Birders to assess impact of drought in Kruger Park

2016-01-29 12:16
(Boris Grdanoski, AP)

(Boris Grdanoski, AP)

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Mbombela - Some 600 birders will spend a month assessing the impact of the drought on bird populations in the Kruger National Park.

Birders from across the country will participate in 18 birding weekends at various camps within the park between January 29 and February 21 to record as many different species as they can.

"Rare birds might be seen, birds usually seen in other climatic regions or biomes might have moved into the area and other species which are usually common might have moved elsewhere. It is thus important to note these changes, in terms of scientific research and conservation planning," said Birdlife South Africa conservation manager Dr Hanneline Robinson-Smit.

Every year, SANParks Honorary Rangers, Birdlife South Africa and Sasol conduct a census of the birds in the park.

This year's census holds special significance because of the drought experienced in the area.

The birders have been encouraged to register with a mobile app called BirdLasser, which will allow them to log, share and manage their bird sightings. Robinson-Smit said that "citizen science" had a vital role to play in conservation of the park.

"The contribution to various databases is growing through the involvement of citizen scientists in South Africa. On the birding weekends, sightings of all citizen scientists will be combined and a bird list for each camp and area visited over the next few weeks will be compiled. We are then able to start identifying the species range and how it changes over time,” Robinson-Smit explained.

Honorary Rangers chairperson Louis Lemmer said the event was one of the most comprehensive censuses of the bird population in the park.

"The groups will be able to cover large areas of the park, as the weekends are being held in all corners. They can do much more than what a small team of scientists can do," said Lemmer.

Lemmer added that the project provided a good opportunity for ordinary people to become actively involved in conservation.

"The project has a double purpose. It raises funds for conservation as the participants pay to be in the park. More importantly, however, these birders are also citizen scientists who can make a tangible contribution to conservation.

"Very few people realise the science that goes with conserving our national parks," said Lemmer.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  wildlife  |  conservation  |  drought

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