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Green head, yellow eye, and flat black beak: the northern scoop isn’t just an ordinary cousin to the duck. Beyond its calm appearance as a commoner in bodies of water, the bird is a great traveler. In his family, some take flights every year to the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Others push the journey across the desert to winter in the Sahel. Like him, there are about 90 species of migratory waterfowl spread between Europe and this semi-arid strip dotted with vast lakes and wetlands.
Its protection and protection of these areas has been strengthened since 1995 by an intergovernmental treaty, the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), which covers a wide range of 255 species worldwide. It was signed by 38 African countries.
Ten years ago, France created an international cooperation tool, the Technical Support Unit (UST), to support it. Since 2017, his work has mainly focused on the expertise-building program, called “Resources”, which has been implemented in five countries: Senegal, Mali, Chad, Sudan and Egypt. With the aim of increasing the knowledge of African professionals to get to know better all the birds that migrate there, it expires in June.
To date, censuses at nearly 100 African sites have resulted in sightings of more than two million birds. If the tiger nut does relatively well, some of its sky-highway neighbors are a little less calm. The small, long-billed, black-tailed wading bird is classified as a near-threatened bird on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Its population has decreased by a third in twenty-five years in Europe.
There is much work to be done jointly by the Nordic countries and Africa to monitor this species whose European and Russian nesting sites have deteriorated, seriously detrimental to their breeding.explains ornithologist Jean-Yves Mondin Monval of the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), one of the three heads of terrestrial reservoirs.
“If we only study what happens in the north during the nesting period, We could be missing a major cause of population decline in Africa.”Another major focus of the project, Clemence Deschamps, is a data management specialist at Tour du Valat, a research institute for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands based in Arles.
However, in Africa, the data is still significantly incomplete. Harvesting them requires time, resources, and knowledge. So the researchers set out to train their African colleagues to observe and count migratory waterfowl. In total, about 200 specialists in partner countries have already started.
“Thanks to this project, we were able to follow the huge Bahr Awuk and Salamat area in southern Chad, where we were able to re-evaluate the birds at 2.7 million individuals, while it was so far estimated at 20,000,” Clemence Deschamps continues. This year’s new issue will join the spreadsheets of the NGO Wetlands International, which is responsible for the global waterfowl census. The specialist insists that without international cooperation, this work would not have been possible.
“This was the first time we learned about monitoring techniques and software usage, and it was exciting”Abkar Saleh and tattoos rejoice. A member of the Department of Wildlife and Protected Areas of the Chadian Ministry of Environment, he spent ten days, three years in a row, learning about the birds with six colleagues near Lakes Fitri and Iro and in the national park of Zkouma. Since then, his team has been able to carry out other observational missions thanks to the two telescopes and six pairs of binoculars that have been provided to him.
Students and teachers from the three major African Wildlife Schools, in Tanzania, Kenya and Cameroon, also benefited from the training workshops. Their approach until then had focused almost exclusively on large mammals, which were more common and often easier to observe. MOOC (Online Teaching Module) will be made available to them, with the support of the François-Sommer Foundation. This video support is meant to overcome budgetary barriers that often prevent field practice.
Because the wetlands of the coastal stretches are vast and almost inaccessible. The only solution: fly over them and why not in the future with a drone. An expensive exercise that prevents the few Africans trained in these techniques from training. However, without systematic data, it is impossible to measure the effects of human activity on birds and their habitats.
Unlike most European wetlands, some areas of the Sahel are still untouched by massive drainage (drainage of soil by flow of water). “However, there is deterioration in some areas associated with the development of intensive agriculture or with the erection of dams, Jean-Yves Mondin Monval confirms. Changes in bird numbers can give an indication of the ecological status of these areas. »
Climate change is also one of the identified threats, as well as more direct predation. In the end, it will be a question of understanding, for example, whether subsistence fishing, which is widespread in the Sahel, contributes to the decline of some species. “The topic has been brought up, and these efforts to gain knowledge to estimate the proportion of birds collected in Africa remain to be continued and to assess the sustainability of these traditional practices”admits Pierre Devos de Rau, researcher at OFB.
Financial commitments are expected in June to allow this collaborative work to continue. Because if the data collected in Africa is really useful, “Margins of error can be large, in the absence of regular monitoring and long-term trends”The researcher mentions.