South meets North – A partnership linking sooty falcon conservationists

The sooty falcon (Falco concolor) is a medium-sized falcon that breeds solely in the Middle East and north-eastern Africa, and winters in Madagascar and the SE African mainland. Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are important breeding areas. Unlike most falcons, the sooty falcon breeds late in the summer, feeding its young on birds that are migrating from Eurasia to Africa. Thus, it is both migratory itself, and highly dependent on the health of migratory populations of small birds to ensure its long-term persistence. As such its conservation is supported in a general way by the CMS approach aimed at conserving migrant species, and more specifically though the focused CMS effort spelled out in the MOU on Birds of Prey. Sooty falcons breed singly or in aggregations. Aggregations are found on islands and can be large, making those islands particularly important for conservation. One of the largest aggregations in the world occurs on Fahal Island, located about 5 km from the Omani capital, Muscat. The conservation status of the sooty falcon has been recently downgraded by BirdLife International to “Near-threatened” (http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3606 last accessed 8 May 2012). It is classified as a Category 1 species under the CMS Action Plan for the conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia. Research to date, including recent work in Oman supported by the OCE, point to an estimated 15% decline in the population in recent decades, and that human disturbance, illegal killing and habitat loss are threats. It is arguably a good flagship species for conservation, but has never been used as such. Therefore, more general conservation efforts are not benefitting from its flagship species status. In recent years the OCE in Oman has supported the most extensive study in the world and survey of sooty falcons on its breeding grounds. A recent report can be downloaded here: http://www.natural-research.org/environmental-research-charity/current-r... . Although the OCE has lead on this effort, it has relied on the cooperation of Omani government, academic business and non-governmental organizations and international wildlife research organizations. A basic assumption of the Convention is that migratory species' conservation requires whole-range and trans-national approaches. The countries within the annual range of the sooty falcon are developing (Madagascar is classified by the UN as a "least developed" country (See Annex A) , often have large remote areas where sooty falcons are found, and in general dedicate few resources to wildlife conservation. Accepting the importance of building a range-wide partnership, it is reasonable to start by building a partnership between the country in which most sooty falcons winter (Madagascar) and a country that has a significant proportion of the breeding population and a history of sooty falcon research (Oman). Once this seed- partnership between these two countries is established, a larger group of cooperating countries can be assembled.

Implicitly CMS recognizes that a whole-range approach is needed to best achieve conservation objectives, most especially for migratory species like the sooty falcon. For most migratory species of birds more is known about their ecology on the breeding grounds, and many gaps exist in our understanding of the year-round ecology of sooty falcons. Also, little information is available on processes (e.g. natal dispersal) and important population and demographic parameters (e.g. survival, productivity and recruitment). Additionally, there is little public knowledge of the sooty falcon in the countries in which it occurs, illustrating that conservation education is lacking. While there is a general lack of information and conservation effort, these deficiencies are most pronounced in the non-breeding areas of Madagascar (and the African mainland). Despite the perception that that breeding grounds are most important, sooty falcons spend more time away from the breeding grounds than on them, and in any case breeding falcons also need to survive the non-breeding season in order to return to breed summmer after summer.

Establish connections between sooty falcon conservationists and researchers working in the breeding grounds in Oman and their counterparts working on the non-breeding grounds in Madagascar.; Use the experience and momentum in sooty falcon research in Oman to leverage a complimentary effort on the non-breeding grounds in Madagascar.; Collect data useful for sooty falcon conservaton in the field; Use data to initiate public outreach and education. Dissemination of information

Description:Field visit by Malagasys to Oman in October 2012. Participate in field work including fitting of satellite tags and survey of falcons. Strategy meeting at OCE in Oman Visit by OCE biologists to Madagascar in early 2013. Planning meetings and pilot field
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Responsibility:OCE to arrange all logistics to get guests into the field and faciltate meeting in Oman. OCE to purchase satellite transmitters. Mdm Zarasoa /Rene de Roland Lily Arison to arrange all logistics in Madagascar.
Output:Report on field work in Oman Working strategy document that sets out taks and timeframe for future cooperation and a plan fpr growing the group of cooperators Report on field work in Madagascar
Description:Survey sooty falcons on Fahal Island Track sooty falcons fitted with satellite transmitters in Oman.
Start date:
End date:
Responsibility:OCE (Mansoor al Jadhami, Waheed al Fazari, Dawood al Adjimi) and M. McGrady to arrange survey. M. McGrady to provide training on downloading and displaying tracking data.
Output:Report on field work in Oman. Contributes to peer reviewed scientific paper being planned that will use data from previous 4 yrs of field effort. Blog with postings of maps of tracked birds.
Description:Survey and monitor sooty falcon population in Oman; Extend mark-recapture field work in Oman Track sooty falcons fitted with satellite transmitters in Oman. Pilot field work in Madagascar
Start date:
End date:
Responsibility:OCE biologists and M. McGrady to lead on field work in Oman OCE biologists to download and archive information on tracked birds. Malagasy biologists to lead on field work in Madagascar
Output:Field reports Plan peer reviewed papers. Field work in Madagascar likely to be tooo little for anything but a short note, perhaps in Bird Conservatioin International or Sandgrouse. Oman data can be added to past data for publication of a long article
Description:Track sooty falcons fitted with satellite transmitters in Oman. Determine format for blogs/websites Create web presence in French, English and Arabic Produce popular and peer-reviewed scientific publications
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Responsibility:OCE biologists and M McGrady to maintain blog in Arabic and English, and make data available to Malagasys. Consider setting up Facebook page Lily Arison to maintain blog in French and Malagasy
Output:Establishment of web presence, preferably in French, English, and Arabic

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Implementing AgencyThe Peregrine Fund Madagascar Project
Collaborating agenciesThe Office for the Conservation of the Environment (OCE), Sultanate of Oman ; Contact Dr. Mansoor Al Jahdhami; e-mail mhjahdhami@gmail.com; Tel: +968 99021672

Activity start dateOctober 2012
Activity end dateSeptember 2013
CMS AppendixAppendix II
Taxonomic groupBirds
Target regionAfrica
Asia
Target countryMadagascar, Oman
Final technical reportNo

Habitat loss and degradation
Human Disturbance