Wednesday, 20 June 2007

New hope for conserving New Caledonia’s birds

A much-anticipated ‘stock take’ of the habitats and birds of the Pacific territory of New Caledonia will form a blueprint for the conservation of the region’s birds, among them the extraordinary Kagu.

Published by Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie (SCO), the local BirdLife International partner, Zones Importantes pour la Conservation des Oiseaux de Nouvelle-Calédonie is the culmination of work undertaken over two and a half years by research institutes and New Caledonian NGOs, led by the SCO’s Jerôme Spaggiari.

The publication details landscape and ornithological data from Important Bird Areas (IBAs) over all 32 islands, of which eight have a special importance by virtue of their diverse seabird colonies which include boobies, terns, tropicbirds and frigatebirds.

Vivien Chartendralt, SCO project co-ordinator, commented: “This book is definitely a great achievement for the SCO and the birds, but also for conservation as a whole in New Caledonia. It will strengthen our capacity to handle major threats to the avifauna, but also to sensitise people and particularly local communities.”

With support from the British Birdwatching Fair, Northern Province and The Packard Foundation, the SCO is charged with developing conservation work and project strategies for New Caledonia’s IBAs (including projects in the New Caledonian lagoons and forested IBAs on Ouvéa Island).

Lying just over two hours north of Sydney, Australia, in the Melanesian Pacific region, New Caledonia is home to a number of highly range-restricted endemics, perhaps most famously the Kagu. This and other species, including Cloven-feathered Dove, Crow Honeyeater and Horned Parakeet, are under threat.

The head of Birdlife’s Pacific Division, Don Stewart, welcomed the SCO’s achievement in publishing the book: “The SCO must be congratulated as regards an excellent example of how the concentrated efforts of a small but completely devoted conservation organisation can greatly influence efforts to save the planet’s most threatened species.”