Avian Parks and Gardens are Important Conservation and Education Tools: A Case Study from Iran

February 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

The global anthropogenic pressure has been quite detrimental to avian populations and with global warming, climate change and environmental pollution several endangered species of birds are on the verge of extinction. In this context, the role of several conservation approaches, like establishment of avian parks or gardens, have significant roles in both entertaining and educating the public about avian life, conservation and avian biodiversity could not be overlooked. Furthermore, several such private gardens have also made important contributions towards conservation of endangered and threatened avian species too. Nowadays, bird’s gardens are recognized as important habitats beneficial for those of endangered species and play a major role in the preservation of wildlife. It is worthwhile to mention that the awareness on varied aspects of bird life and their ecological behaviors, orientation with scientific designing and proper gardening approaches and perusing the principle of ecological landscape criteria are important in designing such exquisite gardens. Until recently, there have been more efforts towards designing and establishing avian gardens in different parts of Iran. Till date, nine such facilities are distributed across 8 provinces, including Tehran (Lavizan, Baghershahr‒Atr-e-sib), Isfahan, Guilan (Rasht‒Mahan Bird’s garden and Astara), Shiraz, Alborz (Karaj), and Hormozgan (Kish Island) Bird Garden. They have all been established with the hope for promoting tourism, for beautification of the tourist centers in Iran and to promote education and environmental conservation.


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There are several important factors that should be taken into account during the design and development of avian garden or parks, such as: appropriate designing of different sections to facilitate developing the best bird watching landscape, establishment of appropriate bird habitats by growing trees, shrubs and bushes or artificial aquatic habitats, cages and enclosures for catering to the need of different species, drawing a facility plan for the park or garden, analyzing and controlling soil status within the site, ensuring water security, establishing an avian veterinary unit for treating sick and injured birds and special attention to conservation and propagation of different species, regular monitoring and surveillance and maintaining strict sanitary regulations to prevent the outbreak of diseases and infections among the avian members.


(Source: Google Images)

Mahan Bird’s Garden

Mahan Bird Center (as called Mahan Bird’s Garden) is situated in the Rasht city of Guilan Province of Northern Iran (37°20’48.8″N, 49°38’27.1″ E). The construction of the site began 1993and it started welcoming visitors since 2009. The center name ‘Mahan’ has been adopted from the given name of the son of the owner. The center is located in the northeast corner of the city midway between the Rasht and Khomam. The approximate cost of establishment has been estimated ~US $ 100,000 (Khomam News June 25, 2013).  There was no external funding available for the establishment of the center and the major cost of construction and establishment was covered by the management. The owner, Mr. Behzad Mahroo started to think about creating such center mainly due to his personal interest on avian life since he was only 7 years old.  His main objectives behind the establishment of this center links to his intense passion and love for birds for their unique diversity, interesting behavioral patterns and for his emotional attachments towards the conservation of several defenseless species from relentless anthropogenic pressures. With a humble beginning of mere 10 birds, the center soon reached an avian population ~2000 representing an impressive 100 species assigned to over 52 cages and enclosures. The range of species maintained in this center represents ~30% for the local Iranian and ~70% for the exotic bird species. Majority of the avian species included in the center are exotic species collected across the planet. According to the manager, they do not have any immediate plan to have a specialized section of the aviary dedicated to local Iranian or central Asian species. This is mostly due to lack of adequate space and available funding for establishing this specialized section. However, the management prefers to devote the related genera of birds to identical locations due to ecological similarities and/or similarity in their food habits and foraging patterns.


(Source: Google Images)

Among the existing bird species, the following can be mentioned: Peacock or peafowl (Pavo cristatus), Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria), Fischer’s lovebird (Agapornis fischeri), Silver pheasant (Lophura nycthemera), Sun conure (Aratinga solstitialis), Silky fowl (Gallus gallus var. domesticus), Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata), Black swan (Cygnus atratus) and Tawny owl (Strix aluco). There are also some woodland mammal species that are kept at the center in a very limited numbers (e.g. Iranian Brown bears found in southern hillside of Alborz Mountains). These mammals are sent to the center by the Iranian Environmental Organization-Rasht for treatment and recovery to good health after being unfortunately threatened, chased or poisoned or being injured in hunting attempts by the local poachers.  At first the center was supposed to occupy an area of 5000 sq m;but during recent years it has reached up to 30,000 sq mspace to accommodate the large avian populations maintained here. The monthly cost of running this center is around US $ 6,000 along with 11 staff members that includes one veterinarian, some experts working in different specialized sections and regular maintenance staff.

