Zim to host Pan African Ornithological congress

Source: Zim to host Pan African Ornithological congress | Herald (Top Stories)

Julia Pierini

Sifelani Tsiko-Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor

Zimbabwe will next month host the 15th Pan African Ornithological Congress (PAOC15) which will attract scores of bird enthusiasts to discuss wide ranging issues on conservation, safeguarding and managing the most critical sites for birds and biodiversity.

BirdLife Zimbabwe CEO, Julia Pierini told the Herald on Monday that the congress will take place from November 21 – 25, 2022 in Victoria Falls which lies at the heart of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area comprising five countries – Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.

BirdLife Zimbabwe is the local organiser of the ornithological (birdwatchers) congress in partnership with the Pan African Ornithological Congress (PAOC) Committee and other sponsors.

“We have had an unprecedented response to the Congress and are currently expecting more than 275 delegates from 55 nations of the world,” she said.

“Of these, 33 African countries are represented, 16 from Europe and delegates from the USA, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Malaysia and India. Everyone is looking forward to the in person discussions.”

The congress will have 13 round table discussions, six plenary sessions, 221 oral presentations and a number of poster displays.

“Topics are wide ranging and diverse. We have arranged some exciting bird excursions on the excursion day for the delegates that include birding trips on the beautiful Zambezi River, game drives along the river and in the Chamabonda Vlei, a walk along the Masue River up to the gorge, and of course, a trip to see the magnificent Victoria Falls,” said Pierini.

“We are looking forward to a jam-packed week of learning and networking showcasing the beautiful birds of Africa and how critically important it is for all of us, that we ensure their survival!”

The congress was coming at a time when nearly half of all bird species are declining in Africa with many populations facing extinctions, according to the latest State of the World’s Birds report reveals.

Published every four years by BirdLife International, the report showed that almost half of bird species in Africa and worldwide are in decline, with just 6 percent increasing.

Deforestation, poor regulation of trade and increased trafficking have led to the decline of some bird species on the continent.

Major drivers of the population decline include widespread habitat loss and degradation and the broad use of agricultural chemicals that eradicate insects vital to the diet of many birds.

BirdLife International says that the expansion and intensification of agriculture is putting pressure on bird species worldwide.

It also adds that logging, invasive species, exploitation of natural resources and climate breakdown are some of the other major threats.

The decline of bird species is widely seen by birdwatchers as a worrying sign of wider upsets to nature.

Birds are among the best researched of all wildlife and are a barometer of the environment, experts say.

Zimbabwe has an impressive biodiversity collection that includes 59 30 plant species, 674 bird species, 270 mammal species, 156 reptile species, 120 amphibian species and 150 fish species found within and outside protected areas.

Its bird species are found in the miombo and mopane woodlands as well as the Eastern Highlands including major protected wetlands.

The destruction of wetlands as well as the accidental poisoning and death of critically endangered white-backed vultures is of major concern to Zimbabwe and most other southern African countries.

Vultures feed off carcasses laced with poison and die in huge numbers. Birdlife experts say one poisoned elephant carcass can cause the death of up to 500 critically endangered vultures.

Birdlife report said safeguarding and protecting important sites for nature, restoring damaged ecosystems, and tackling key threats to birds and biodiversity are all critical.

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