Effect of climate change? Fewer raptor migrations to SEA noted

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 September) — Changes in weather patterns are bringing about a decline in raptor migration to Southeast Asia, a member of the Asian Raptors Research and Conservation Network claimed.

Lim Kim Chye, a member of the ARRCN, said at the First Asian Bird Fair held here last week that raptors coming to Southeast Asia to roost for the winter have become fewer in the last five years, a phenomenon that has worried environmentalists.

Raptors, the collective name for birds of prey such as eagles, hawk, owls and vultures, are called indicator species. Their absence or presence is a telltale sign of the health of the environment.

“Since they are on top of the food chain, their presence means that there are still more food around for them to feed on,” Lim said.

“Since we, humans, are animals, too, if the environment goes, in the end, humans will also have to go,” he warned.

He said that ARRCN has been monitoring raptor migration in Asia only in the last five years and has noted their declining numbers in such a short period of time.

He also said that the Philippines has been an “important wintering site for migratory birds in Asia because this is where the raptors make their stopover on their way to other wintering areas like Indonesia and Malaysia.”

Foreign birdwatchers have been asking about the conditions of birds coming to stay in the Philippines, how they interact with endemic birds and how they are treated by local people.

Lim said the loss of habitat and climate change could have caused the decline of migratory raptors over the years.

“Generally, the population of raptors has been going down,” he said.

“It’s largely because they are losing their natural environment every year because of the building of new roads, the onslaught of development, and the changes in the climate.”

He said major changes in the climate first affect the plants, and then the small insects and small birds which are rich sources of protein.

“Changes in the land forms and changes in their roosting place could have caused the decline (in the number of migratory raptors). When they come home and could no longer find their roosting place, they’re ready to die or travel farther in longer distances where they face threats of whatever kind,” he explained.

He said it’s crucial for people to know how important the Philippines is as the birds’ wintering site so that they could help protect the birds and contribute in the conservation efforts.

Lim, a Malaysian whose interest got caught by raptors flying over their house in Perak, said he is particularly interested in the Philippine falconet and the Philippine Eagle, two endemic, non-migratory Philippine birds facing threats of extinction. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)