The veterinary facilities here are to avail them in time of need for the treatment of sick and injured birds. Despite all the efforts done by the manager, there have been some unfortunate bird deaths in the past due to local disease. However, there has been no report of any bird flu outbreak in the center till date. Majority of the operation fund (~95%) for the center is provided by the management via the owner’s direct investment; however, the remaining is procured through entry fees (25,000 Rial ~73 US cents/visitor). The center operates throughout the week (including formal holidays) between 9 AM-6 PM daily. The center is accompanied with some limited amenities like visitor sitting accommodations and refreshment areas. There is a small cafeteria just next to the water habitat for the swans. The center is not only designed to provide entertainment and education for the public; but also to propagate and rear several endangered bird species and to treat and return injured local species back to nature. In that the centre serves as an important conservation cum rehabilitation center for some designated avian species. There are some proposals for establishing organized breeding centers within the garden in the future.

The average annual number of visitors coming to the center depends largely on the climatic and seasonal factors; but, commonly the center welcomes more visitors during the first half of the year. The center is deeply concerned about the terrible and disastrous conditions of several endangered, threatened and migratory bird species within the local lagoons and wetlands of the Guilan province due to recent incidences of unrestricted poaching, indiscriminate pollution and lack of proper monitoring and surveillance. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts made and/or constraints undertaken to date by the Iranian Environmental Organization the incidences of poaching could not be curbed successfully, significantly impacting the local avian population. The management humbly requests the international communities, non-governmental organizations and bird enthusiasts to kindly support their initiatives against all the odds to contribute in the developmental programs of Mahan Birds’ garden. The center could be reached via Viber (+989112378535) or direct call (+989111313370). The center also has an active Face Book page at: https://www.facebook.com/Rasht.Mahan.Birds.Garden

Photo credits: Peiman Zandi

Article contributed by: Peiman Zandi and Saikat Kumar Basu

References

Khomam News (2013) The effective role of Bird’s garden in attracting Available at: http://khomam-news.ir/

Further readings

Iranian Biodiversity & Wildlife Bureau (2014) An Updated Checklist of the Birds of Iran. Biodiversity & Wildlife Bureau‒Natural Environment Division- Department of Environment

Yazdandad H (2011) A study on species diversity and population fluctuation of birds in Aquatic ecosystem of Khorasan Razavi province, iran. J Animal Environ 3(1):45-58.

Mansoori, J., 2008. [In Persian: A guide to the birds of Iran]. 2 ed., Ketab Farzane Pub. Tehran. 513 pp.

Benson  John  (2003) Environment  ethics.  Translated  by Abdolhossein  Vahabzadeh,  Jahad  Daneshgahi publications, Mashhad, 1st edition.

Alizadeh  Shabani,  A,  McArthur,  L  and Abdollahian,  M.  (2009) Comparing different environmental  variables  in  predictive  models  of bird distribution. Russian J of Ecol. 40(7): 537-542.

Climate Change: Impending dangers, debates, conflicts and negative impacts on global avifauna

January 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

The recent (November, 2014) climate change goals announced by two major global economies (US and China) for reducing 28% emissions by 2025 and 2030 by US and China respectively appear on the surface to be exciting news. However, the real consequences down the decades are doubtful. How far this will really make any significant difference to global climate justice is absolutely doubtful. None of the top industrialized nations are ready to cut down the rate of their industrial growth or switch to alternative available technologies from the fear of losing the quality of their life and slowing down their economies. The power house of global politics across the planet has been dominated by the vested interests of different industrial lobbies. An eyewash treaty may look excellent on the media platform but if there is no political will to implement them in any form other than making political and strategic gains, they will turn out into another joke like the “Kyoto Protocol” and fail to achieve anything significant with respect to abetment of global warming and climate change. Since “seeing is believing”; the world will watch with interest if any such real change is actually observed following the flamboyant announcements or whether it is yet another political joke that we are all used to.

The impending dangers of global warming are indeed a matter of great concern for all, from the tropics to the temperate in both the eastern and western hemispheres; from the unpredictable weather patterns in the tropics to the harsh Eurasian winters or melting of ice in the polar region are threatening our globe with serious consequences. If one reviews an example from the context of the Indian subcontinent, the impending danger of climate change is alarmingly exposed. The increasing sea water level in the Indian Ocean basin has been threatening several small island nations and island groups like Maldives and parts of coastal Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lakshadweep group of islands are extremely vulnerable. We have to initiate the process of engineering an advanced, detailed plan to prepare for any possible disaster mitigation in the future. Several small low lying island nations across the planet await similar prospect. Furthermore, if this be the situation for human aspect of the story, one could clearly imagine what fate waits for the helpless wildlife of these unfortunate countries that are severely impacted by climate change.


