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Partnerships strengthen migratory bird conservation in West Africa


Seven countries in West Africa, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde have agreed to collaborate in the conservation of important sites for migratory birds along their coasts that receive little or no attention from ongoing conservation initiatives in the region. The decision was reached after a 4-day workshop (November 16-19, 2009) in Dakar Senegal, organized by BirdLife International in collaboration with Wetlands International.

Migratory species in the seven countries

A least of 177 migratory species have been recorded along the coasts of west Africa, from Sierra Leone to Mauritania; (81 waterbirds, 52 passerines, 20 raptors, 10 seabirds, and the remainder being swifts,  bee-eaters, nightjars, etc.) with 50% occurring in all the seven countries targeted by the project. Two of these species are Endangered, 3 Vulnerable and 10 Near Threatened. However, it is worth noting that 50% of the species not currently on the list of threatened species (of Least Concern) are also declining.

Key sites for migratory birds

Some of the key sites for migratory birds in the region include; Banc d’Arguin National Park and Chott Boul, Mauritania; Delta du Saloum and Djoudj Wetlands, Senegal; Arquipélago dos Bijagós, Guinea Bissau; Sierra Leone River Estuary, Sierra Leone and Iles Tristao, Guinea. The key attention is the endemic Cape Verde purple heron Ardea bournei, whose whole population breeds in just one mahogany tree at Banana village the island of Santiago, with an estimated population of some 20 pairs. Out of a total of 43 important bird areas (IBA) in the region that qualify for migratory birds, 22 have not a status of  protected areas where no specific conservation actions has been taken yet.

Key threats to migratory birds

Key threats to migratory birds identified in the region include; agricultural mechanisation and intensification, agricultural/industrial/domestic pollution, commercial/residential development, unsustainable harvesting (wood, plants, food), unsustainable hunting of species, natural system modification, e.g. water management, invasive species and human disturbance.

The effective engagement and support of international conventions and agreements and their corresponding implementing mechanisms, especially at the sub-regional level, was highlighted by Evelyn Moloko of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement and Mame Dagou Diop of Programme Regional de Conservation des Resources Marines (PRCM) of West Africa, as a critical pathway for ensuring issues of migratory birds are taken into account and effectively implemented by policy and decision makers.

About the workshop

The workshop, which was funded by the Mava Foundation and with co funding support of Wetlands International, was aimed at developing a regional project for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along the coasts of West Africa. The participants at the workshop, who were drawn from civil society organizations, government institutions and relevant ongoing conservation programmes and initiatives in the region identified and agreed on a network of sites and species, as well as, a menu of conservation actions (including national and local capacity building of institutions to improve monitoring  of important sites and their management and enhancement of the livelihood of local communities dependent on these important sites)  that would be undertaken over the 4-year life span of the project.

About the project

The project, according to Dr. Hazell Shokellu Thompson of BirdLife International, “offers an additional opportunity for coordinated contunued monitoring and conservation of important bird areas along the coast of West Africa, and for capacity building, crucial for migratory bird conservation, as well as, the enhancement of the livelihood of local communities”.

“The partnership and participatory approach adopted, right from the onset of the project development process, is one of the outstanding results of the workshop and a laudable approach for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats that will also benefit local communities”, according to Ibrahima Thiam of Wetlands International.


For more information contact:

Mr. Abdoulaye Ndaiaye Email:

Dr. Paulinus Ngeh Email:;

Dr. Hazell Shokellu Thompson Email:

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