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Press Release: Condition of waterbirds in Asia highly worrisome, slight improvement elsewhere


Wetlands International Launched the First Interactive Online Database on Waterbird Population Estimates at Ramsar COP11
Bucharest, Rumania – The condition of global waterbird populations is slightly improving, but is still in decline. The situation in Asia is alarming where 50% of all waterbird populations are in decline. These are the two key findings of the fifth edition of the Waterbird Population Estimates that Wetlands International launched on 8 July 2012 at the 11th Conference of Parties of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP11) in Bucharest, Romania.

Asia in decline

The latest update of waterbird populations and trends coordinated by Wetlands International reveals that in Asia, which harbors the largest proportion of the world’s waterbird populations, 50% of the known populations are decreasing and only 20% are increasing compared to 2006. The primary reasons for this poor situation are rapid economic development, and rising and dense human populations that result in wetland loss and degradation and reduced allocations of water needed to sustain the functions of these habitats as well as loss of intertidal areas.

Global trend slightly improving

Since 2006, there has been a slightly improved condition of the world’s waterbird populations. In 2006, 44% of known populations were still decreasing and 17% were increasing. Today, of all existing populations, 38% are declining and 20% are increasing, while 39% are stable and 4% are fluctuating. This slight improvement could be a result of better implementation of legal and financial instruments to govern the conservation and sustainable use of waterbird populations, as witnessed in regions such as Europe and North America.


The fifth edition of the Waterbird Population Estimates collates all the latest information on distribution, status and population trends of 2,304 populations of 871 species of waterbird from 32 families. This review is a result of ongoing collaborative efforts of tens of thousands of waterbird counters around the world and the Waterbird Specialist Group network convened by Wetlands International jointly with the IUCN Species Survival Commission.


This series is the authoritative and approved source of up-to-date ‘1% population thresholds’ for governments worldwide for the identification and designation of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Extinct or critically endangered species

To date, three grebe species have become extinct and three other South American grebe species are endangered. These species are restricted to a single or small number of lakes which are threatened by human developments. Under the IUCN Red List 2012, 24% (212) of all 871 waterbird species are categorised as globally threatened of which 28 are Critically Endangered.

Call to governments

 There is little time for complacency - our information clearly demonstrates that focused conservation that results in small improvements in a few populations around the world continues to be overridden by major declines of many waterbird populations, particularly in Asia, Afrotropics and Central/South America,” says Dr Taej Mundkur, Flyway Programme Manager at Wetlands International. Adding that, “Government Parties of Ramsar Convention, UN organisations, NGOs, the private sector and public, all need to take urgent conservation measures to conserve waterbirds and strengthen management of their habitats worldwide.”

Interactive online database

The fifth edition is released as a user-friendly interactive online database ( This provides universal access to all five Waterbird Population Estimates editions as well as the Conservation Status Review editions produced for the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, as part of Wetlands International’s continuing commitment to supporting the Ramsar Convention and all those concerned with wetland and waterbird conservation and wise use.


This work has been made possible through the generous support of Environment Canada and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat and technical collaboration with BirdLife International and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership.


Click here for more information on Wetlands International Waterbird Programme or contact:


Dr Taej Mundkur
Flyway Manager
Tel: +31 (0)318 660910



Ms. Susanna Tol

Senior Communications Officer

Tel: +31 (0)318 660933




Further information:

Wetlands International

African Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement

BirdLife International

IUCN Red List

Partnership for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Press contact

Communications and Advocacy Department