Migration is always a race against time

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It goes without saying that the Wildebeest migration between Serengeti National park in Tanzania and Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya is one of the most well-known migration patterns. This is a spectacle in the country and always receives a wide acknowledgement from the public. This reception has made it be known by the citizens in the receptive countries. Well, the wildebeest is not the only animal that travels far distances in search of food and mates. Birds, both seabirds and land birds, sea mammals such as whales and dolphins’ and even insects such as butterflies also migrate. Nature runs in synch to ensure everything is in balance. Migration is one-way nature safeguards the genetic structure of an animal for purposes of the next generation.

What is migration?

Migration is the movement of animals from one point to another in search of food, water or mates. Human beings move from one place to another in search of better places to live, job opportunities, food availability, running away from community conflicts or searching for a new place to start a new. Migration, in the wild animal kingdom, is always a race against time. If at all a species is late, they might fail to get a mate or even feed themselves after the long and perilous journey.

In the avian world, their race against time has faced more threats in our century than ever before. Birds, because of their tremendous mobility of flight are able to migrate in search of food or when the seasons change. For seabirds, they face the threats of plastic pollution in our oceans which they unjustifiably ingest, hunting and being trapped by fishing nets. For landbirds, as they migrate from Europe during the winter season to Africa in search of food, following the African – Eurasian flyways, they face a number of threats. Lack of food where they are migrating to as they arrive at an urban concrete jungle, being poisoned from pesticides in farms where their ancestors sourced for food on the way, hunted down or caged by bird hunting fanatics and pathway obstruction due to tall buildings, electricity poles and sometimes wind turbines.

When the migration season for the avian world is yet to begin, they feed enough to build their body’s fat reserves preparing for the long journey. This reserves will enable the migratory landbird species to fly the long distance between Europe to Africa or within Africa countries known as afro-tropical migration and latitudinal migration. Considering the bird species is expected to make minimal stopovers in order to arrive at their destination on time, it becomes challenging when a species gets maimed or poisoned on the way in a race against time.

Migration patterns of birds can be able to indicate critical environmental challenges. Birds are great indicator species on noting environmental changes that will, in the end, affect the human population. When a species of bird does not arrive at its destination, it raises alarms among concerned parties, especially the conservation paradigm. Such concerns, if brushed off, will only lead to greater challenges within a short time.

When a bird does not follow its normal migration habit, it can indicate a number of causes. Lack of food where they are migrating to and fro hence they cannot be able to build reserves, to handle the route. Lack of mates hence minimal or reduced number of the species. Poisonous fields of farms and water sources that can be toxic to the neighbouring human population. Ineffective legislation processes that allow construction to take place without considering the scientific processes and environmental impacts.

What can be done?

  • Share information. Friends of Landbirds Action Plan (FLAP), an online community comprising of interested parties seeks to improve public awareness and understanding about migratory landbirds and their conservation status. FLAP was constituted by The African-Eurasian Migratory Landbirds Action Plan (AEMLAP) which was developed to improve the conservation status of Migratory Landbirds in the African Eurasian region formed during the 10th Conference of Parties (CoP) of Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
  • Become a citizen scientist. You can join a project which includes reporting bird sighting which will be used in developing bird atlases. This will indicate where we have come from, where we are and what can be done.
  • If research is your speciality, a research on migratory landbirds will enable us to have data that can be considered by policymakers. This will also improve government policies and implementation processes put in place for the conservation of migratory landbirds.
  • Monitoring species in the community and urban areas to aid in the conservation of habitats and species.
  • Buy or grow organic. A number of migratory landbirds are insectivorous. When we buy organic, we support farmers who do not use pesticides on their farms hence allowing birds to be the ‘natural pesticides’.
  • At a more individual level, be kind to migratory landbirds. You do not know the hustle they have been through to just come feed or rest on the tree which you have chosen not to cut-down.

Featured image credit of Thrush Nightingale (Sprosser)

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to nyikasilika@gmail.com.

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