As part of her commitment to biodiversity conservation and protected area management in Nigeria, a 3-day Training Workshop on Important Bird Area (IBA) Monitoring was organised by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation in Okomu National Park, Edo State for field staff of seven National Parks in Nigeria.
The Important Bird Area (IBA) Monitoring Programme was initiated by the BirdLife International to protect a network of sites for their biodiversity richness and importance. As excellent indicators of the environment, bird diversity and assemblage are used to define and identify a site as an IBA, and ultimately recommend it for biodiversity conservation.
Some of the IBAs overlap with protected areas in Nigeria like National Parks, Forest Reserves and Nature Reserves; which are home to some of Nigeria’s rarest biodiversity species such as White-Throated Monkey, Lowland Gorilla, Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, African Elephant, Derby's Eland, Buffalo, Drill Monkey, Lion and rare species of birds like Ibadan Malimbe and Red-Casqued Hornbill.
With funding from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and support from A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institution (APLORI) and Nigerian National Parks Service, the training aimed at developing the capacity of field officers on basic bird identification and sampling techniques, standard data collation and reporting formats and knowledge sharing through series of lectures.A total of 16 staff, 2 each from the seven National Parks in Nigeria and the National Headquarters in Abuja, underwent the 3-day training.
There are currently networks of over 12,000 IBA’s in the world, with just over 10% (1,250 IBA’s) distributed across 59 countries in Africa, while 27 IBA’s are identified in Nigeria which is about two percent of Africa’s total IBA. Accessing habitats for changes in bird population, tracking for treats to sites and making recommendations for appropriate implementation of conservation actions are imperative for conserving biodiversity.
According to the Director of A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institution, Dr. Shiiwua Manu, training on IBA monitoring have been done in many countries around the world, including a handful of African countries. A typical IBA monitoring training develops the capacity of participants to adequately monitor the sites through the systematic collation of standardized ecological and physical data on birds. The consistent and effective monitoring of these IBA’s are not just important for birds alone, but also for biodiversity as a whole as well as for human being.
Speaking on the training, a NCF facilitator, Oluwabunmi Jegede said that participants were able to identify birds through the use of binoculars and bird identification guide. A bird call database was also shared with participants to help their bird identification by calls. "The identification of bird is usually a gradual process which takes time and practice, thus participants were made to keep and put to regular use the donated binoculars. Participants were also able to understand the concept of IBA Monitoring Programme and the need for the consistent gathering of accurate information to effectively manage the sites via partnership with relevant Government agencies, corporate institutions and also to inform advocacy and policy".
"Through the ad-hoc forum between sessions, trainees were made to realise the power of team work and local community participation as prerequisites to the survival of any biodiversity monitoring. Accordingly, knowledge on establishing Site Support Groups (SSG) within protected areas was shared with participants, including current opportunities in conservation like Carbon Credits, Payment for Ecosystem Services and Ecotourism" said Ruth Akagu, an Ornithologist with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation.