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Biodiversity Day Brings Australian Bird Sanctuary, European Bird Alarm Bell
BOWRA STATION, Queensland, Australia, May 25, 2010 (ENS) - A world-famous bird watching property in Queensland has just been added to Australia's National Reserve System, protecting the habitat of more than 200 species of birds.

The Australian Wildlife Conservancy has purchased the 14,000 hectare (54 square mile) Bowra Station near Cunnamulla for conservation, with $1.2 million from the Australian Government and private donations.

On Friday, Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett joined celebrations at the new Bowra Sanctuary, held to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity, which take place worldwide on Saturday, May 22.

Major Mitchell's cockatoos, Lophochroa leadbeateri, on the Bowra Sanctuary (Photo by Marj Kibby)

"This remarkable bird refuge is one of a kind and I'm especially delighted we could help protect it for future generations," Garrett said. "The diversity of Bowra's bird life is staggering, featuring more than 200 different species, ranging from the pink Major Mitchell's cockatoo to top predators such as the grey falcon."

Birders at Bowra Station look out for the Hall's babbler, chestnut-breasted quail-thrush, white-browed treecreeper, black-breasted buzzards and a wide variety of parrots. Bird species share the new sanctuary with many other unusual species.

"Bowra's woodlands and deep waterholes are alive with rare species, including the vulnerable yakka skink, a range of river turtles and the tiny stripe-faced dunnart," Garrett said.

"This outback oasis feeds water to the iconic Warrego and Paroo rivers and lies in one of the most poorly conserved bioregions in the country, so protecting it is a big achievement," he said.

A mulga parrot, Psephotus varius, on the Bowra Sanctuary (Photo by Marj Kibby)

Australian Wildlife Conservancy founder Martin Copley said the group had received generous assistance from Birds Australia, the Bird Observer's Club, Birds Queensland and Australian Wildlife Conservancy supporters around the country to help protect Bowra.

"Bowra is known internationally as a must see for bird-lovers visiting Australia and we look forward to it being a showcase for bird conservation into the future," Copley said.

"Education and research will be a big focus for the new sanctuary. We're about to launch a baseline scientific survey of Bowra's habitat and wildlife, and we'll use the results to develop practical strategies to tackle feral animals, weeds and fire management," he said.

"One of the things that first drew us to Bowra was its remarkable condition. It's been carefully managed for decades by the one pastoral family, and we're continuing to draw on their local knowledge and experience."

Former owners Ian and Julie McLaren said Bowra has been home to five generations of the McLaren family, so the decision to sell was tough. "Our family has cared for this spot for generations, and we've always known it was something special. Deciding to sell was hard, but offering it to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy felt like the right way to go," Ian McLaren said.

The United Nations proclaimed May 22 the International Day for Biological Diversity to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

Stakeholders in over 70 countries in all regions of the world observed the day on Saturday under the theme of biodiversity for development and poverty alleviation during this, the International Year of Biodiversity.

At the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, in Nairobi, the occasion was marked with the ringing of the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory bell, simultaneously with another in the United Kingdom.

UK-based BirdLife International warned in a report released Saturday that birds across Europe need urgent protection to survive.

Entitled "2010-Turning or Breaking Point for Europe's Wildlife?" the report denounces the EU's failure to reach its target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

The report maps out the necessary steps needed to stop further declines and to reverse the biodiversity loss. The main stumbling blocks are integration of biodiversity concerns into other policies and a severe shortage of funding.

Urban development confuses birds, causing them to crash into buildings. (Photo by Two-Fiiiive)

Ariel Brunner, head of EU Policy at BirdLife International European Division, said, "We know what to do. The question is: do Europeans have the will and the courage to take action before it is too late?"

Forest birds are the only group generally considered to be in good condition across much of the European Union. The most commonly identified drivers of biodiversity loss continue to be agriculture, transport, energy, mining and urban development, so "reform of these sectors is essential," the report states.

Pollution in general has decreased in importance as a threat, but other threats, such as energy production and transportation, are growing in importance.

The report was compiled in cooperation with BirdLife Partners in all 27 EU member states, and analyzes the steps forward toward the EU 2010 biodiversity target against 10 major groups of indicators, measures of different aspects of biodiversity.

The report rates progress in three indicators as "highly insufficient," and rates all the others as "inadequate."

White-tailed eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla, on the Danish eagle reservation Ornereservatet (Photo by Tobias Biehl)

"The EU has failed to achieve the 2010 target and is still a long way off from preventing further loss of wildlife and habitats. The picture emerging from our assessment is one of continuing declines in biodiversity and inadequate responses," said Brunner.

Still, there are examples of best practices and local success stories that show how the EU already has powerful conservation tools, such as the EU Birds and Habitats directives, Brunner said.

Among the positive achievements, there is the recovery of some of the most threatened bird species listed in the EU Birds Directive, such as white-tailed eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla, and Critically Endangered Azores bullfinch, Pyrrhula murina, and the progress made in setting up the terrestrial Natura 2000 network of protected areas across Europe.

But the BirdLife report finds that the terrestrial Natura 2000 network and state protected area networks are incomplete, while the marine Natura 2000 network and national ecological networks are "highly insufficient." Management plan coverage for these protected areas is also "highly insufficient."

In 2002, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity committed to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth.

The 2010 Biodiversity Target was later incorporated as a new target under Goal 7 of the Millenium Development Goals - to ensure environmental sustainability.

Still, a report by UNEP researchers published April 29 showed that the 2010 target has not been achieved. Published in the journal "Science," the report says biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever and that the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems are continuing to increase.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.



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