish.
    With their habitat gone, it was not clear what had happened to the three Carrizal Seedeaters that were found.
    Still, naturalists with BirdLife's affiliate in Venezuela, the Audubon group, said the same kind of bamboo existed in the surrounding Caroni basin.
    "There has to be more of them alive, hidden in the bamboo," Audubon Venezuela president Clemencia Rodner told Reuters.
    Audubon representatives said state electricity company EDELCA allowed the naturalists to do a wildlife inventory in 2001 but that by then it was too late to change the dam's plans.
    Rodner said naturalists hoped the company would support an expedition to search for more examples of the bird.
    Copyright 2003 Reuters All rights reserved
    © 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

    An AOL Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
    Spotted Greenshank

    Spotted Greenshank
    Saturday, 30 August, 2003
    New species uncovered in Venezuela
    Aphyocharax yekwanae

The Aphyocharax yekwanae was named in honour of the Indians who live in the basin.
    The Aphyocharax yekwanae was named in honour of the Indians who live in the basin
    Scientists working in the jungles of Venezuela have discovered 10 new species of fish and a previously unknown species of shrimp.
    Among the new discoveries, revealed by US-based Conservation International, was an armoured catfish whose spiky head earned him the nickname "punk" and a piranha that eats fruit as well as flesh.
    The group are now calling on the Venezuelan Government to protect the Caura River Basin, where the species were found, designating the 4,500-hectare (11,115-acre) area a wildlife reserve.
    "For its size, it's incredible what the area has. It's a hot spot that should be protected," said zoologist Antonio Machado, who helped direct the research.
    Area under threat
    The Caura River Basin, in the state of Bolivar, is an area of pristine tropical forest and waterways tucked away in the highlands, about 500 kilometres (300 miles) south-east of the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
    Conservationists are concerned that the area will fall prey to encroaching human settlements as well as the adverse effects of increased farming and fishing.
    The Caura River Basin requires immediate and urgent protection as a wildlife reserve
    Zoologist Antonio Machado
    The region could also be threatened by future hydroelectricity plans, the group said.
    "The Caura River Basin requires immediate and urgent protection as a wildlife reserve," said Mr Machado, who described the region as a biological "hotspot".
    One of the most colourful discoveries was a green and red variety of the Bloodfin Tetra family — a type popular with aquarium owners — which has been given the Latin name Aphyocharax yekwanae in honour of the Ye'Kwana Indians who live in the basin.
    "These indigenous people depend on the water," Mr Machado explained.
    The omnivorous piranha, which supplements its diet with fruit from submerged trees, was called Serrasalmus.
    While the tentacle armoured catfish has been formally dubbed Ancistrus, the team of international scientists that found it on their expedition in 2000 gave it the nickname "punk fish" because of its spiky head.
    Friday, 28 November, 2003
    Fiji's 'extinct' bird flies anew
    By Alex Kirby
    BBC News Online environment correspondent
    A small songbird believed to have become extinct more than a century ago has been found alive and well in Fiji.
    Long-legged warbler

Back from oblivion, and in good voice

BirdlLife Fiji
    Long-legged warbler
    Back from oblivion, and in good voice
    A team from BirdLife International discovered the bird, the long-legged warbler, after hearing its distinctive and haunting call in a mountain valley.
    BirdLife says the 12 pairs of warblers it has seen are safe for the moment in their remote home in the dense forest.
    But the birds are at risk from forest clearance elsewhere, and from mongooses introduced to the islands to kill rats.
    The warbler is known also as the long-legged thicketbird, in recognition of its preference for living in dense undergrowth.
    Given up for dead
    It used to be called the spirit bird (manu kalou) by local people, perhaps because of its singing.
    Only four specimens were collected, between 1890 and 1894, since when there had been no confirmed sightings of the bird.   Despite unconfirmed sightings within the last 20 years, BirdLife believed the warbler was extinct.
    But a year into a survey of Fiji's rare birds, funded by the UK's Darwin Initiative, it turned up again on Viti Levu, the largest island in the group.
    Warbler's forest home

