Myanmar’s waterbird populations in severe decline

Avian species along Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River face serious threats. 

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Small pranticole

Over the last 14 years, many waterbird populations have suffered a rapid decrease in numbers along Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River. 

An ornithology survey found that declines ranged from 59 to 98 per cent along the Myitkyina to Sinbo section of the river.

A range of species have declined, including Eurasian crane (98 per cent), bar-headed goose (96.7 per cent) and gadwall (86.3 per cent).

Habitat loss, gold panning and poaching are responsible for threatening the country’s bird populations.

“The Irrawaddy River is one of the last remaining wild, un-dammed rivers in Asia, with the section between Myitkyina and Sinbo considered to be of particular importance for conservation” said lead scientist Christoph Zoeckler.

"We believe it is critical to secure the designation of this river section as a globally important wetland under the international protection of the Ramsar convention.”  

The study was undertaken by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and scientists from the Manfred Hermsen Foundation, repeating previous work in 2003.

FFI would like to see the Myitkyina to Sinbo section of the river gain Ramsar status (Wetland of International Importance). 

The ruddy shelduck and small pratincole were the most numerous species of the 61 recorded along the river – comprising 20,000 waterbirds in total.

“Unless immediate drastic measures are undertaken to reduce the threats in the most important river sections, habitats for waterbirds will disappear and the river will turn into wasteland,” said Fauna & Flora International’s Myanmar Country Director Frank Momberg. 

 

Waterbird decline from 2003 – 2017 (Myitkyina to Sinbo Irrawaddy River Section)

Eurasian crane – 98%

Bar-headed goose – 96.7%

Gadwall – 86.3%

Ruddy shelduck – 76.3%

Oriental darter – 72.3%

Great cormorant – 67.6%

Small pratincole – 59.4%

 

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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