It is important to note from a historical perspective that the Western nations have been industrialized far back compared to the numerous under-developed and developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, that earned their independence and transformed into modern democracies only in the post World War II period. These countries are unfortunately still struggling to find a stronger economic foundation plagued by several problems after centuries of ruthless exploitation by the colonizers from the West. Under such appalling conditions and disproportionate global economic growth, can we ever think about anything close to climate justice? Several of these countries are in need of rapid industrialization utilizing their regional and local natural resources for stabilizing their highly jeopardized economy and have no available technology to reduce green house gas emissions. Hence, an immediate effective and efficient resolution with respect to climate change mitigation from the perspective of developing and under developed nations is a distant and unsettled dream.

One of the criticism as projected by the developing and under-developed countries against the developed and industrialized world is that lack of consideration for real life situations in the developing countries. According to this, the rosy ideas regarding climate change regulations that hovers in the mind of Western philosophers, environmentalists, activists, diplomats and politicians who had never seen anything whatsoever close to true economic hardships, abject poverty, civil wars, deaths and destruction are making important decisions for the whole planet and taking credit for this. As long as there will be this economic disparity between the developed and developing nations of the world; all fascinating ideas regarding climate change mitigation and climate justice will be a failure. The developing countries insist that they are in need of rapid industrialization utilizing their natural resources for establishing a better regional economy for their long term sustenance. The climate mitigation regulations will therefore jeopardize their economic progress and that thy lack the alternative green technologies and funds necessary for switching towards climate friendly technology and policy currently.

The developed nations who have been industrialized heavily and responsible for the major and historic share of the climate change issues do not agree to this and indicated that no such compensation funding could be provided by them based on the current global economic situations. Hence due to lack of coordination and cooperation between the developing and developed nations no concrete roadmap for climate mitigation could be actually drawn. The recent 12-day meeting at Peru (Peru Summit, 2014) by 190 nations to agree on a draft proposal for constituting a historic agreement on climate change to be signed at Paris in December 2015 and for enactment by 2020 did not reach its’ targeted objective. The developed nations informed that there will be no funds available to support the programs for climate mitigation in developing and under developed nations currently; and the developing nations blocked the motion for climate mitigation as their economies are not ready or prepared yet to handle the burden of climate change mitigation immediately. As a consequence, a dead block has been reached with no viable alternative tabled to resolve the situation with a long term sustainable and comprehensive solution, agreeable to both stakeholders.


How does it impact the global wildlife, particularly the global avifauna? The impact is unfortunately quite drastic and detrimental to the global avian life and population. Change of temperature has been found to be negatively correlated to the foraging, nesting and breeding behaviors of several species distributed across the planet both in the tropical, temperate regions. What is more disturbing is the fact that a vast majority of avian species have their habitats in the biodiversity hotspots located in the developing and under-developed countries. Unless serious, comprehensive, global effort is initiated with respect to climate mitigation a substantial number of species across the planet are in the danger of losing their habitats and hence are seriously endangered due to global climate change. Another important factor is the shortage of availability of traditional prey species for several avian members in various parts of the globe.


Climate change has seriously impacted both aquatic (freshwater, estuarine and marine) and terrestrial biomes across the planet thereby negatively impacting the food bases of several avifauna members. The life cycles of fishes and numerous smaller aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate species and their reproduction has been showing signs of transformations with respect to their population dynamics over the decades; reducing the number of several prey species, while increasing the preponderance of different pest species. The steady availability of prey species and food sources are directly related to the population dynamics of the avian species; and hence any shift in that will be reflected in the avifauna population across the planet. Furthermore, the loss of habitats are also negatively impacting the traditional foraging and breeding sites further impacting the avifauna population. In addition, some trends in the shifting of migration patters have also been noticed in some species impacting the distribution as well as the structure of the population of vulnerable species.


Climate change has been impacting regional economies; in particular developing and under developed nations are worst hit in the process. As a consequence, the anthropogenic pressures on the prime wildlife habitats and biodiversity hotspots are ever increasing with need for industrialization, agricultural expansions, extension of rural and urban areas promoting encroachment, poaching, illegal capture and underground pet trade for endangered avifauna. The roadblock in the negotiation for climate mitigation between developing and developed countries is thus having a serious effect on the life of different global avian species. Unless we get together on a common platform and agree to establish a framework for global climate mitigation pretty soon, it may be too late in terms of saving the critically endangered avian members of the planet.

Article submitted by: Saikat Kumar Basu