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UNEP Convention on Migratory Species convenes international meeting to combat threats to migratory raptors

United Arab Emirates: Sunday, December 09 - 2012 @ 15:06

This gathering from 9- 11 December is the 1st Meeting of Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MoU), convened under the auspices of the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species.

The Meeting of Signatories represents the first opportunity to bring together representatives from the 40 signatories to the Raptors MoU. In addition, observers representing other Range States and interested parties will attend. The overall aim of the meeting is to review the implementation of the action plan contained within the Raptors MoU, and to identify the future policies and priorities for this important international conservation agreement.

His Excellency Mohammad Ahmad Al Bowardi, Managing Director, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), said in his opening speech, delivered on his behalf by Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector: “It is very satisfying to see that this agreement, which became a reality here in Abu Dhabi in 2008, is moving forward.”

He said “The birds of prey is particularly important in our culture and our local heritage, and we, with the support of the leadership in the United Arab Emirates, have been committed to, and for many years, the preservation and protection of these birds. We know, from our experience, that the protection of migratory species requires a lot of effort and participation from the different stakeholders and range states,” he added.

H.E Al Bowardi added that “The MoU on Birds of Prey not only provides a clear road map to conserve key migratory raptors, but also offers new opportunity to network, forge new partnerships and compensate for variable institutional and financial capacities across the range states. I am really encouraged to see that nearly 100 delegates from nearly 40 countries including key international NGO are here. Your presence here is a clear indication of the importance attached to conserve migratory birds of prey in Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia.”

“I am also happy to know that most of you will also be actively participating in a meeting to negotiate for a new instrument to conserve migratory birds along the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) immediately after the Meeting of Signatories of Raptor MoU,” HE Al Bowardi added.

H.E Al Bowardi concluded that “Conserving migratory birds in general and birds of prey in particular is a real challenge, however our collective efforts and clear plans can make this happen. The UAE is strongly committed to the conservation of migratory birds of prey and our signing of the agreement, supporting and hosting the CMS Unit is a clear indication of the commitment and leadership shown by the UAE.”

During the meeting, it was announced that Somalia has joined the Raptors MoU bringing up the total number of signatories to 41 countries, after Ahmed Shaikh Mahmoud Osman, Wildlife Director for Somalia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Environment signed the MoU.

The Raptors MoU covers 76 migratory species of birds of prey and owls, which occur in 130 Range States in Africa and Eurasia. Thanks to the support of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, on behalf of the Government of the United Arab Emirates, an Interim Coordinating Unit (ICU) was established in 2009, as a key component of the UNEP/CMS Office in Abu Dhabi, to act as the secretariat to the Raptors MoU.

Raptors are critical components within our natural environment. They provide a unique range of ecosystem services, such as reducing disease by consuming dead animals in the case of vultures and other carrion eaters. And many falcons feed on large numbers of aerial insects which are considered pests by the agricultural and horticultural industries. Being at the top of the food chain these predators can be used to act as ‘sentinel’ species to indicate the levels of prey populations and also the overall health of the ecosystem.

All birds of prey are exposed to a range of threats but migratory raptors are particularly at risk due to the often long and arduous annual journeys they make from their breeding grounds to wintering areas, and back again. The main threats faced by raptors today are human-induced. Loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats due to construction for housing, industry and infrastructure; intensification of agricultural and other land-use practices lead to declines in prey populations; increased mortality due to losses associated with human persecution such as shooting, poisoning, disturbance; contamination from organochlorines or other pesticides can lead to reduced breeding success; and, unsustainable or illegal capture, particularly for trade can accelerate decreasing population levels.

Some migratory raptors have suffered major population declines in recent years, for example, Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon and Sooty Falcon – all of these species are important components of UAE’s rich biodiversity. The ICU is working to develop and facilitate international collaborative projects to help conserve these and other migratory birds of prey. It oversees the Saker Falcon Task Force, established in 2012 to develop a Global Action Plan to conserve the species, including creating mechanisms to allow long-term sustainable use for falconry purposes – a practice where falcons are trained to hunt quarry for food which has a long and cherished tradition, particularly in the Gulf States. Plans are also being developed to gather information about the plight of the Sooty Falcon, a species specially adapted to breed in the harsh desert environments found in the Middle East and Gulf regions, but which annually flies South across coastal East Africa to winter on Madagascar.

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Sunday, December 9- 2012 @ 15:06 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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