BirdLife International Launches Blueprint to Halt Asia’s Bird Extinction Crisis
Tokyo, Japan (Nov. 12, 2003)—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 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.  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. 
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:
"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."
Photographs of threatened species and habitats are available to journalists in BirdLife's Press Release section.
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