Ten Years of International Collaboration to Conserve Birds of Prey

Abu Dhabi, 1 November 2018 – The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU) celebrates its tenth anniversary today. The MOU aims to promote internationally coordinated actions to achieve and maintain the conservation status of migratory birds of prey throughout their ranges in the African-Eurasian region and to reverse their decline when and where appropriate. The Raptors MOU came into effect on 1 November 2008.  From the outset, the Coordinating Unit has been hosted by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, on behalf of the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and forms an integral part of CMS Office – Abu Dhabi, alongside the Secretariat of the Dugong MOU.

Some of the key achievements of the Raptors MOU over the last decade include:

  • Doubling support and engagement by Range States–The number of Signatories has increased from 28 to 59 since the agreement came into effect in 2008, which means 45% of the 131 Range States have now signed, including the European Union (on behalf of 28 Member States). The Raptors MOU has also attracted five international non-governmental organisations to sign as Cooperating Partners.  Please refer to the Summary Sheet on the Raptors MOU webpage for more detailed information.
  • Publication of ‘Guidelines for Preparing National or Regional Raptor Conservation and Management Strategies– Developed in 2012, these Guidelines aim to support Signatories in meeting their commitment to develop strategies, which contribute to effective implementation of the Action Plan, which forms part of the MOU.
  • Hosting the First Meeting of Signatories (MOS1) to the Raptors MOU – Held in Abu Dhabi, UAE in December 2012, the meeting was attended by more than 90 delegates from Signatory and non-Signatory Range States, as well as international non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations. MOS1 formally established the Coordinating Unit of the Raptors MOU that until then had been acting on an interim basis. The meeting also created a Technical Advisory Group; secured commitment from Signatories to develop their National or Regional Raptor Conservation Strategies; and agreed key principles for National Reporting on implementation of the MOU. A report of the meeting is available online here.
  • Establishing a Technical Advisory Group (TAG– At MOS1 in 2012, Signatories endorsed proposals to establish a TAG (with interim membership), agreed Terms of Reference and identified a set of priority tasks. Officially established in 2015, the purpose of the TAG is to serve and assist the Signatories and the Coordinating Unit in the effective implementation of the Raptors MOU, including the Action Plan. The TAG consists of 16 members, comprising 10 regional representatives, 5 experts on birds of prey and a scientific advisor.  The group has held two meetings (in Edinburgh, Scotland - 2014, and in Abu Dhabi, UAE - 2015). The third meeting is scheduled to take place in Sempach, Switzerland in December 2018.
  • Hosting the Second Meeting of Signatories (MOS2) to the Raptors MOU – Held in Trondheim, Norway in October 2015, the meeting updated key annexes to the Raptors MOU (species list, species categorization, geographical scope); endorsed the CMS Strategic Plan for Migratory Species 2015 - 2023 and recognized that the 34 sub-activities within the Action Plan of the Raptors MOU directly contributed towards its implementation, noted the TAG WorkPlan until MOS3; and, accepted a scale of assessment for voluntary contributions. A report of the meeting is available here.
  • Contributing significantly to wider cross-cutting CMS-led initiatives– such as the Energy Task Force, Illegal Killing, Trapping and Trade in Migratory Birds (IKB) Task Force and the Preventing Poisoning Working Group.

  • Leading and promoting several major projects to halt and reverse population declines of key globally threatened migratory birds of prey, including:
    • Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) – Following uplisting of the species to CMS Appendix I at the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) to CMS in November 2011,  a Saker Falcon Task Force (STF) was established under the auspices of the Coordinating Unit to develop a coordinated international action plan, including a management and monitoring system, to conserve the species. Three years later, the Saker Falcon Global Action Plan (SakerGAP) was unanimously adopted by CMS Parties at COP11 in November 2014, and implementation is now underway.
    • Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP) - The Coordinating Unit led the development of this strategic Action Plan, which was adopted by CMS Parties at COP12 in October 2017.  More information about the highly consultative and collaborative process adopted to develop the Vulture MsAP is available here, which involved five Action Planning Workshops, hosted in four different countries on three continents.  The Vulture MsAP covers the complete geographic ranges (encompassing 128 countries) of 15 species of Old World Vultures and promotes collaborative international conservation actions. A Strategic Implementation Plan in now being prepared for the Vulture MsAP.
    • Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus– Following three years of preparation and consultation, the Flyway Action Plan for the Conservation of the Balkan and Central Asian Populations of the Egyptian Vulture (EVFAP) was published in 2016, in partnership with the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). The EVFAP formed a key component of the Vulture MsAP.  It was also used to secure EUR 5.5 million from the European Commission LIFE programme to implement conservation actions to address the key threats identified in the EVFAP. Again led by BSPB (BirdLife Bulgaria), the Coordinating Unit is a partner in this major project to conserve the Egyptian Vulture along its western flyway which runs until December 2022. Please refer to this webstory for further details.
    • Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) –The Cinereous Vulture Flyway Action Plan (CVFAP) was developed alongside the Vulture MsAP.  It aims to address the key threats to this species by proposing 68 conservation actions under 12 detailed objectives, to be implemented during the period 2018-2029. The goal is to stop current population declines, and to restore the Cinereous Vulture to its original geographic range. The CVFAP is a key component of the Vulture MsAP.  The Coordinating Unit has also contributed to the development of an updated version of the EU Action Plan for the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).
    • Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor– In 2013, the Coordinating Unit established a Working Group to support the development of an International Single Species Action Plan (ISSAP) for the then ‘Near Threatened’ Sooty Falcon (its status on the IUCN Red List has since deteriorated to ‘Vulnerable’).  A first draft ISSAP has been prepared and commented on by Working Group members.  An Action Planning Workshop to elaborate the second draft is planned but requires additional funds to progress. 

Nick Williams, Head of the Coordinating Unit said: "Over the last ten years, thanks to the immense support and engagement of Signatories throughout the African-Eurasian region, the Raptors MOU has played a critically important role in elevating the plight of migratory birds of prey onto the international political agenda. Major progress has been achieved in tackling some of the many threats faced by this spectacular group of birds. Three key achievements have been to: significantly reduce the illegal and unsustainable harvest of Amur Falcon in India; fostering international consensus amongst all stakeholders on the way forward to conserve the Saker Falcon, including recognizing the cultural importance of the species for Arab falconry; and, involving 128 countries in the development of a comprehensive Multi-species Action Plan to collectively address the wide range of human-induced pressures faced by the endangered Old World vultures. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Raptors MOU is a substantial milestone. However, it’s only the beginning, and we need to do much more over the next decade if we are to succeed in our mission to secure favourable conservation status of all 93 migratory birds of prey that occur in Africa and Eurasia. We must all work together to find effective ways to live alongside these amazingly uplifting creatures, so that future generations can enjoy the wonder that we are privileged to experience today".

The Coordinating Unit wishes to express its sincere gratitude to Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, which, on behalf of the Government of the UAE, has provided core funding annually over the last ten years.  Without this outstanding and sustained support most of the achievements of the Raptors MOU could not have happened. In addition, the Coordinating Unit would like to seize this opportunity to thank all of the 59 Signatories, Range States, 5 Cooperating Partners, other partners and stakeholders for working together so positively to conserve migratory birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia.  We are looking forward to working collaboratively with you all to promote raptor conservation even more effectively over the next 10 years, and beyond!

Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi received a CMS Champion Plus Award for its commitment towards conservation of birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia for the period 2015-2019. Since 2009, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, on behalf of the Government of the United Arab Emirates, has hosted CMS Office – Abu Dhabi including the Coordinating Unit of the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia.

Last updated on 05 November 2018