During September 9-11, I volunteered at the “Stakeholders’ Action Planning Meeting” of the Saker Flacon Task Force, which was organized by the CMS/UNEP Raptors MoU office.
Saker Falcons (Falcon cherrug) are large falcons with brown and grey plumage, whose migratory range extends from Eastern Europe to western China. They migrate through the UAE or use it as a wintering ground, and their use in traditional falconry gives them a very high status in this country. Unfortunately, the Sakers’ population is estimated to have declined by 47% over the past 20 years – it is Endangered and listed on the Red List of Threatened Species of IUCN, in CMS Appendix I and CITES Appendix II.
When a UK study revealed the dire state of conservation of birds of prey in 2005, the UK and UAE governments pushed for a CMS (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species) instrument to aid their conservation. The Raptors MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was subsequently implemented in 2008, with the objective to “promote internationally coordinated actions” to conserve birds of prey throughout the African-Eurasian region. The coordinating unit for the Raptors MoU was formed within the CMS/UNEP office, co-located with Environment Abu Dhabi (EAD). At the 2011 CMS conference, a Saker Falcon Task Force was formed to “involve range states…and interested parties in the development of a coordinated Global Action plan for the species’ conservation”. The first task force meeting was held in Abu Dhabi in March 2012.
The aim of this years’ second Task Force workshop was to devise the Global Action Plan to help this endanger species recover. Over 70 delegates attended, from more than 30 countries, representing governments, NGOs and various nature conservation authorities, including CITES. A great start to the event was Egypt becoming the 45th signatory of the Raptors MoU.
The meeting was a great success, with delegates from all over the Sakers’ migratory range contributing information on their issues and successes in tackling the conservation of these falcons. I was particularly fascinated by Dr Margit Müller’s talk about her work at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme, and Dr Andrew Dixon’s research in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau of China. (See all presentations on the CMS website.) After the talks, breakout groups discussed long and short-term solutions to tackle various issues – including electrocution on distribution line poles and unsustainable trapping – and roles and responsibilities were laid out for relevant parties; research projects were devised to fill knowledge gaps and to increase monitoring of migrating falcons. Just a couple of days after the meeting, I was amazed to hear how many of the discussed projects had already been kick started!
UNEP, CMS and MoU explained…
UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme (est. 1972), represents environmental interests within the UN system. It aims to drive and support the sustainable use and development of our global environment by a.) reviewing environmental conditions and trends on the national, regional and global level; b.) establishing international and national environmental instruments; and c.) supporting institutions for sustainable environmental management.
CMS, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, or Bonn Convention (enforced1983), is an intergovernmental treaty supported by UNEP, that aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range. As of April 2013, 119 parties had joined CMS. CMS lists migratory species threatened with extinction in its Appendix I, for which it implements strict protective actions. Appendix II lists migratory species that would benefit from international cooperation, and CMS works to encourage range states to come to global/regional agreements for protective actions. CMS is a framework convention, promoting legally binding treaties (agreements) and less formal arrangements known as Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), tailoring conservation models according to region- and species-specific needs.
The Raptors MoU covers 76 species of birds of prey and owls in 132 range states and territories. Signatories agree to put into place measures to protect raports and their habitats in their own state, share their knowledge and data with the international community, and join in collaborative projects to protect the species across their migratory range.