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Discussion on Waterbird Conservation and Lead Ammunition (AEWA)

Lizanne Nel, the Manager for Conservation of SA Hunters attended the 7th Meeting of Parties (MOP) of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) that was held in Durban on 4-8 December 2018.

AEWA is an intergovernmental treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory water birds and their habitats across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago. The slogan for MOP7 was “Beyond 2020: Shaping flyway conservation for the future”. Discussions covered topics such as research, conservation of water birds, impact of lead ammunition and management of game birds.

AEWA strives to protect nearly half a billion water birds and seabirds across the African-Eurasian migration route or Flyway. More than 220 species covered by AEWA have been assessed in one of AEWA’s latest status reports. It indicates that the overall status of water bird populations listed on AEWA has improved slightly over the last ten years. Concerted conservation actions along the birds’ migration routes have been mentioned as the reason for the success. These range from targeted species action planning for the most threatened species to ensuring that hunting of widespread water birds species is sustainable. However, the list of globally threatened species is increasing.

During AEWA MOP7, SA Hunters, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Federation of Associations for Hunting (FACE) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) were part of a panel discussion on the impacts of lead ammunition on water birds. Presentations by these organisations highlighted some of the risks and challenges associated with the use of lead ammunition. Several international agreements to which SA is a signatory have called for the phasing out of lead ammunition where viable alternatives are available. AEWA in particular is concerned about the impact of lead shot on water birds.  

Water birds eat grit, which may contain lead, to help the grinding process in their gizzards. This process reduces the lead pellets while stomach acids dissolve the ingested pellets that are subsequently absorbed into the blood stream of birds, with significant negative impacts on them. Based on good scientific evidence supporting the risks associated with lead shot over wetlands, and the fact that suitable alternative shot is available, both SA Hunters and FACE do not support the use of lead shot over wetlands. At the AEWA discussions, SA Hunters highlighted the challenges related to cost and availability of these alternatives in South Africa and other African countries.  

In a second side-event at AEWA, Dr Slang Viljoen represented SA Hunters in a panel discussion on the management of gamebirds. It was clear from discussions that it is increasingly important for conservation and hunting organisations to collaborate on initiatives that promote responsible utilisation and sustainable conservation of wildlife. It is the intention of SA Hunters to engage the relevant role players on these matters as part of commitment to promote responsible hunting and a culture of wildlife stewardship through our members.

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