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Blueprint to halt Asia’s bird extinction crisis

New blueprint to halt Asia’s bird extinction crisis

Tokyo, Japan, 12 November - A ground-breaking guide has been launched for governments and civil society to prevent the extinction of Asia’s birds, one in eight of which is now under threat. HIH Princess Takamado of Japan unveiled the blueprint, Saving Asia’s threatened birds, at a ceremony today in Tokyo. [1,2]

BirdLife International produced the guide with financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to help avoid the extinction of 324 threatened bird species, 12% of Asia’s total. [3,4] Already 41 Asian bird species teeter on the brink of extinction, classified as Critically Endangered under World Conservation Union criteria. [5] Of these, 11 may already be extinct, including the Javanese Lapwing of Indonesia and the Pink-headed Duck of India and Myanmar. Six of the species number fewer than 50 mature individuals in the wild, such as the Bali Starling. [6]

An important finding of the strategy is that more than 100 sites that are critically important for globally threatened birds remain unprotected and should be a major priority for conservation action, BirdLife says. Two of the most important areas are the small Indonesian island of Sangihe, and Siburan forest on the Philippine island of Mindoro. Sangihe is home to three Critically Endangered species, including the Caerulean Paradise-flycatcher which occurs in only one tiny unprotected forest, and Siburan forest is the main habitat of the Critically Endangered Mindoro Bleeding-heart.

The strategy highlights that the main habitat for threatened birds is tropical lowland moist forests, holding more than 50% of the region’s 324 threatened species. Forest loss and degradation due to commercial logging, clear felling for paper production, and plantation establishment are the biggest threats to Asia’s birds. Indonesia is home to more globally threatened species than any other Asian country, with 117, now only just overtaken by Brazil globally, and urgently needs global assistance to support conservation measures. Mainland China, with 78, has the region’s second highest number of globally threatened species, closely followed by India in third place with 73 species, and the Philippines with 70.

The second largest threat to Asia’s birds is the disturbance or conversion of wetlands, which are crucial for the survival of 20% of threatened species, including the Siberian Crane and Black-faced Spoonbill. Migratory species such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Spotted Greenshank are also being pushed closer to extinction by wetland loss and large land reclamation projects, especially along the coast of the Yellow Sea of Korea and China. Other major threats include hunting for food and the pet trade.

The strategy provides a holistic solution for the survival of each species, listing necessary conservation measures by 33 priority habitat regions. BirdLife argues that it is best to focus efforts on these threatened habitats such as the Philippine Forests because often a single conservation action will address the needs of several threatened species. At today’s launch, Noritaka Ichida, Director of BirdLife Asia, made recommendations for action which are of conservation importance for a wide selection of Asia’s threatened birds: protecting wetlands on the migratory flyways of threatened species, particularly along the coast of the Yellow Sea bordered by China and Korea, and including the Demilitarised Zone between the two Koreas, one of the region’s only remaining wildernesses which should be designated a transboundary peace park; conserving the remaining lowland tropical forests in Malaysia and western Indonesia through legislation, land-use planning, sustainable forest management, and support from the private sector; conservation measures for key sites for Critical and Endangered Species that are not currently under any protection, particularly in the Philippines and the Maluku region of eastern Indonesia; strengthened implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), given the continued high levels of trade in protected species, especially parrots; surveys for ‘lost’ or poorly-known species, before they go extinct, so that conservation measures can be advanced.

“Asia is blessed with a uniquely varied and abundant number of bird species - it is this treasure trove that we are in danger of losing,” says HIH Princess Takamado. “Now, as environmental issues grow into global concerns, it is imperative that we act with intelligent integrity and I am pleased to be a part of the BirdLife Partnership in its efforts to guide the world in this direction.”

“Publishing this document and making it available to governments and other stakeholders is a major step forward for bird conservation in Asia,” says Dr Michael Rands, BirdLife International’s Director and Chief Executive. “Three primary issues highlighted by this strategy fire my determination: The unchecked rapid loss of the Sundaland rainforests of South-East Asia, gaps in Asia’s protected area system for many critically important areas and the trade in wild birds.”

“This strategy launched today clearly articulates a major suite of key actions required to conserve the rarest bird species and most threatened avian habitats in Asia,” says Jorgen Thomsen, CEPF Executive Director and Senior Vice President at Conservation International. “We hope it will be used as a ‘recipe book’ or a route map for designing and implementing more effective conservation actions.”

For further information please contact in Japan Ade Long on +81 3-33-519-981, mobile +81 8030-051224 or via e-mail: Or in the UK Gareth Gardiner-Jones at BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK on + 44 (0) 1223 279 903 or 07779 018332 (mobile). E-mail: Photographs of threatened species and habitats are available at Interviews can also be arranged with Noritaka Ichida and Jorgen Thomsen.

NOTES FOR EDITORS HIH Princess Takamado of Japan is an Honorary Patron of BirdLife International’s Rare Bird Club and a keen birdwatcher. The launch ceremony was held at the Fuji Room, Hoso-Kaikan, Kasumigaseki 1-1-1, Tokyo Saving Asia’s threatened birds: A guide for government and civil society is available from Natural History Book Services. Tel: +44(0)1803 865913 - Fax: +44(0)1803 865280. E-mail: BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working in more than 100 countries who, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life. CEPF is a joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. CEPF provides funding and technical assistance to civil society groups to help conserve earth’s biologically richest and most threatened areas. CEPF has committed in excess of $29 million to more than 180 conservation projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. BirdLife is the Listing Authority for birds for the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List which includes all species judged to be threatened with extinction. Scientific names of species mentioned in the text are: Javanese Lapwing Vanellus macropterus, Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea, Bali Starling Leucopsar rothschildi, Caerulean Paradise-flycatcher Eutrichomyas rowleyi, Mindoro Bleeding-heart Gallicolumba platenae, Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus; Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorynchus pygmeus, and Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer.

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