World Migratory Bird Day 2015

Event date: 
2015-05-09 00:05 to 2015-05-10 00:00


Introduction and background


Introduction - the beginning

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006 as a global awareness-raising campaign to highlight the need for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. On the second weekend of the month of May each year, people around the world take action and organise public events such as bird festivals, education programmes and bird-watching excursions to celebrate the World Migratory Bird Day. The campaign is organised under the auspice of two international wildlife treaties administered by the United Nations Environment Programme. They are the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). South Africa became Party to the CMS on 1 December 1991. On the other hand, AEWA was concluded on 16 June 1995 in The Hague, the Netherlands, and entered into force on 01 November 1999 and South Africa became a contracting party to this agreement on 01 April 2002.

Birds travel thousands of kilometres to their wintering grounds and on their way back to their breeding areas. These journeys are repeated every year requiring precise orientation and high energy consumption, as an ecological adaptation to different environmental conditions and as a way to exploit food resources available at different times of the year. The migration routes followed by birds are called flyways and these routes encompass the breeding, wintering and staging areas required to complete the whole annual cycle. Flyways often include several countries that the birds have to cross during their migrations and this transboundary perspective entails conservation efforts having to go beyond national frontiers and be undertaken at international level through close cooperation among the States involved.

In times of ever-increasing global demand for energy, developing new and expanding existing renewable energy technologies such as bioenergy, geothermal energy, hydropower energy, ocean energy, solar energy and wind energy are key when striving towards a low carbon future. Yet energy cannot be truly sustainable and nature-friendly unless it fully takes biodiversity and, more specifically, migratory birds into consideration. 


2014 Theme, aims and objectives


With the theme “Energy – make it bird-friendly!”, the 2015 World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) aims to highlight the importance of deploying energy technologies in a way that prevents, minimises and mitigates impacts on migratory birds and their habitats.

Migratory birds struggle with the massive expansion of various means of generating and distributing energy: collisions and electrocution due to power lines as well as barrier effects from energy infrastructure tend to cause mortality and displacement. In addition, the birds suffer effects from habitat loss and degradation and other disturbances from the deployment of hydropower, bio-energy, ocean, solar, wind and geothermal energy technologies. Sustainable renewable energy production is therefore expected to have positive effects on migratory birds by mitigating climate change and its impacts. However, if certain energy technologies are deployed without proper planning, design and risk assessment, they can pose a grave threat to migratory bird species

When expanding energy production, transition to wildlife-friendly methods is a key step to protect life on the earth. The conservation of migratory birds needs to be considered in all phases of energy development at multiple levels - locally, nationally and internationally. Therefore, concerted conservation actions by governments, nature conservation organisations, scientists and the energy sector as well as the general public are necessary. This way the benefits of sustainable energy can be realised without the risk of harming migratory birds and their habitats.

The conservation of birds and their habitats should really be considered the business and concern of everybody. For one, birds are an important part of our world by performing a variety of important ecosystem services and functions. Their beauty, diversity and ability to bring us great joy and pleasure is widely reflected in our poetry, art, literature and crafts.


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South Africa's celebration 


World Migratory Bird Day is generally celebrated in May, when migratory birds arrive back in the Northern Hemisphere but it was felt that this year, South Africa should celebrate the day in October, when we welcome our birds back from their European wintering grounds.

The event will be jointly organised and hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and BirdLife South Africa on Thursday 15 October 2015.  BirdLife South Africa is the primary bird conservation non-government organisation (NGO) in South Africa and is the local arm of BirdLife International. They are also the national focal point for Communication Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) for AEWA.

The event will take place at Marievale Bird Sanctuary which is managed by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD). The Marievale Bird Sanctuary is situated in the southern half of the Blesbokspruit Ramsar site, an area that is also a designated Important Bird Area (IBA SA021) in South Africa. Although the construction of roads, railways, pipelines and power lines in the area has reduced the floodplain to small dams, waterbirds still favour Marievale as a feeding and breeding place.

Habitats of the sanctuary include shallow open water, reedbeds and grassland, so the variety of birds is immense. Over 240 bird species have been recently recorded on the 1 000 hectare site. The sanctuary is a favourite destination for migratory water birds. The sanctuary has a small conference centre which is able to host an event up to about 200 people. Alternatively, there is an open picnic area in the north of the sanctuary which could accommodate more people if necessary. 


Programme / schedule for the event 


Part one: Briefing session

Venue: Marievale Nature Reserve, Nigel
Time: 10h00 – 14h00
Date: 15 October 2015


Programme Director: Ms Wadzi Mandivenyi (DEA)


Time Item Responsible person
10:00 Minister arrives at venue  
10:05 Briefing (including bird watching) with minister Programme Director
10:00 - 10:50 Birdwatching and exhibition session for guests GDARD and Birdlife guides
10:50 Announcement for delegates to move to  the marquee for the formal programme Programme Director
11:00 - 11:10 Welcoming address Politician / Exec Mayor
11:10 - 11:20 Overview of the World Migratory Bird Day DEA B&C
11:20 - 11:40 Overview of Marievale Bird Sanctuary GDARD
11:40 - 12:00 Bird Conservation partnership projects BirdLife SA
12:00 - 12:10 Words of support and introduction of the Key Note Speaker MEC
12:10 - 12:50 Key note address Minister B E Molewa
12:50 - 13:00 Vote of thanks  HOD
13:00 - 13:30 Media engagement session Minister B E Molewa
13:30 Lunch  


Media products



Launch of strategic environmental assessment of shale gas development

Minister Molewa launches commission of a strategic environmental assessment of shale gas development in South Africa during the month of May, the month which, some of its days have been allocated to commemorate Migratory Birds within the theme that emphasises on the proper utilisation of energy resources to maintain the conservation of migratory birds.


Related publications


Related links / websites




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