DEMAND FOR SOUTHERN CARMINE BEE-EATER FEATHERS ON ASIAN MARKET LEADS TO POACHING
Camp Chobe reacts
Photos and text by Stefan Rust
(In terms of the Geneva Convention the copyright of these texts belongs to Stefan Rust)
BirdsConTour rewarded Camp Chobe with a three penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award. A key objective of this establishment is to conserve the birdlife and its habitat on and around the property through bird-friendly management.
While latest figures with an estimated world population of 600 000 point to a relatively stable population of the Southern Carmine Bee-eater, poaching for the colorful feathers and as a food source in certain areas drive some colonies to the point of extinction.
Unfortunately the demand for the brilliant azure feathers of the lower back, rump and upper tail coverts, the rosy pink tail feathers, the dusky black, elongated stream feathers, the rosy red wing and scapular feathers, the carmine upper belly feathers and the pale blue lower belly and undertail covert feathers of these intra-African breeding migrating birds on the Asian fashion market can turn the population figures around within a short period of time.
Their habit of breeding mostly in large, dense colonies containing of 100-1 000 nest burrows in sandy riverbanks, erosion gullies, or occasionally, as in the case of the colony observed by Camp Chobe, on flat open sandy areas, comes convenient to poachers.
During breeding time, in August till December, poachers come to this flat open and sandy area, pulling their fishing nets over the nest burrows while creating noise. In an attempt to flee out of their nests, the scared birds get entangled in the fishing net and are cropped by the poachers.
Rian, the manager of Camp Chobe, says that “yields” are unpredictable and that he together with staff members of the Camp Chobe visits this colony whenever possible to search for nets lying in the vicinity. These nets, some still containing fragments of caught Carmine Bee-eaters, such as heads, are then destroyed by burning.
Currently this colony has a stronghold of about 600 birds, but for how long can this Southern Carmine Bee-eater colony survive with a low breeding success if the disturbance through poaching keeps continuing?