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Excessive bird collecting in Malawi: a new threat

  • FRANCOISE DOWSETT-LEMAIRE (a1), JOHN G. M. WILSON (a2), ROBERT D. MEDLAND (a3) and LIZANNE ROXBURGH (a4)

Summary

Malawi is under heavy pressure for land by an increasing human population, and there is little natural habitat left outside gazetted wildlife and forest reserves. Widespread collecting of birds in Malawi’s small protected rain forests by the National Museum of Malawi in conjunction with Western academic institutions has been taking place almost yearly since 2001 and has continued until at least 2011. The collection of specimens, although often a contentious issue, does have scientific value but should be undertaken in a limited way with careful evaluation of the populations from which birds are being taken. We consider that the numbers collected are likely to pose a threat to some bird populations in view of their isolation and the slow turn-over rates of breeding individuals. Collecting has been carried out in some of the same reserves two or three times within a few years. Examples are given of very small populations in Malawi and adjacent Mozambique where the slightest off-take would be very dangerous. Many species have been collected during their breeding season, which we find both wasteful and unethical. Several of the species collected occur in no more than one or two reserves today in Malawi and in such instances we recommend their complete protection. We are also concerned about the example presented to the local communities, reserve wardens and young conservation biologists by the off-take of hundreds of birds in official reserves which were primarily set up for the protection of wildlife.

Le Malawi subit une forte pression démographique, et il reste peu de milieux naturels en dehors des réserves de faune et réserves forestières. D’importantes récoltes d’oiseaux dans plusieurs des petites forêts ombrophiles protégées ont été obtenues presque chaque année depuis 2001, et ces activités se sont poursuivies au moins jusqu’en 2011. Le fait que le Musée National du Malawi est impliqué de concert avec des institutions académiques occidentales pose de nombreuses questions d’ordre éthique et environnemental. Nous ne mettons pas en doute l’intérêt scientifique des recherches entreprises et ne sommes pas opposés en principe à l’obtention d’un petit nombre de spécimens pour autant que les populations puissent le supporter, mais nous considérons que les nombres obtenus posent une menace pour la survie des populations d’oiseaux en raison de leur isolement et du faible taux de renouvellement des individus. Certaines réserves ont été visitées deux ou trois fois par les récolteurs sur quelques années. Nous citons plusieurs exemples de très petites populations isolées au Malawi et au Mozambique voisin où le moindre prélèvement serait très dangereux. Beaucoup d’espèces ont été récoltées pendant leur période de reproduction, ce que nous considérons comme du gaspillage immoral. Plusieurs des espèces récoltées ne se trouvent plus au Malawi que dans une ou deux réserves, et dans ce cas nous pensons qu’elles devraient recevoir une protection totale. Enfin, nous nous interrogeons sur l’exemple offert par ces pratiques de récoltes intensives pour les communautés locales, les gardes de faune, et les étudiants en biologie de la conservation, alors que justement les réserves en question ont été constituées pour protéger la biodiversité.

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Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence; email: dowsett@aol.com

References

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Excessive bird collecting in Malawi: a new threat

  • FRANCOISE DOWSETT-LEMAIRE (a1), JOHN G. M. WILSON (a2), ROBERT D. MEDLAND (a3) and LIZANNE ROXBURGH (a4)

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