Namibia’s Red Data Book for Birds, Namibia Bird News, June 2015 – No. 13

Finally, after a wait of many years, the red data book for birds in Namibia has been published! Titled “Birds to watch in Namibia: red, rare and endemic species” the book presents detailed accounts on Namibia’s 71 red-listed birds. One species is considered extinct as a breeding bird, nine are critically endangered and 25 are considered endangered. Thirteen birds are vulnerable and 23 are near threatened. Most of the birds can be slotted into four main categories: seabirds, scavenging birds, wetland birds and birds impacted by power lines. The birds were selected using an internationally accepted set of criteria.

The book gives a detailed account for each one of the 71 species, including a distribution map and a set of recommended actions that need to be taken to improve the status of the species. It also has accounts of Namibia’s 16 endemic (or near-endemic) species and then a section on rare and peripheral birds of Namibia. The introductory chapter gives a good background on the criteria and how they were applied, the data sources, a summary of the findings and some background on the natural history, protected areas etc.

The group of seabirds comprises 19 species and the main threat facing them is a dwindling (or non- existent) supply of high quality food and bird unfriendly fishing practices. Irresponsible use of poison is the number one threat to the ten species of scavenging birds and ten birds are also in the group that is most susceptible to collisions with power lines. Wetland birds make up the biggest group (20 birds) and they also face the most threats: wetland degradation, loss of water quantity and quality, loss of riparian vegetation and disturbance at feeding and resting sites.

At first glance the list of threats appears daunting but fortunately its not all doom and gloom. Namibia has some very progressive legislation and it is just a question of enforcement (and stiffening of penalties in some cases). In many cases laws are broken because people are not aware that such laws exist, so education and awareness creation should go hand in hand with stricter law enforcement. The fishing industry is already (on a voluntary basis) applying remedial measures to some fishing practices and the national power utility is fitting bird scaring devices to all new lines where these should pose a danger to birds. Some poisons have already been banned and there is a willingness to ban further ones if we can demonstrate their harmful effect on the environment.

Yes, there is a lot more that can and should be done but it is up to us, the public of Namibia, to start the ball rolling and to keep it going until everything is in place to protect our red data birds.

Namibia’s Red Data Book for Birds