The motives behind these illicit activities are various and the toll that they are taking is incredible - millions of birds are being killed each year - numbers that are totally unsustainable and which alongside other pressures such as habitat loss and climate change are leading to many once common species being at risk of extinction.
Ahead of the Day, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) announced the creation of the Intergovernmental Task Force on Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade of Migratory Birds in the Mediterranean composed of Governments and the European Commission. UN organizations such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), international environmental treaties, INTERPOL, law enforcement and judiciary organizations, hunting communities and non governmental organizations will also be part of the coalition.
“I fully support the global campaign to raise awareness about the threats to migratory birds from habitat destruction, over-exploitation, pollution and climate change, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “I call for greater international efforts to restore and preserve migratory birds and the network of sites they need to survive as an important part of the environment on which we all depend.”
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “During their long journeys, migratory birds run afoul of any number of natural obstacles, from predators to weather. They shouldn’t also have to duck the grasping claws of the illegal wildlife trade. Illegal taking and killing of birds threaten not only the survival of bird species, but ecosystems, communities and livelihoods as well. So, World Migratory Bird Day is not strictly for the birds; it’s to remind us of the part they play for planet and people alike.”
Bird hunting has been traditionally practiced in the Mediterranean for centuries, but the recent surge in illegal activities, such as poaching and trapping, is endangering many threatened species that are already subject to other pressures, such as climate change and habitat loss.
Migrating birds are facing increasing pressures along their journeys and habitat losses and degradation are the most difficult to tackle. But the birds are also exposed to illegal killing, taking and trade. The nylon mist nets are now almost invisible to birds. As a result more birds are taken from declining populations. We must stop the illegal killing now, if we don’t want our skies to fall silent.
Each year, up to 6.2 million exhausted birds, migrating between their breeding and wintering grounds, are caught in illegally set nets stretching for hundreds of kilometres along the North African coastline. The less lucky ones suffer an agonizing death on lime stick traps - twigs covered with extremely sticky glue. It is estimated that up to 2 million Blackcaps die in such traps each year.
The Inter - governmental Task Force will add new momentum to international efforts to tackle the illegal killing, taking and trade in birds by agreeing on new guidelines, recommendations and action plans to address the causes of poaching.
The Task Force will work towards changing the hunting practices in the region to make them compliant with national and international laws. It will also aim to enhance the enforcement of these laws through training of local police and judiciary, information exchange, promoting deterrence and prevention policies to end the large-scale killings of migratory birds taking place today.
Tackling illegal killing and trade in wildlife, including birds, and mobilizing global action around the issue also is the focus of the 2016 World Environment Day, under the slogan “Go Wild for Life.” A global UN campaign to garner support for stopping the trade in many species and their products will also be launched.
Migratory birds need our action
Migratory birds travel thousands of kilometres each year to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding and raising their young. Migration is a perilous journey and involves a wide range of threats, often caused by human activities. Growing human population, rapid urbanization, pollution, climate change and unsustainable use of landscapes are causing the loss, fragmentation and degradation of the natural habitats upon which migratory birds depend.
As we celebrate these birds on 10th May 2016, World Migratory Bird Day, keep in mind that all is not lost. While migratory birds - which include eagles, storks and cranes-are struggling, there are things we can do to help.
The UNEP suggests we pressure our elected leaders to build sustainable energy infrastructures in our cities:
Turning off non-essential lights in cities to help birds navigate their annual migration routes; placing power lines underground, or retro-fitting them to prevent fatal bird collisions and electrocutions are all examples of measures being taken to make the world’s expanding use of energy safer for migratory birds. These measures should be complemented by effective national legislation, planning guidance and policies that ensure the protection of birds from adverse effects of energy developments.