Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fujian Birdwatchers take Chinese Crested Tern message to schools
BirdLife International, 12-01-2009

With an estimated population of not more than 50 birds, the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini is one of Asia's most threatened birds. Only three regular sites are known, two used for breeding (Mazu and Jiushan Islands, off the coasts of Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces respectively), and one for staging (Min Jiang Estuary, Fujian Province).

The greatest threat to the tern's survival is egg collection by fishermen for food, which continues even though the Mazu and Jiushan Islands breeding sites are both within protected areas. According to the International Single Species Action Plan [1], prepared for the Convention on Migratory Species under the supervision of BirdLife's Asia Division, the immediate priority is to strictly enforce the relevant conservation laws, accompanied by an education programme targeted at local communities, especially fishing communities.

The Fujian Bird Watching Society had already begun its own surveys of Chinese Crested Tern when it approached BirdLife/Hong Kong Bird Watching Society China Programme for support. The result, thanks to a grant from the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, was the action for the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern project, which aims to locate undiscovered breeding colonies and feeding areas along the coastline between Fuding City and Pintan Island in Fujian Province.

The project, which will last 18 months from July 2008 to December 2009, is also conducting education and awareness work at schools and local communities around key sites in northern Fujian Province, and raising awareness of the need for strengthened law enforcement and other actions among stakeholders in Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces.

"We hope that the students will be able to influence their parents" —Mr Yang Jin, President of Fujian Birdwatching Society

Twelve volunteers from the Fujian Bird Watching Society are involved in the education and awareness work at schools and local communities. In the first three months of the project, they prepared a variety of materials including posters, banners and exhibition boards, flags for the Volunteer Chinese Crested Tern Conservation Groups, materials for talks, and a video of Chinese Crested Tern, with an information leaflet about the tern and other seabirds to follow.

The opening ceremony for the project was held at Fuzhou Wushan Primary School, which is attended by children of government officials. "We hope that the students will be able to influence their parents", said Mr Yang Jin, President of FBWS. Two hundred students and teachers attended the ceremony and the accompanying bird photo exhibition and talks, and information about Chinese Crested Tern was distributed. The event was reported by The Ta Kung Pao Hong Kong, Southeast Morning Post, Fuzhou Evening Post, Southeast Post, Fujian TV, Fuzhou TV and Fujian People's Radio, among others.

A workshop in early November trained members of the volunteer groups in communications techniques such as organising talks and environmental games, and answering questions from the public about Chinese Crested Tern. After the workshop, five volunteers visited the Changle Jinfeng Secondary School, the school nearest the Min Jiang estuary. Forty students and teachers, including the school principal, joined in activities which included birdwatching, talks and a bird photo exhibition.

Education and awareness work has continued, including visits to a school in Mawei region, to the communities in Lianjiang and Ningde, and to two fishing villages in Fuding City. Further work in Fuqing, Pingtan, Louyuan and Xiapu is planned for early 2009.

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