Abu Dhabi, 26 November 2013 - The African Raptor DataBank (ARDB) is an ambitious non-profit, citizen science project. It aims to inspire birdwatchers and other observers to submit information that will reveal the conservation status of raptors and their habitats throughout Africa. It will also help develop the local expertise needed to monitor these indicator species in the future and to implement sound strategies to safeguard them. The Coordinating Unit of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MoU) has joined forces with ARDB to assist Signatories in Africa to better understand and conserve the raptor riches they hold.
Africa has a higher diversity of birds of prey than any other continent: some 169 species occur regularly, 69% of which are endemic to Africa or its associated islands. These various species constitute more than 75% of all raptor species worldwide. More than 60% of the migratory raptors covered by the Raptors MoU occur in Africa. Currently, a huge knowledge gap exists in the distribution and ecology during migration and in the wintering areas for many of these species. Surveys, monitoring programmes and observations are needed over much of Africa in order to establish successful conservation programmes.
In less than a year since its launch, ARDB succeeded in gathering over 55.000 records from birdwatchers and other observers thoughout Africa. ARDB has been developed to handle a wide range of raptor information, such as nest records, road counts, casual observations and mortality data. The records are collected through online computer applications and in spreadsheet format. Collaboration with the Raptors MoU will allow ARDB to develop user-friendly, free-of-charge, offline applications (Apps) for mobile telephones using Android OS and Apple iOS. These Apps will record data in offline conditions which will ease the recording process, encourage greater use of the database by the general public, and enable recording in parts of Africa with incomplete internet access. The Android App will be ready for use by the end of 2013 and a similar iPhone App is planned for release in July 2014.
The data on migratory raptors gathered through ARDB is particularly important for Signatory States to the Raptors MoU to assist them in developing comprehensive National or Regional Raptor Conservation Strategies. It should assist them in better appreciating the global significance of the raptor populations and habitat strongholds hosted within their boundaries. Furthermore, ARDB is actively raising awareness about raptors and the increasing threats that they are facing. Education is imperative to successfully promoting their conservation, particularly within local communities. Enlisting citizen scientists to engage with the ARDB from anywhere and everywhere in Africa represents a unique opportunity to develop interest, understanding and support for conservation actions. The possibility of future detailed analysis to better identify critically important habitats, particularly along the flyways of migratory raptors, should enable Signatories and other Range States to focus conservation and management efforts to best effect. For management of the human environment and alleviation of disaster risk, it is imperative that we are able to assess the health of ecosystems. Raptors are ideal, easily observed indicators of ecosystem health and the ARDB with the Raptors MoU wish to develop this crucial role.
The Coordinating Unit invites Signatories and other Range States to share this news and to promote the ARDB project in their countries, including via NGOs. Biologists, naturalists, birdwatchers and anyone interested in raptors, including those visiting from overseas are encouraged to contribute to the development of the most comprehensive database of raptors in Africa by sharing their observations on raptors via ARDB platform.
Please visit the ARDB website to discover how to register, submit data, and to access the database: www.habitatinfo.com/ardb.