State of the World's Migratory Species report gives stark warning


One in five migratory animals assessed in a new UN report are at risk of extinction.

The State of the World's Migratory Species report is the first global assessment of the populations of migratory species since the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) was signed by the EU and 130 other states in 1979.

Populations of a total of 1,189 species, including 962 birds, were assessed in the report, which concludes that declines in migratory species are driven by human activity such as overhunting, habitat destruction and climate change.

Significant declines in European Turtle Dove are due to unsus]tainable hunting on its migration route and intensific]ation of agriculture on breeding grounds (Paul Coombes).


Unsustainable illegal killings

Migratory species are vital components of ecosystems across the world, aiding pollination and seed dispersal, nutrient cycling and helping maintain habitats are are effective carbon sinks. They also have huge cultural value, with birds in particular acting as harbingers of coming seasons and inspiring art.

Amy Fraenkel, UN executive secretary to the convention, said: "There has been a lack of attention for migratory species and if we don't succeed in turning this around, we will see extinction. There are species that are already on the edge.

"Clearly some of these findings show there is illegal killing going on and lack of upholding the law."

An estimated 11-36 million birds are illegally killed or trapped in the Mediterranean each year, with millions more targeted in Iran, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula.

Fraenkel said that despite a clampdown on illegal trade of animals, unsustainable and illegal killing like this is a still a problem as there has been less focus on animals that are killed for food or sport but never traded.

She said: "Whether it is birds, or animals on land, or those swimming in our oceans, they are interacting with different country regulations which highlights the need for consistent approaches."


Report recommendations

Proposals put forward by the report include a reduction of infrastructure and creation of reserves on migration routes, the creation of corridors of protected land for migratory animals to move through, and the restoration of 30% of degraded areas (on land and at sea).

Reducing pollution is also key for the protection of migratory species, according to the report, which recommends an acceleration of the phasing out of lead in ammunition and fishing weights, as well as lowering the usage of pesticides and reducing underwater noise levels.

It is hoped that the mapping of migration routes could reduce the impact of human activites on some animals. Seabirds, mammals, turtles and sharks are threatened by global fishing fleets which accidentally catch them as bycatch. Satellite imagery has shown that there is overlap between shark migration routes and areas that are intensively fished.

Dr Rob Cooke, ecological modeller at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said there were still thousands of migratory species still awaiting assessment. Only one insect, Monarch butterfly, is listed under the CMS.

The authors of the report said that the international community urgently needs to ramp up efforts to conserve migratory species and we have the tools to do so, with the main drivers of population decline – and the solutions – now well-understood.