The world celebrates World Shorebirds Day on Thursday September 6 2018. This day is not only about raising awareness of these birds, it also focusses on the many challenges these birds face such as the shrinking of critical stop over sites where these birds come to take a break during their long migration travels, or spend the winter months. During September 5 to September 11 the Global Shorebirds Count will take place, and on Curacao we are also participating.
Volunteers of Bird Watching Curaçao, also a project of the Curacao Footprint Foundation, and of the Museum of Natural History Curacao – Museo di Historia Natural di Kòrsou will be focussing on the shorebirds which live on our island, and visit our island during the migration seasons this entire week, and up till the 11th.
It is not the first time Curacao participates in this worldwide count, and the need to do so is getting more important every year with increasing pressures on important wetlands on the island and the lack of legislation and regulations to protect wetlands.
RAMSAR-areas and negative impacts
Curacao officially has 4 areas which are officially nominated as Ramsar areas:
1. Salina of St. Michiel & Malpais
2. Salina of Jan Kok
3. Ascencion and parts of the coast of Christoffelpark
4. Dam of Muizenberg
and the newest addition to the list since August 2018:
5. the island of Klein Curacao
Some of these areas are considered to be conservation areas in the much discussed and scrutinized Island Development Plan (EOP). Besides being Ramsar-areas. However, none of these areas have official legal protection as National Parks and the recent past has learned that for consecutive governments of the island, it is very easy to give away EOP conservation areas to developers for hotel development of other developments, all for the sake of so-called ‘Economic Development’. A practice which is taking place more often now that the Economic Growth of the island is negative and expected to stay that way for the coming year.
Our wetlands face many negative impacts besides development; visitor numbers increase as local people as well as tourists use the wetland areas for recreation such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, biking and walking dogs (with or without a leash). The need for new trails by all individual users and also the reckless and illegal trail development of multiple hiking groups guiding small to large groups trough some of these sensitive areas fragments the habitats and takes away the places of rest for multiple animals such as migrating birds, much in need of food and especially rest after a long journey. Free roaming dogs, not controlled by their owners, are another stress factor for birds and other animals in these areas.
Additional legislation and regulations needed
Curacao’s wetlands and especially the RAMSAR areas are in much need of additional legislation and rules and regulations which are enforced on a daily basis. These need to control the number of visitors in each area, the regulation of dog walking especially in breeding and migrating seasons of birds, have to stop fragmentation by uncontrolled trail making and facilitate research to better manage these nature areas. The Global Shorebird Count can have a crucial impact on policy and lawmakers on the island, showing just why these areas are so special and what roles they play globally.
As Bird Watching Curacao we will not miss this chance to educate the community and government and help make a change in effective management of natural areas on this Caribbean island.