A report that analyses data on waterbirds and wetlands in Asia 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
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