“Birds are beautiful, so people should take interest in watching and conserving them”
Zambia is renowned for its rich birdlife with a recorded number of 740 bird species. For over 30 years, BirdWatch Zambia (BWZ) has played a huge role in the ornithology of these birds in their habitats and their conservation. However, these Birds, as well as BirdWatch Zambia, face a challenging future.
Open Zambia: Which bird is most special to Zambia and why?
BirdWatch Zambia: The Zambian Barbet could be considered the most special bird to Zambia. It is Zambia’s only endemic bird species but there are only 5200 birds of this species left in the country. By “endemic” to Zambia we mean that that the bird species is found nowhere else in the world except for Zambia. It is confined to relatively small area in Central and Southern Provinces of Zambia. Precisely, the Zambian Barbet exists in four Important Bird Areas (IBAs) namely Chisamba, Nkanga River Conservation Area, Kafue Flats (Blue Lagoon), the northern part of Kafue National Park and probably Lukanga Swamp. The Zambian Barbet is the bird minted on the one kwacha coin.
Open Zambia: What is the biggest threat to Zambia’s birdlife?
BirdWatch Zambia: Generally, habitat loss and fragmentation due to fires is the biggest threat to Zambia’s birdlife. This is affecting 83% of IBAs. Other causes include deforestation and forest or habitat degradation due to agriculture expansion and charcoal burning. Shifting agriculture and over grazing negatively impact at least 78% of IBAs while mining and quarrying continue to be significant threats in at least 26% of the IBAs. In wetlands IBAs, habitats for water birds are negatively impacted by invasive species, both alien and native. They affect at least 20% of IBAs. Kariba weed and water hyacinth are the most problematic pests. Indirectly, conflicting legislation, guidelines and policies across ministries and departments is an emerging threat and is a significant contributor to IBA deterioration.
Open Zambia: What can we do as citizens to protect Zambia’s birdlife?
BirdWatch Zambia: Important action points in order to protect birdlife include:
1) Developing a robust and nationwide fire management strategy for implementation at sub-district, district and national level;
2) Adopting sustainable and smart agricultural practices;
3) Bringing benefits of conservation in general to the sub-district level;
4) Raising the profile of birds as a potential resource for tourism with the help of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
Open Zambia: What are the greatest challenges currently facing BirdWatch Zambia?
1) Low staffing, especially in light of the organization’s strategic plan. There are only 4 members of staff (2 technical and 2 drivers) running at most four projects all located in remote areas.
2) Logistical challenges; the organization only has two vehicles, all more than 7 years. They break down frequently, in fact, at this moment one vehicle has developed a fault in Kasempa district and spares are being sent by bus.
3) Heavy dependence on donor support, which in recent years has reduced drastically. Ideally our organization should run on an annual budget of at least 400,000USD but currently runs on less than 100,000USD.
4) Limited capacity in terms of carrying out high-level research.
Open Zambia: How will you be celebrating Zambia’s 50th Birthday in October?
BirdWatch Zambia: Resources permitting, BWZ plans to coordinate and organize an open bird walk in Chisamba to introduce people to the Zambian Barbet and enhance interest in birds.
You can find out more about BirdWatch Zambia on their website.