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SouthAfrica: One in eight of the world’s birds faces extinction: study

Published byAgence France Presse, 8 March 2004

Johannesburg — One in eight of the world’s birds faceextinction, fuelled by unchecked agricultural expansion and unsustainableforestry, especially in the tropics, according to a new report by BirdlifeInternational. “The State of the World’s Birds 2004” said the alarmingstatistics showed that “our global environment is under serious strain witha massive and still increasing haemorrhage of biodiversity”. It said one ineight of the world’s birds — or 1,211 species — face extinction. Of these, 179species are critically endangered, 344 face very high risk of extinction and 688are listed as vulnerable.

The report said threatened species were not evenlydistributed among bird families with particularly high proportions among speciesof albatrosses(95 percent), cranes (60 percent), parrots (29 percent), pheasants(26 percent) and pigeons (23 percent). It said 966 species of globallythreatened birds had populations of less than 10,000, while 502 species hadpopulations less than 2,500. About 77 species had populations lower than 50.

The study said nearly all the world’s countries andterritories hosted one or more globally threatened bird species. But it saidsome regions held particularly high densities of threatened species such as thetropical Andes, Atlantic forests of Brazil, the eastern Himalayas, easternMadagascar and the archipelagos of south-eastern Asia.

BirdLife International, a worldwide alliance ofconservation groups, released the report to coincide with the start of aninternational conference, which began on Sunday in the eastern South Africanport city of Durban. The report said uncontrolled farming had played havoc withbiodiversity and could ring the death knell for many bird species. “Brazilalone has over 20,000 square kilometres (8,000 square miles) of coffeeplantation, most of it having replaced primary rainforest. In Indonesia, coffeeplanting is responsible for massive forest loss, even in protected areas.”

Of the 7,500 sites in nearly 170 countries identified asimportant bird areas — Africa fared badly. Birdlife said habitat clearance foragriculture threatened more than 50 percent of the important bird areas in theworld, with shifting agriculture adding pressure. Europe also fared badly onthis count with the report blaming agricultural expansion for threatening 32percent of the estimated 4,000-odd important bird areas there. Other factorsexacerbating the problem were pollution, forest fires, climate change andtrading in birds, Birdlife said.

The study called for coordinating environmental actionsacross nations, and setting up local groups to protect bird species from dyingout. It said in Africa, more than 60 such local groups had been set up in 10countries, adding that “such local involvement can lead to significantconservation benefit.


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