Zimbabwe

Harare

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Wetlands – not just for the birds

Wetlands – not just for the birds

Wetlands – not just for the birds
MANA MEADOWS

The conservation of bird populations requires the preservation of the habitat in which they live. Emphasis on education about the importance of wetlands is high on BirdLife’s agenda.

“If you save the wetlands, you save the water, you save the birds,” Julia Pierini told me at the BirdLife fundraising art auction held recently in Harare. Pierini is Vice- President of BirdLife Zimbabwe and the mobilising force behind this year’s auction.

The theme of the evening was water – and with that, wetlands. Guest speakers Professor Amon Murwira, lecturer in Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation at the Geography Department, University of Zimbabwe, and geologist, Tim Broderick discussed Harare’s dwindling groundwater reserves – and with that the vital need to conserve our wetlands.

Wetlands act as natural water reservoirs. They are ecological sponges, soaking up water which later recharges the water table. They also filter and purify the water, and prevent erosion, siltation and flooding. Undisturbed, they re-supply rivers and streams.

Harare’s wetlands are a hot topic at the moment as they are increasingly threatened by development, pollution and extensive use of commercial boreholes. Dwindling water supplies affect everyone, as well as the birds.

“We have many important birds in our wetlands. If we destroy our wetlands, we lose biodiversity – the striped crake, streaky-breasted flufftail, the African marsh harrier, the corncrake, the yellow-mantled widowbird, the marsh owl, the grass owl, the cisticolas and warblers. The black coucal won’t come back and neither will the bullfrogs,” said Pierini.

But birds are rarely a priority and BirdLife Zimbabwe knows this. “In order to save the birds, we talk about what is important to people – in this case water,” said Pierini. Much of BirdLife Zimbabwe’s work centres on education. The organisation works with 110 schools in high-density areas in and around Harare and reaches out to communities around the country where the focus is on environmental issues and the conservation of Important Bird Areas.

Conserving the environment and the birds living there will help the people of the area in the long run. The blue swallow project in Nyanga is one example, as the endangered swallows are a big drawcard for tourists from South Africa, where the birds have nearly disappeared.

BirdLife is actively involved in clean-up days at various wetlands and teaching communities that conserving and protecting their wetlands will result in more water down the line. Through BirdLife, members can become citizen scientists with opportunities to join field trips and to contribute to conservation.

BirdLife Zimbabwe Art Auction website will remain active and select paintings continue to be available for sale.

More from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (December 2013)

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Harare Destination Profile