MEC Sihle Zikalala: Agreement on Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds

4 Dec 2018

Address by the MEC for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sihle Zikalala opening ceremony for the Seventh Session of the meeting of the parties to the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, Olive Convention Centre, Durban, KZN, 04 December 2018

Program Director;
Executive Mayor for EThekwini Metropolitan Municipality: Her Worship Cllr Zandile Gumede;
Representatives of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS);
Honourable Executive Secretariat for the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, Dr Jacques Trouvilliez;
CEOs from Partner Organisations;
Members of the Non- Governmental Organisations;
Distinguished delegates;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

We are humbled as the province of KwaZulu-Natal to welcome you back to our country for the second time since the first meeting in 1999.

Migratory birds have always been an essential feature in the landscape of human existence. They are an integral part of our heritage, imagination, and future wellbeing.

They constitute an important part of the global biological diversity, which in keeping with our obligations to the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity, should be conserved for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Africa-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds Agreement (AEWA) is an important intergovernmental Agreement.

It brings together countries and the wider international conservation community in an effort to establish coordinated conservation and management of migratory waterbirds and their habitats throughout their entire migratory range spanning across Africa, Europe and parts of Asia.

It is therefore befitting for South Africa to be hosting this important gathering since the country is a vital part of the migratory range of these important bird species.

Migrating birds cross vast borders.

They link countries, ecosystems, and contribute to poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods.

They serve as a key contributor to the provision and the sustainability of essential goods and services such as eco-tourism.

Migratory species can also act as crucial indicators of global climate change.

They can also reveal unsustainable land use practices such as overgrazing of livestock or overfishing and by-catch in line fishing gear.

Research shows that a decline in the conservation status of migratory species serves as an indicator that specific actions are essential to mitigate the impacts and to improve the management of the ecosystem services upon which humankind depends upon.

Distinguished delegates, it is also well documented that during migration, these birds face a wide range of threats that impact their chances of surviving the journey. 

Some of the notable dangers include electrocution due to collisions into high-voltage power lines, and pollution. 

Hazards also emanate from destruction of habitats that are critical for breeding, wintering and stopover - mainly through deforestation and change in land use and cover. 

We know as well that at their stopover countries and wintering grounds, their eggs and chicks face poaching.

And as more and more countries take up renewable energy, these migratory birds face a new threat of being killed by wind turbines.

Given all these challenges, there is an urgent need for a balanced approach that must ensure that the natural environment is not irreversibly damaged.

Distinguished guests, the theme “Beyond 2020: Shaping flyway conservation for the future”, presents a number of opportunities.

These include a reflection on the good practices and lessons learned throughout the implementation of the AEWA Strategic Plan 2009-2018.

We also have an opportunity to agree on  a path for the next decade through the adoption of a new Strategic Plan for 2019-2027 that incorporates the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

I’m personally pleased to learn that this is complemented by the existence of the AEWA Plan of Action for Africa serving as the operational guideline for the implementation of the AEWA African Initiative - For Migratory Waterbirds and People.

As a country we remain committed to share our expertise and experience with the rest of the Parties towards the realization of the important objective of ensuring that migratory birds do not disappear from our skies.

Our commitment to enhancing the conservation of the bird species is demonstrated by various initiatives across the country. For instance, there is a partnership between our national power utility, Eskom and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) aimed at developing an integrated management system to minimise incidences of collisions into power lines.

Furthermore, Eskom, Birdlife South Africa and the Middelpunt Wetland Trust entered into a partnership that not only resulted in the conservation of endangered species but also mobilized land owners in the vicinity of the Ingula power station to sign up to a voluntary Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.

This has the added benefit of contributing to the conservation estate in South Africa, where aadditional 8 000 hectares were purchased by Eskom and recently declared as the new Ingula Nature Reserve. The area is also registered as an Important Bird Area with BirdLife South Africa.

Ladies and Gentleman, concerted conservation actions by all of us, including governments, nature conservation organisations, and scientists within the Conservation sector is necessary.

Our people need to know more on how to protect migratory birds and natural resources in their vicinity in general.

There is also an urgent need for focused awareness and education programmes on the conservation and sustainable use of migratory birds.

These birds are also an important source of revenue for our country.

A 2010 study by the Department of Trade and Industry on Avitourisim indicated that the total size of the Avitourisim market is between 21 000 and 40 000 visitors annually.

The DTI study estimated Avitourists’  total spend to be in the region of R 927 million to R 1.725 billion per year with domestic Avitourism spend accounting for between R 482 million and R 890 million. 

I am aware that on Friday, you will be undertaking field excursions.

The excursions include a visit to Kwamuhle  museum and the Inanda heritage route showcasing Durban’s important historical sites,  for an example, where Nelson Mandela casted his first vote in 1994.

The Durban Bay Waterbird Count - despite lying in the centre of a major city - boasts a good selection of waterbirds. An astonishing 120 or so species of aquatic birds have been recorded in Durban Bay.

The Dlinza Forest is a regular breeding site of the globally threatened Spotted Ground Thrush and Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon. This is one example where we will be showcasing how we work closely with communities.

You also have the opportunity to visit the Sappi-Stanger Bird Hide which attracts a variety of wader and waterfowl species in fairly large numbers.

The hide also provides an opportunity to view a number of difficult wetland species. It is a very good example on how we can work with industries in conserving some of these waterbirds species.

Let me conclude by affirming that the timing of AEWA MoP 7 is impeccable.

It is convened immediately post the UN Convention on Biological diversity COP 14.

Given its significance, I believe you have at your disposal a suit of world class resources to utilize in carving a path “Beyond 2020” as a global community to save our precious and important migratory waterbirds.

I thank you!

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