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Report on migratory species alarming

Billions of animals migrate across national boundaries and some travel thousands of miles to feed and breed. They have an important role in maintaining the world’s ecosystems and carry out important functions like pollinating plants, transporting nutrients, preying on pests, and helping to store carbon. The threat to their lives mainly comes from human activities which change and endanger their living environment.
Last Updated 22 February 2024, 21:29 IST

The first ever ‘State of the World’s Migratory Species’ report prepared under the United Nations’ auspices and released last week at a UN wildlife conservation conference (CMS COP14) in Samarkhand, Uzbekistan, paints a bleak picture of the future of all migratory species, on land, water and in air. The report says that nearly half (44 per cent) of the migratory species listed under a UN Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) are dwindling in numbers. More than one in five of CMS-listed species are threatened with extinction. Nearly all (97 per cent) of the listed fish are threatened with extinction. The species which are not listed under the convention are also facing extinction. Among all migrating species which are considered to be at risk, 76 per cent are losing their populations and 82 per cent face extinction. The risk is not limited to any particular region but is present all over the world  

Billions of animals migrate across national boundaries and some travel thousands of miles to feed and breed. They have an important role in maintaining the world’s ecosystems and carry out important functions like pollinating plants, transporting nutrients, preying on pests, and helping to store carbon. The threat to their lives mainly comes from human activities which change and endanger their living environment. Pollution of air, water and land is a major threat. Pesticides and insecticides make their food poisonous. Their food sources shrink with the extinction or shrinking of their prey base. The report lists the biggest threats as overexploitation and loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat. Unsustainable hunting, overfishing and the capture of non-target animals such as in fisheries have decimated many species. Agriculture and the expansion of transport and energy infrastructure can damage or destroy the habitat of many species. It has been noted that city lights disorient many migratory birds and disturb their flight paths. Climate change is another serious threat. 

The report calls for action at local and international levels and coordination of strategies between countries and organisations. The recommendations include scaling up efforts to tackle climate change and light, noise, chemical and plastic pollution, strengthening of efforts to tackle illegal and unsustainable killing, identification and protection of important migratory sites and special measures to save those species which are in most danger, including nearly all CMS-listed fish species. The report says that recoveries are possible and has cited some cases of recoveries with the help of successful policy changes and positive action. The extinction of, or even the shrinking of populations, of migrating species on a large scale, as is happening now, will change the world altogether and make human life also perhaps impossible. We still do not realise that all life is interlinked. 

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(Published 22 February 2024, 21:29 IST)

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