31 May 2006

Namibia: Bird Numbers Dropping

Windhoek — THE Walvis Bay Lagoon, a Ramsar site, has seen a major decline in migratory bird species.

The same trend was also recently noticed by two bird conservation organisations in bird species that migrate between Africa and Europe.

Keith Wearne of the Coastal Environment Trust of Namibia (CETN) told The Namibian on Monday that the number of Red Knot birds, which frequented the Walvis Bay Lagoon in the 1970s and early 1980s, has declined drastically.

A recent study by the British-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Bird Life International has found that the numbers of common UK birds such as flycatcher, wheatear, wood warbler and turtle dove have declined.

Wearne said the Red Knot migrated to Namibia from the northern hemisphere.

He said the Red Knot has also declined in South Africa.

During the 1970s to early 1980s, one could spot up to 500 of this bird species on the Walvis Bay Lagoon.

"But if you see one or two today, that is too much," said Wearne.

He said between December last year and January this year he spotted some Red Knots between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund but they were in few in number.

"I think they have been upset by developments," he said.

The Red Knot feeds along the shoreline.

Birds such as flamingos and others attract tourists to the Walvis Bay Lagoon, which one of Namibia's wetlands of international importance.

Bird experts in the UK believe that climate change, drought, desertification in Africa and a massive pesticide use on African farmland may all be blamed for the decline of the four once-common UK birds.

The RSPB said research showed that 54 per cent of the 121 long-distance migrants have declined or become extinct in many parts of Europe since 1970.

It said species such as the red-backed shrike (a tree bird) were no longer seen in Britain, while the spotted flycatcher's numbers were down 86 per cent in the UK.

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