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Dim your light for migratory birds, NCF pleads

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The conservation of birds in Nigeria as a major concern among conservationists formed the thrust of discussion by stakeholders and students when the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) hosted the World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) last Friday at Lekki Conservation Centre, Lagos.

The WMBD is an annual event used to raise awareness on bird migration and the importance of protecting the flyways (which is the route they utilise for these trips), and habitats utilised by birds during this seasonal experience. Migration is a regular and seasonal movement of birds between their breeding sites, which is where they give birth to their young and their wintering sites. The North to the Southern ends of Nigeria always host these wintering birds. In addition to raising awareness for protecting habitats for resident birds, NCF sensitises the public to also do the same for these migrants.

NCF Director General, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano expressed utmost concern on the challenges the birds face, especially migratory bird. Challenges such as loss of habitat, persecution, famine, pollution – which led to this year’s theme.

Represented by NCF’s Director of Business Development and Communications, Mr Uchenna Achunine, the DG said, “This year’s theme, ‘Light Pollution: Dim the Light for Birds at Night,’ is a clarion call to action for all to jointly participate in bird conservation. Research has shown that birds do have accident flying at night because of illumination from cities. When light bulbs are switched off, they are not so useful, thereby reducing the chances of the birds having head-on-collision with buildings, trees, and other infrastructures”.

The Guest Speaker at the event, Dr Soladoye Iwajomo, who is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Zoology, University of Lagos, defined light pollution as the introduction of artificial light, either directly or indirectly, into the natural environment; the result of which is the alteration of the natural pattern of light and dark in ecosystems. He said that light pollution is often caused by the way the light is emitted from lighting equipment. He stated that choosing proper equipment and carefully mounting and aiming it can make a significant difference.

In mitigating the impact of light pollution on migratory birds, he proposed the counselled: “Start with natural darkness and only add light for specific purpose; use adaptive light controls to manage light timing, intensity and colour; light only the area or object intended, keep light close to the ground, directed and shielded to avoid light spill; use the lowest intensity lightning appropriate for the task; use non-reflective, dark coloured surfaces; and use lights with reduced or filtered blue, violet and ultra-violet wavelengths”.

In his goodwill message, the representative of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr Abdulmalik Ogizi explained that migratory birds fly hundreds of thousand kilometres to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding, and raising their young. When conditions at breeding sites become unfavourable, he said that that that would be the time to fly to regions where conditions are better. The phenomenon is accompanied by several anthropogenic, political and environmental challenges on the migratory bird’s survival and conservation.

He said “This year’s campaign highlights the impacts of the increasing but underestimated threat of light pollution on migratory birds. Artificial light is increasing globally by at least two per cent per year, and it is known to adversely affect many bird species. Light pollution is a significant threat to migratory birds, causing disorientation when they fly at night, leading to collisions with buildings, increasing their vulnerability as prey to other animals, perturbing their internal clocks, or interfering with their ability to undertake long distance migrations”.

In her keynote address, NCF’s Species Programme Lead, Dr Stella Egbe recalled that twice in a year, the world comes together to celebrate and raise awareness on the beauty and threats of migratory birds. Migration is the seasonal movements to birds between their breeding and wintering sites, she explained, adding that this seasonal activity is an important event that ensures the survival of lots of bird species.

Some of the migratory birds in Nigeria include Eurasian whimbrel, white-faced whistling duck, marsh sandpiper, osprey, and common sandpiper and so on. It has been discovered that some adult birds are being harvested, which will prevent reproduction. This will cause general decline in the population of birds.

Also in attendance were NCF’s Director of Technical Programmes, Dr Joseph Onoja; Assistant Director, Forestry Services, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Adewunmi Adeyemi; and the Founders of Afruitful Environment Limited, Mr Adeniyi and Mrs  Regina Arimoro.

Presentations were made by students from Treasure Court College, Iba; Falomo High School, Ikoyi; and Watercress School, Satellite Town, Lagos.

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