Elephants in western and central Africa are still in decline
despite the increased management of elephant populations
in Southern Africa which even create problems of over-population
in their remaining limited spaces.
Sturgeons: about 25 large species, important for their
caviar production, are in dramatic decline because of over-exploitation,
pollution of rivers and coastal marine areas and other man-made
Antelopes have almost been eradicated over the last 30
years in the northern African arid areas larger in size
than the Australian continent.
The beautiful Houbara bustards, birds well adapted to steppe
and desert areas and traditional prey for hunting with falcons
will disappear from Asia and Africa soon if no strong action
Albatrosses and other seabirds, dolphins and marine turtles
are victims of the so-called by-catch in fisheries activities.
These alarming facts are only some which governmental and
non-governmental experts from 100 countries discussed in
a global conference in Cape Town, South Africa from 6th
- 16th November to ensure better protection for certain
migratory species of wild animals at the occasion of the
6th Conference of the Parties to the Bonn Convention on
the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
Its main purpose is to foster protection of migratory species
across national frontiers - "travellers without a passport"
as they were called by Dr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director
of the United Nations Environment Programme based in Nairobi,
Kenya. As stated in Dr. Toepfer’s message to the President
of South Africa, Mr. Thabo Mbeki - "they are paramount
symbols of the common natural heritage which combine the
ecosystems of countries, even continents". The message
was carried by emissary eagles from Germany and Poland,
tracked by satellite to monitor their migratory routes.
A daily updated map of the eagles flight is accessible on
the Internet until April 2000 on the CMS homepage at www.wcmc.org.uk/cms.
The conference decided by consensus that seven migratory
species (eg. six rare birds and the manatees in the marine
areas of Panama and Honduras) be listed as endangered. This
will entail their strict legal protection including their
habitat, by their Range States. For about thirty other endangered
species concerted actions by the Range States were also
agreed upon which will result in increased protection measures
in addition to national measures and transboundary projects.
Another important decision relates to the more than thirty
species being newly listed in Appendix II as species
which warrant international transboundary coordination and
concerted action. They will be subject to the development
of Agreements and action plans amongst the respective Range
These will include transboundary research, monitoring,
conservation actions, harmonization of legislation, capacity-building
and public awareness-raising activities. Amongst these species
are listed dolphins in South-East Asia, seven petrel species,
twelve sturgeon species of various regions and the Whale
A prominent event at the conference was the signing by
an additional five Range States, inter alia by the Nigerian
Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mr. Ima Okopido, of a
Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Marine
Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa.
A resolution on by-catch addresses the decision-makers
of relevant countries and all fisheries sectors to increase
their efforts to improve the fishing technics in order to
reduce substantially the incidental death of tremendous
numbers of marine turtles, dolphins, other marine mammals
and seabirds, including the endangered albatrosses of the
The conference also addressed the conservation needs of
the Western and Central populations of the African Elephant,
the Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes, the severely affected Houbara
bustards, Albatrosses, and Marine Turtles. Intensive work
will follow to translate these decisions into actions.
Over and above good-will decisions, the wildlife experts,
although under severe pressure from their Finance Ministries
at home, agreed to invest about US $ 1 million in a two
year project plan for the benefit of the species concerned
and their habitats, but with real benefits in the longer
term to the local communities in the respective countries.
The Secretariat of the Bonn Convention will be strengthened
by a modest increase in its personnel capacity and by the
integration of the secretariats of three regional Agreements
within the Bonn Convention Secretariat, effective early
2000/2001. This will increase synergies between the Agreements
and the parent Convention.
The next Conference of the Parties will be held in the
Convention’s home city, Bonn, Germany in 2002.
To date, more than eighty wild animal species enjoy the
strict protection offered by the Bonn Convention through
being listed under Appendix I. Examples include many whale
species, dolphins, Monk Seals, bats, the Snow Leopard, turtles
and many species of birds, such as the Osprey and the Siberian
Crane. Newly added to the list is the manatee population
along the Atlantic Coast of Honduras and Panama. This vegetarian
marine mammal was so intensively hunted in the past that
today it is extremely endangered. Because national protection
alone is not enough and the habitats of the manatee are
so polluted and degraded, Panama has proposed the species
for listing under Appendix I.
For less endangered species (Appendix II) the Convention
requires specially tailored measures and transboundary regional
Agreements. They aim to improve or maintain their conservation
status through agreed research, protected areas, public
education, legislation and mutual assistance. At the suggestion
of the Philippines, the whale shark as well as four species
of dolphin have been added to Appendix II.
The most comprehensive of the Agreements to date is the
Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory
Waterbirds (AEWA) which has just held its First Meeting
in Cape Town at the invitation of the Netherlands. It presently
embraces 117 Range States covering 60,000,000 square kilometers
and 172 species, such as the White Stork, pelicans, flamingoes
and endangered ducks, which are dependent on intact wetlands.
"Migratory birds do not just require protection in
their breeding and wintering grounds..." says CMS Executive
Secretary Arnulf Mueller-Helmbrecht, "...but also in
their resting places and along their migration routes."
AEWA is regarded as an essential instrument for the conservation
of waterbirds on their migration routes, for the 21st century.
According to Dr. Toepfer, "One should bear in mind,
that migratory birds have evolved in the course of the last
200 million years. A study carried out by the Max Planck
Society has established that over the past 25 years, the
number of birds migrating between Europe and Africa has
declined by 1% per annum". He concludes "... an
alarming thought that these species could become extinct
in the next 100-200 years ".
In addition to existing Agreements (Protection of bats
in Europe, Seals of the Wadden Sea, small cetaceans of the
North and Baltic Seas, cetaceans of the Mediterranean and
Black Seas), future measures are to be taken for the protection
of albatrosses and petrels.
According to Australian data the birds are particularly
threatened in the Southern Hemisphere by long-line fisheries.
They swallow the bait which is not intended for them and
they die tragically. The casting of fishing lines at night
would save many of the marine birds from by-catch. "At
least 250,000 albatrosses and petrels have been killed in
the past three years " claims an expert from BirdLife
International, and continues... " these proud gliders
are (therefore) extremely endangered".
For further information please address:
Mr. A. Muller-Helmbrecht
D-53175 Bonn, Germany
Tel.: +49 228-815 24-02/-09/-10
Fax: +49 228-815 24-49