[Imogen Clowes is a student at Bristol UWE studying illustration. She has recently returned from a 5 week trip to Sumatra, Indonesia, and has send us this report on bird poaching, an increasing threat, and some of her beautiful drawings that we would like to share with our readers. Sumatra is where the RSPB is working to restore 100,000 hectares of forest, and working with partners to conserve the Sumatran tiger and many other species. All images copyright Imogen Clowes.]
For the majority of my time in Indonesia I stayed with my aunt, Debbie Martyr. She has lived and worked in Sumatra for 25 years. She works for Fauna & Flora International, and has been at the heart of efforts to conserve the Sumatran Tiger against the twin threats of poaching and deforestation. In 2000 she set up the Kerinci Seblat Tiger Conservation team. I went with the intention to develop illustrations around the theme of tigers and the threats to their survival, but my work took me in a variety of directions including religions, culture, education, politics and bird poaching.
Debbie and her fellow members of the tiger team expressed huge concerns about the level of bird poaching all over Sumatra. I spent some of my time drawing in bird shops in the city of Sungai Penuh. I picked up a lot of interesting information while drawing. I was also fortunate enough to go trekking with two members of the Kerinci Bird Club. I interviewed them about bird poaching, and also managed to interview someone who did not see the problem with poaching and enjoyed having exotic birds as pets – you can read more on my blog.
Thanks to Ed Drewitt of Bristol University for his help with the bird identification.
[Chris Bowden updates us from South Asia]
Quite a relief - an exciting downpour last night as the first heavy rains of the year made our trip to the local supermarket a memorable one – especially getting back to the car with a borrowed umbrella!
Vulture news since I wrote has been mainly in the form of meetings, with the latest Governments Regional Steering Committee meeting in Delhi focusing on developing a big GEF funding proposal. Followed by a brief trip to Kathmandu to meet SAVE Partners there, and the best news has been confirmation that the World Bank has funded a two year vulture project in Bangladesh, run by IUCN Bangladesh which started last month...I’m looking forward to my Skype meeting next week to discuss Vulture Safe Zones with the project manager, and also to plan my visit there in June. More updates and details on the SAVE website.
Bangladesh oriental white-backed vulture on nest by (Tania Khan)
The UK coastline is a remarkable place. It is in a constant state of flux as the ebb and flow of the tides and stormy weather move and shape the sand and shingle. Shingle ridges appear and disappear and sandy areas washed away by the sea are deposited elsewhere.
Many species of wildlife make their home on this ever changing landscape including little terns. These small seabirds, not much bigger than a blackbird, lay two or three brilliantly camouflaged eggs in a shallow scrape just above the high water line. Incubation lasts for about three weeks and then the chicks fledge about three weeks later. They gather small fish to feed themselves and their young just off the coast.
Little terns are migrants that spend the winter feeding off the coast of south and west Africa. In mid April, they arrive back on our shores to breed. They would normally move with the shifting beaches and make their home there. However, this process is being affected by the impacts of climate change and man made developments.
Photo by Kevin Simmonds
Many of these beaches are being squashed between rising seas caused by climate change and hard sea defences. These beaches have no where to expand and this valuable habitat shrinks in a process known as coastal squeeze, leaving the terns with a shortage of suitable places to nest.
This reduction in suitable habitat is forcing little terns to nest in fewer and fewer colonies. Their population is now very vulnerable to factors such as predation, storms, human disturbance and egg theft because they are putting their eggs in fewer and fewer baskets.
In September 2013, eleven organisations including the RSPB, Natural England and National Trust received EU LIFE+ funding to support a Little Tern Recovery Project. Through this project, we want to protect the current breeding sites and enhance and create others to allow the population to expand. The more sites little terns have to breed, the more resilient their population will be.
We are working to restore their habitat by monitoring potential nest sites and recharging small areas of lost shingle damaged by storms. Electric fences have been installed to keep ground predators such as foxes at bay. Wardens will be on guard at many sites to stop egg thieves who are sadly still a problem. Egg thieves do not just take eggs from one or two nests – they will take as many eggs as they can and destroy a whole colony. In July 2013, more than 50 little tern eggs were stolen from Crimdon Dene near Hartlepool, where 65 pairs of the birds had been nesting.
Along with the Project partners, the public also have an essential role in helping little terns. These birds are being forced to share some of our busiest beaches with people and this increased disturbance can be a major problem. Through this project, we aim to create awareness and work with local communities and beachgoers who can help act as guardians for these magnificent little birds by helping to give them space to breed.