Habitat Loss Endangers Tanzania’s Migratory Birds

Habitat loss in the sprawling Kilombero valley in the East African country of Tanzania has affected a sanctuary for the world’s migratory birds, posing an increasing peril to the long-distance fliers, local researchers have warned.

The wetland, which provides important habitats to many bird species, is under threat from human-caused degradation.

Pantaleo Munishi, a professor of ecosystems and conservation at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro city, said recurring drought spells, unsustainable farming practices, and overgrazing in wetlands have pushed numerous bird species toward extinction.

“The growing human population in this valley has substantially reduced sources of food for birds and has created new challenges for other species too,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Because of the ongoing degradation, Munishi believed, many bird species native to Kilombero may be unable to cope with the dire situation and will become extinct within a decade.

The annual migration of birds is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, yet the critical staging areas birds need to complete their journeys are degrading or disappearing completely, researchers warned.

Birds fly all across the world in search of the ideal ecological conditions and habitat for breeding, feeding, and raising their offspring, and when these conditions become harsher for them to survive, they migrate to regions where conditions are better, Munishi said.

The Kilombero Valley, a Ramsar site that serves as an important habitat for birds to rest, feed, and breed during their annual migration circle, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to human population pressure, poor farming practices, and the recurring drought spells, experts said.

A Ramsar site is a wetland classified as having international significance under the Ramsar Convention established by UNESCO in 1971 that entered into force in 1975. It calls for national and international action to conserve wetlands and make intelligent, sustainable use of their resources.

The World Migratory Bird Day, observed in May, highlights the ecological threats that migratory birds face, as well as the need for global conservation action.

Many migratory birds, such as storks, cranes, eagles, and shorebirds, fly thousands of kilometers across countries and continents.

Experts say pressures from a growing human population, rapid urbanization, pollution, climate change, and unsustainable use of natural resources are causing the destruction and loss of natural habitats along the birds’ migration paths, threatening their very survival.

Halima Omari, an ecologist who manages parks in the valley, said there is an urgent need to protect migratory birds whose numbers are decreasing.

The beauty and behavior of these migratory birds captivate many people as they are a source of joy and an inspiration to many foreign tourists, she told Anadolu Agency.

The Kilombero Valley, as an important wetland, is home to a variety of animal and bird species. Its surrounding swamps act as habitats for fish, birds, hippos, and crocodiles.

The swamps are also home to unique species of birds, which are native to the area and plants, including freshwater mangroves.

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