meeting organized by the Convention on Migratory Species
(CMS) was held at Loch Lomond, Scotland, from October
22-25, there to identify and elaborate on options for
cooperation on African-Eurasian Migratory Raptor Conservation.
More than 100 delegates from over 60 countries successfully
negotiated the general nature of an agreement and associated
action plan for the conservation of migratory birds of
prey. Negotiations to conclude the agreement will continue
at a subsequent meeting to be held in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
The progress made at Loch Lomond signals a strong commitment
to the conservation of these majestic but particularly
vulnerable species. International action to conserve these
birds and their habitat is critical at this time given
that more than 50% of migratory raptors in the African-Eurasian
region have a poor conservation status and many more are
showing declining numbers.
The future agreement aims to protect all species from
shooting, persecution and unsustainable exploitation.
Protecting and appropriately managing important breeding
sites and all migration bottlenecks will help to restore
and preserve crucial habitats of these birds. The development
of sustainable land management policies and practices
are additional measures to achieve this objective. Population
surveys and research activities to assess threats on birds
of prey will enable to implement tailored conservation
measures. Awareness of migratory raptors, their current
plight and the threats they face will alert a wider audience
to those measures which need to be taken to conserve these
Raptors and owls are generally large, long-lived species
with low rates of reproduction - characteristics that
appear to be associated with high risks of extinction.
As predators, which typically occur at or near the top
of food-chains, many raptor and owl species are naturally
scarce, which further exacerbates their vulnerability
to threats. The main threats faced by raptors are land
use practices that reduce prey availability and suitable
breeding habitat, pollution, poisoning, hunting, persecution,
illegal taking and trade, e.g. for falconry, and collisions
and electrocution from overhead power-lines. The latter
problem is addressed by CMS Resolution 7.4 from 2002.
Hunting, trapping and persecution levels are probably
declining for most species, but the trapping of Saker
Falcons (Falco cherrug) for falconry has greatly increased
in the last decade and is now unsustainable
Climate driven habitat change will also exacerbate existing
human induced changes, which are already the most significant
threats to most migratory raptors in the African-Eurasian
For some species accidental poisoning e.g. from baits
poisoned with strychnine, persecution, shooting for sport
and trapping may also be key or contributory factors causing
population declines or long-term reductions in range,
but the impacts of these losses on populations requires
Raptors have had a long history of interaction with man.
Since earliest times, several species, particularly the
largest, have been persecuted owing to actual or perceived
predation of stock and game. In contrast, the larger falcons
have been highly prized for falconry, leading to the provision
of strict protective measures in many countries.
Many raptors are migratory, moving long distances between
typically more northern breeding areas to typically more
southerly areas used in the non-breeding season. These
movements link countries and their annual cycle takes
them through diverse biotopes and landscapes, generally
concentrating the birds during migration at well-known
places. More than 50% of migratory birds of prey in the
African-Eurasian region have poor conservation status.
Migratory raptors face additional conservation problems
because they need adequate networks of suitable habitat
along their migration paths.
Birds of prey or raptors hunt for food primarily using
their talons. They display a characteristic curved tip
to their beak and have superb vision. The following species
are to be covered under a new agreement: Diurnal birds
of prey that belong to the orders Accipitriformes and
Falconiformes in several groups including osprey (Pandionidae),
hawks, eagles, buzzards, kites and vultures (Accipitridae).
Beyond this Secretary Birds (Sagittariidae), falcons (Falconiformes)
and nocturnal birds of prey are designated for protection
under the agreement. The term "raptor" includes
This meeting came as a follow-up to an according Recommendation
8.12 made at the 8th Meeting of the Conference Of Parties
(COP) in 2005, calling upon range states and other stakeholders
to engage in co-operative activities to promote the sustainable
management of migratory raptors and owls by, in particular:
(a) protecting and managing important breeding sites and
migration bottlenecks; (b) alleviating habitat degradation
through the development and promotion of sustainable land
management policies and practices; (c) controlling the
shooting, poisoning, and taking of these birds and their
eggs; (d) raising awareness of the plight of these birds,
the threats they face, and the measures needed to conserve
them; (e) monitoring populations throughout the region
to establish population trends and carry out appropriate
research; and (f) exchanging information in order to develop
and implement best-practice approaches to the conservation
and sustainable management of these species.
In January 2005, the British Department of Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) commissioned a study to
assess whether or not an international agreement to conserve
migratory raptors including owls should be established
under the auspices of the Convention on Conservation of
Migratory Species (CMS) in the African-Eurasian region.
The aggregate Afrotropical and Palearctic range of this
group of species would represent the potential area of
any CMS instrument, which comprises all Afrotropical and
Western Palearctic countries, plus Afghanistan, China
(mainland only), Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This range is
referred to hereafter in this report as the African-Eurasian
From a review of the available literature and data in
Birdlife International’s World Bird Database, it
is clear that at least 32 (53%) of the 60 migratory raptors
that occur in the African-Eurasian region have an Unfavorable
Conservation Status, and 10 of these are Globally Threatened
or Near Threatened. Furthermore, a high proportion of
these 32 species are in continued long-term or rapid population
declines. Since the conservation status of many species
in Africa, Asia and the Middle-east is poorly known, other
species in these regions may also be declining. Although
there are many documented threats to migratory raptors
in the region, available data proved inadequate to quantify
population level impacts. Nevertheless, for the majority
of species the most important threats are probably the
result of human induced habitat loss and degradation including
impacts from pesticide use and other forms of pollution.
A CMS Agreement could in the first place focus on the
protection of sites where mass concentrations occur, and
as a second goal promote joint efforts to stop the illegal
shooting and killing of species by means of education
programmes, assistance with law enforcement, etc.). Migration
routes and threats are very well known within the Western
Palearctic, but concentrated migration is also known from
several places in Asia, with further studies necessary
in both regions.
The general aim of an agreement would be to ensure that
all populations of raptors including owls listed in Appendix
1 of the Memorandum of Understanding are maintained in,
or returned to, favorable Conservation Status.
There are strong benefits to be expected from co-operative
international approaches to raptor conservation.