Friday, July 29, 2011

Poisoning of wildlife

Poisoning of wildlife, including birds, is a problem throughout Africa, and it is interesting to know what other countries are doing about it. The information below comes from Paula Kahumbu, Executive Director of WildlifeDirect and winner of the National Geographic/Buffet Award for conservation leadership in Africa.

"WildlifeDirect (an NGO in Kenya) is stepping up a campaign to have carbofuran, the active ingredient in the deadly pesticide product Furadan, banned in Kenya and East Africa.

Martin Odino, who is a scientist and an author of the WildlifeDirect blog, Stop Wildlife Poisoning, has reported that despite FMC (the manufacturer of the pesticide) claims that Furadan is no longer in Kenya, it actually continues to be used to poison tens of thousands of wetland birds in Bunyala rice irrigation scheme in Kenya. The product is coming in from Uganda.

He has documented in photographs and film how the birds are killed by lacing a meal of rice with the poison and laying it out in the rice paddies. Ducks and other waterfowl eat it and die shortly thereafter. Insects, amphibians and fish in the water are killed. Predatory birds pick up the carcases and so the pesticide is affecting a whole chain of species. African Openbills are killed by lacing snails and using decoys to attract over-flying flocks. He claims that up to 50% of each flock that lands in these fields dies, and this amounts to some 6,000 bird deaths each month in Bunyala rice irrigation scheme alone. We suspect even higher mortalities in Mwea and Ahero irrigation schemes. The consequence of poisoning to raptors and migratory birds could be catastrophic.

But it's not just birds. The human cost is enormous; the people handling the deadly toxic chemical do so with bare hands. The product is put into the water which is consumed by the community, and the ducks, storks, doves, sandpipers and other species that are killed are sold in local markets as human food. The evidence is shocking and we will be releasing a short documentary on the same shortly.

For latest updates, check out

Farm workers handle a poisoned vulture without wearing protective clothing

Although FMC claims that Furadan is not available in Kenya, it is permitted for use in the production of flowers in Kenya. Our largest flower farms are at Lake Naivasha, a Ramsar site and an extremely Important Bird Area.

We have submitted reports, attended meetings with the pest control products board and government officials and we are part of the government task force, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture and is chaired by the CEO of the Pesticide Products Control Board. However, this Board has not met since September 2010, and few of the actions agree on have been implemented. We believe that the PPCB is not in a position to attend to the problem due to resource constraints and conflict of interest.

We would like you to share this through your networks, put it on your websites, blogs, facebook and e-mail it to everyone.

Our campaign has two targets:

1. The immediate and total ban on use of carbofuran and other carbamate pesticides in any pesticide control product;

2. We are demanding that the government move the Pesticide Products Control Board out of the Ministry of Agriculture where the organisation faces a conflict of interest, and into the Ministry of Environment where it can effectively achieve its mission"To provide professional, efficient and effective regulatory service for manufacture, trade, safe use and disposal of pest control products while ensuring safety to humans, animals and the environment".

We ask that you support our initiative by circulating information, advise us on funding opportunities to continue the research, monitoring, reporting and education, as well as the advocacy to change the Kenyan laws."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A challenge to birders - Ross's Turaco in Botswana

Ross's Turaco is a strikingly beautiful bird found primarily in riverine and other forests in south-central Africa, with the southernmost tip of its range just touching the northern extremity of Botswana. When naturalist/film-maker Tim Liversedge saw the first one in Botswana near Ikoga on the Okavango Panhandle in 1974, he knew that no-one would believe him, so he 'collected' the bird - it is now a museum specimen so there can be no doubt about the authenticity of this record!

Since 1974, informed birders have been keeping an eye out for this brilliant blue turaco along the Okavango Panhandle and the riverine forests along the Linyanti River, as it is likely to occur sporadically in these areas. There have been some claimed sightings, but none has been accepted by BirdLife Botswana's Records sub-committee, which adjudicates these reports. Recently, one of the top guides in northern Botswana, Victor Horatius, sent in an excited and exciting e-mail saying that he'd seen one in the Linyanti Concession near King's Pool Camp, but unfortunately he could not get a photograph of it . . .

Thus Ross's Turaco remains elusive in Botswana. This bird is undoubtedly seen more than once in 40 years, and in this day and age of high resolution digital cameras, it will only take one clear photo to confirm that the species is alive and well in northern Botswana. This is our challenge to birders - keep your cameras at the ready when visiting the northern part of the country!