This weekend, the IUCN Global Species Programme is joining partners in celebrating World Migratory Bird Day 2014 and promoting this year’s theme of "Destination Flyways: Migratory Birds and Tourism".
The huge migrations undertaken by birds are spectacular and inspiring. In October, hundreds of thousands of Baikal Teal (Anas formosa) migrate from breeding pools in eastern Siberia to over-winter at the Seosan lakes in South Korea. People travel from all over the country to witness the amazing aerial displays these birds perform in the evening, before they move to feed on the remains of harvested rice fields at night. In Senegal, schoolchildren are taken on fieldtrips to learn about the ecology of migratory birds such as Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), which hunt in coastal lagoons during the winter, and in the breeding season in the United Kingdom, tourists visit osprey nest watching sites that directly support the conservation of other species in the area.
In a recent survey by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, the annual economic value generated by bird watchers and other wildlife watchers was calculated at US$ 32 billion per year in the United States alone. Also, Kenya’s economic development depends on eco-tourism; one new job is created for every 10 tourists that visit the country. Eco-tourism plays a crucial role in raising awareness about bird migration and the protection of breeding grounds and wintering areas along a species’ migratory flyway. The huge revenues associated with bird watching have safeguarded species against barriers to migration and greatly supported mitigation efforts in areas where infrastructure may disrupt the movement of birds.
SOS – Save Our Species grantee, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust are working to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) from extinction, through a conservation breeding programme in Chukotka while working with villagers in Myanmar and Bangladesh to reduce the pressures of hunting. In fact, last year the project successfully hatched 20 eggs and just one month after hatching, the fledglings embarked on their first 8,000km migration – a remarkable feat! This year we hope to see the first adults from the programme returning to Chukotka to breed – this would be a superb achievement for the project.
By celebrating World Migratory Bird Day 2014 and ‘The Destination Flyways Project’, we can highlight the importance of cross-border cooperation in conserving migratory species, and the role that ecotourism plays in developing local economies as well as raising awareness about how we all depend on and are inspired by nature.