Boosting migratory waterbird conservation in the Bijagos

The conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats is of great importance, not only because these birds represent a shared heritage between several countries, but also because they serve as an example to build networks and exchange knowledge and learning around the world. A practical training on waterbird monitoring that recently took place in Guinea-Bissau is a good example.

The Bijagós Archipelago in Guinea-Bissau, one of MAVA’s priority sites, is an important wintering area where large numbers of waterbirds migrate along the East-Atlantic flyway. These islands are home to unique cultural practices and biodiversity, especially in the intertidal areas (the divide between sea and land).

Recent studies carried out within the framework of MAVA’s Action Plan to halt the disturbances of waterbirds in West Africa have shown that these migratory birds find in the Bijagós optimal living conditions and sufficient food for their survival during the wintering period. The studies also highlighted the links between different areas on the East Atlantic flyway: the Bijagós Archipelago in Guinea-Bissau which stands out for its unique importance, as well as two other areas, the Wadden Sea and the Banc d’Arguin in Mauritania.

Despite the already existing conservation measures, including the creation of marine protected areas (Orango, João Vieira-Poilão and Urok), these fragile ecosystems are subject to increasing pressure (deforestation, future oil and gas exploration, tourism, population growth, foreign fishing, pollution), which may lead to the medium and long-term decline of migratory waterbirds.

To address this, the partners involved in the Action Plan are implementing a range of conservation and capacity-building actions. One is example is the training IBAP and the University of Aveiro recently organized in Bubaque (Bijagos) for 25 participants on waterbird monitoring, with activities ranging from species identification to ringing. A week of technical and hands-on training aimed at raising awareness and strengthening local capacity, banking on the future of waterbird conservation in the region.

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