Speaking over the weekend during commemoration of World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) held at Rufiji District, Coastal Region, Nature Tanzania Executive Director, Emmanuel Mgimwa said deforestation, overexploitation, unsustainable hunting, population increase, population coupled with climate change has caused huge loss of useful migratory birds.
He also said human activities such as shifting agriculture, clearing forests for new human settlements have caused their numbers to decline.
Despite the fact that some migratory birds provide ecosystem benefits such as pest control, pollination of plants, tourism attraction but in recent years there have been people hunting them unsustainably and selling their meat openly along the roads and markets without protection plans and strategies, a situation he said has caused rapid diminishing and loss of biodiversity useful to human beings.
According to him, there are more than 50 billion birds that migrate from one place to another across the world annually. One of their fly ways is the Coastal zone of the Indian Ocean where they nest and feed on fish on their way to other continents.
“Today’s commemoration of World Migratory Bird Day unites people from different backgrounds across the world as one community to watch and celebrate their beauty. But what is going on today especially in central Tanzania regions, the birds are being hunted and sold openly and no one cares,” he said.
He said there is urgent need for the government and other stakeholders to provide conservation education to the people, local communities and leaders on the importance of migratory birds and their benefits.
“In Tanzania we are celebrating this day to raise awareness to the people. When one country fails to conserve the migratory birds it destroys the whole conservation chain,” he said.
Country Programme Coordinator at Wetlands International, Clare Haule explained that the WMBD commemoration reminds the government to enforce polices and legal frameworks regarding protection and conservation of migratory birds.
She said Tanzania has good policies and legal frameworks but they are not effectively implemented saying this is a major challenge.
“These bird species and human beings have to co-exist and benefit from the available resources but the challenge comes when the local communities over-utilize the natural resources as a result the resource keep on declining day after day and eventually the birds also decline or have to move to find another better and safer place.
The issue of poverty and economic challenges has also drag people to poach the birds. This unsustainable harvesting of the birds also poses a major challenge for their extinction on earth.
Another challenge is inadequate resources and lack of equipment. At the moment you find that the government has many competing priorities. Sometimes there are no enough resources to accommodate all these needs or to conduct fruitful educational campaigns and increase awareness for conservation.
The way forward will be for all people and leaders to come and work together.
That’s why today we are here to raise awareness and educate the general public and leaders how birds are important to the community and their role to promote environmental conservation.
She said the migratory birds are seasonal guests with positive impacts. Birds, they bring people together as some travel all the way from Europe, America and Asia to Africa and as they do so, they need undisturbed natural resources such as trees and grassland at destination point.
They also need nesting places, adequate food for their survival. For example, during winter, some migrate from winter areas and some migrate to seek breeding areas.
“So as we commemorate this day we ask the government to increase efforts for conservation of their habitats because when the birds migrate they need somewhere to stay. If they come to Rufiji Delta for example and find no conducive environment they will move to somewhere else,” she said.
Local communities living along the coast area at Simbaulanga and Nyamisati in Rufiji District said in recent years they have witnessed disappearing of many groups of beautiful bird species they used to see before because of climate change and increased human activities.
Omary Mzee Mchangia said that in the past there were useful birds whose actions and songs were predicting and forecasting what the future would look like.
Citing an example, Mchangia said the bids actions and songs could foretell the rise and fall of tidal waves in the Indian Ocean to inform sailors and fishermen of the safety of their journey but now they have all disappeared.
Tanzania Forest Agency (TFS) Principal Forest Officer, Frank Sima said that Tanzania has proven to be one of the conducive destination places for destination of migratory birds.
Migratory birds from Europe and Asia have always found conducive habitats in the well conserved natural environment.
“We have put in place plans and strategies to ensure all natural forests are well conserved and are reviewed regularly and when it is discovered there is weakness somewhere, the government takes action immediately,” he said.
Senior research officer and National coordinator water birds, from Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Dr. Ally Nkwabi said the policies and legal frameworks are good and are being reviewed every now and then to accommodate the current needs.
He said the government has signed several conventions including Africa-Eurasian Waterbird (AEWA) and convention on Biological biodiversity (CBD) to conduct and manage migratory birds to conserve the birds and their environment. The government issues guidelines on how better the birds and environment such as forests can be well managed and conserved.
“The government works with several partners such as Wetland international, Nature Tanzania and so many others to conserve the birds and natural resources. I call on the general public to conserve the surrounding communities to conserve plant species and the environment at large,” he said.