BirdLife Fiji

    The warbler's forest home
    Vilikesa Masibalavu of BirdLife was the first to identify the warbler.   He said: "I heard a loud song which was different from any other Fijian bird."
    His colleague Guy Dutson said: "At first incredulous, I soon realised this was indeed the bird we had been searching for all this time."
    After that initial discovery, nine pairs of warblers were found along a two km stretch of stream with dense thickets of undergrowth in Wabu, a forest reserve.   Another pair was later found in a logged forest.
    BirdLife says this shows there are locally high population densities at an altitude between 800-1,000 metres (2,600-3,300 feet) in the unlogged forest.   Two of the pairs were seen with recently-fledged young birds.
    Reversing the trend
    Guy Dutson said: "The long-legged warbler is a very secretive species but now we know its song, we can find it and make our first assessment of its conservation needs.
    "Its rediscovery is a rare beacon of hope when all too often birds are becoming extinct in their natural habitats, especially those endemic to small islands.
    "We must now work to ensure this bird does not disappear after managing to hide from us for so long, and I hope to make sure it gets the protection it deserves."
    BirdLife, a global alliance which works in more than 100 countries, says most Fijian forests are unprotected and at risk from logging or conversion to mahogany plantations.
    It says its research shows degraded forest is unsuitable for the warbler and for many other birds.
    Mongooses have caused the extinction of all of the ground-nesting birds on the main Fijian islands.
    A lone Nordmann's Greenshank roosting with its favourite 'friend' Grey Plover.

With the reclamation of Saemungeum, the future is bleak for many shorebirds, including the Nordmann's Greenshank.

Photo taken in Korea at Saemungeum, 20 Apr 2006 by Nial Moore 

Photo: © Nial Moore
    A lone Nordmann's Greenshank — roosting with its favourite 'friend' Grey Plover
    With the reclamation of Saemungeum, the future is bleak for many shorebirds, including the Nordmann's Greenshank.
    Photo: © Nial Moore    
    Thursday, 30 May, 2002
    Brazil's 'extinct' bird still alive
    By Alex Kirby
    BBC News Online environment correspondent
    Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe

Poster: 'Let's protect ourselves wherever we go'
    Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe
    A small bird thought to have become extinct years ago has been rediscovered in Brazil.
    The bird, the golden-crowned manakin, was first found in 1957 — also the year it was last seen.
    Ornithologists say its reappearance means there is more hope of finding other species lost for decades.
    But they are worried that threats to the bird's rainforest habitat may mean its hold on life will be short.
    The manakin was discovered 45 years ago by the German-born ornithologist Helmut Sick, in Para state in southern Amazonia. Two years later it was officially recognised as a distinct species.
    Several unsuccessful attempts to find the bird have been made since 1957.   Then, within the last week, two Brazilian scientists rediscovered it by chance.
    The two, Fabio Olmos and Jose Fernando Pacheco, were carrying out an environmental survey along the line of a new road being built for the logging industry.
    They found the bird — a single male — several hundred kilometres from Sick's original discovery of five birds.
    Not safe yet
    Fabio Olmos said: "We were thrilled to find the lost manakin — quite distinctive from other manakins.
    "The local economy is based on logging and cattle-ranching on cleared land. The Brazilian Government is encouraging colonisation but has no way of controlling loggers, squatters, colonists and gold miners once access is created.
    "Forest destruction will remain a major threat to the long-term survival of this beautiful bird and other wildlife of the area."
    BirdLife International, an alliance of conservation groups working in more than 100 countries, is setting up a network of conservationists in Brazil, including the manakin's finders.
    Alison Stattersfield of BirdLife said: "This is tremendous news, but there are genuine concerns that the manakin's habitat is under threat from the continued destruction of the fantastic Amazonian rainforest."
    Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe
    Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe
    Gone for a century
    Ade Long of Birdlife told BBC News Online: "More new bird species have been reported from Brazil in the last 10 years than from anywhere else on Earth.
    "So the manakin's reappearance encourages us not only to keep looking out for vanished species, but to hope that there are entirely new ones for us still to find.
    "And Jose Fernando Pacheco has a very good record. He's rediscovered two other lost species in the last decade.
    "One 'lost' bird he was involved with, the kinglet cotinga, which looks like a goldcrest, hadn't been seen since the 19th Century."
    Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

Mai Po Marshes, Hong Kong — April, 2006

Photo:  © Neil Fifer
    Common Greenshank — Mai Po Marshes, Hong Kong
    Photo: © Neil Fifer

    For archives, these articles are being stored on website.
    The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
    human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.