New report provides vital clues for management of Bird Flu

06/04/2004

Global Flyways Conference 2004

A global review of the conservation, management and research of the world's major flyways

3-8 April 2004, Edinburgh, UK

Media Release
Embargoed until Monday 5th April, 2004

New report provides vital clues for management of Bird Flu

A report that analyses data on waterbirds and wetlands in Asia and provides vital insights into major concentrations of wild waterbirds has just been released. This report will inform national and international conservation programmes of priority sites for waterbirds and is valuable for agencies developing plans to minimize transmission of diseases, such as bird flu between farmed birds and wild birds.

The results of the Asian Waterbird Census between 1997-2001 will be launched by Wetlands International at the "Waterbirds around the World" conference in Edinburgh, on 4th April. It is the culmination of the work of thousands of volunteers across 1,400 sites in 22 countries in Asia and Australasia, over 5 years.

Thirty seven of the three hundred and six species recorded by the Census are recognized as being globally threatened, including the critically endangered Giant Ibis and Siberian Crane. The report highlights problems of continued loss and degradation of internationally significant freshwater and inter-tidal wetland sites.

Advisor of the AWC for Wetlands International, Dr. Taej Mundkur, said "The census information will help governments to identify the most important sites for improved management and protection across whole flyways and to assess progress of conservation measures over time."

The present intensity of disease in domestic birds in Asia, is causing great concern. Dr Mundkur said "We regard the direct link between waterbirds in the wild and the spread of the highly infectious bird flu H5N1 as highly speculative at present. It has been reported by FAO that the massive killing of wild birds thought to be pests in the region has led to failed crops since the wild birds are natural controls on crop pests".

Wetlands International is calling for tighter regulations to prevent trafficking of wild birds as to reduce risks of avian diseases circulating in the wild. Additionally, it recognizes the need for the poultry industry to improve biosafety standards and enhance control measures to prevent the spread of the disease across the region. Investment of governments and other institutions in the continuation of the Asian Waterbird Census will increase the understanding of distribution and concentrations of waterbirds and their varied patterns of migration, and so help to identify the best way to manage any risks.

Waterbirds Around the World is held between 3-8 April 2004 at the Edinburgh Conference Centre, Heriott Watt University, Riccarton Campus, Currie Edinburgh EH14 4AS. It is organised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Wetlands International and the UK and Dutch governments

Wetlands International Communications: Saskia Henderikse +31 6 4007 4892
Scottish Natural Heritage: Sarah Roe Tel: 0131 446 2270 mobile: 07787 836010
For interview: Taej Mundkur, Coordinator, Asia-Pacific Migratory Conservation Strategy Coordination Unit, Wetlands International: mobile +60 122 865 684

Notes:
1. A flyway is the total area used by species populations throughout the year and their life cycle. Flyways are ecological networks in which sites are inter-connected and inter-dependent. Flyway conservation requires cooperation of people and governments across sites and continents.
2. The production and dissemination of the AWC report by Wetlands International has been supported by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention of Migratory Species and the Japan Fund for the Global Environment. These parties will be present at the launch.
3. Examples of Asian Wetlands at Risk:
- Of particular concern is the ongoing world's largest reclamation project in Saemangeum in the Republic of Korea that will destroy 40,100 ha of intertidal mudflat. The area supports the livelihoods of an estimated 25,000 people and some of the most important concentrations of migratory waterbirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. At least 27 species of waterbirds occur at Saemangeum in internationally important concentrations (1% or more of their known flyway population), of which at least 5 are globally threatened: Spotted Greenshank, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Black-faced Spoonbill, Chinese Egret and Saunders's Gull.
-In Southeast Asia, in the Inner Gulf of Thailand, situated next to bustling Bangkok is the most important area for waterbirds in the country. The mudflats and salt pans are rich in aquatic life and at one time the site supports over 40,000 waterbirds, with an estimated 100,000-135,000 shorebirds using the site annually. The area is of international importance for four globally threatened species, Spotted Greenshank, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Black-faced Spoonbill and Chinese Egret. The area remains under threat of reclamation and pollution while illegal hunting of birds continues.
4. Wetlands International staff are collaborating with the WHO, FAO, Birdlife International and others to provide advice on the bird flu issue. For further information: (http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/en/health/diseases-cards/avian_recomm.html and http://www.wetlands.org/news&/NewsItems/Avian_flu.htm)
5. More information on the Asian Waterbird Census on: www.wetlands.org/IWC/awc/awcmain.html
6. More information on Saemangeum wetlands on:
(http://www.birdlife.net/news/news/2004/02/saemangeum_monks.html and http://www.wbkenglish.com/saemref.asp#latnews)
7. Pictures of waterbirds and wetlands in Asia available on CD and downloadable from our website www.wetlands.org

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