BIRDS OF ELBURULLUS, BIODIVERSITY AND PRESENT STATUS
Prepared by Dr. Mahmoud E. Tharwat Mr. Waheed S. Hamied
TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
Geographical location and general description Physical characteristics
LITERATURE REVIEW RARE SPECIES
Waterfowl hunting Sport hunting
THE PRESENT STUDY
6 13 13
Recommended actions in El Burullus Control of the capture and trade in birds of prey
INTRODUCTION Geographical location and general description: Lake Burullus is situated along the Mediterranean coast and occupies a more or less, central position between the two branches of the Nile. It extends between 31o 22' - 31 o 26' N and 30 o 33' - 31 o 07' E. It is a shallow brackish lake, connected with the sea by a small outlet (Boughaz), about 50m wide near El Burg village. The length of the lake is about 65 km, and the width varied between 6 and 16 km, with an average of about 11 km. The depth of the lake ranges between 0.42 and 2.07 m. The eastern sector of the lake is the shallowest, showing an average depth of 0.8m. The present area of lake Burullus is 420 km2 (100000 feddan) of which 370km2 is open water. Former estimates of the area are 588 km2 (140000 feddan) in 1913, 574 km2 (136620 feddan) in 1956 and 462 km2 (110000 feddan) in 1974 (Meininger & Atta, 1994). It seems that during the last 6 years there has been a reduction in the lake area by 30%. This decrease is due to continuous land reclamation projects along the southern and eastern shores of the lake. (see the map) Physical Characteristics: Un)
Water Transparency: The southern part of the lake receives freshwater supply from 6 drains and one brackish water canal, while saline water enters the lake from the sea through El Boughaz, at the northeastern part. The quality and quantity of inflowing waters to the lake determine the distribution of the biota of the lake as well as the fluctuations of the physicochemical characteristics. The lake is very different from what it was several decades ago before the construction of the Aswan High Dam, when it used to be subjected to the periodical Nile floods in late summer and autumn. Many factors have contributed to its evolution, the more important of which are: introduction of an irrigation extended throughout the year, contemporary cessation of the periodical Nile floods, introduction into the lake of massive quantities of agricultural fertilizers and drainage water from vast area nearby. As a result, the water of lake Burullus is at present characterized by decreasing salinity.
The lake is separated from the sea by a strip of land covered with sand bears and dunes of varying widths and heights. The bottom of the lake is sandy with silty material in the Boughaz area, whereas elsewhere there are clay and mud deposits. At drain mouths there is predominantly black mud. Two)
pH value and dissolved Oxygen: There are approximately 50 uninhabited islets in the lake, the shores of which are covered with dense vegetation of mainly Phragmits australis & Juncus sp. The lake - sea connection is sometimes closed in the spring, due to the movement and accumulation of beach sands caused by the coastal circulation of sea water in the region of El Boughaz under the effect of the prevailing west winds. Water temperature varies from 11oC in February to 29.5oC in August; pH ranges between 8.08 to 8.72, oxygen content 2.7 - 11.8 mg/l. The Burullus region has the characteristic climate of lower Egypt, with a prevailing mild winter during which occasional rain showers occur, long hot and dry summer, and heat waves and dust storms in the spring.
Major Nutrients: The major nutrient sources for the lake comes through the drain and the recycling of organic materials. Nutrient concentration is relatively high in the south western part where more than 75% of the total amount of drain water enters into the lake. About nitrogen compounds, nitrates have an annual average of 4.1 mg/l, nitrites (0.8 mg/l) and ammonia (5.9 mg/l). While the annual average of phosphate and silicate are 1.6 and 66.8 mg/l respectively.
Quatre) Flora and Fauna: 1- Phytoplankton: Phytoplankton community in lake Burullus is relatively low and tends to increase from east to west. The average annual value of total Phytoplankton in the lake amount to 1039000 unit/l with a peak in May. They are dominated by Bacillariophyta, which is represented by 59 species in 10 families, then Chlorophyta which is represented by 36 species belonging to 12 families, while Cyanophyta is represented by 7 species only. Aquatic vegetation in the lake is characterized by a small number of abundant species. The main species are: Common Reed (Phargmites australis), Reed maco (Typha domigensis), Water hyacinth (Eichhonia crassipes), Duckweed (Lemna sp.), Pond weed
(Potamogeton pectinatus) and Horn wort (Ceratophyllum demersum). The Aquatic vegetation of lake Burullus seems to be increasing almost everywhere. This is caused by the increasing in nutrients and fresh water discharge into the lake. 2 - Zooplankton: the zooplankton population recorded in lake Burullus comprises about 115 species included in 60 genera. These are mostly confined to 3 main groups, namely: Copedopa, Rotifara and Cladocera which constitute collectively about 92.2% by number of the total zooplankton. Generally, the highest zooplankton abundance is recorded from the western sector. The annual average number reached 100972 organisms/m3. 3-Benthic Fauna: the benthic fauna shows a low number of species, as is typical of this type of environment. Eleven species, are recorded, including molluscs, crustaceans, annelids and insects. The most numerous group is that of molluscs followed by crustaceans. 4-Fish: the occurrence of brackish water results in a large number of fish species inhabiting the lake. Approximately 32 species of fish are found in the lake. Several, puse marine fishes, i.e. Sparus aurata and Solea solea, invade the lake for some periods of time which are usually found in areas of high salinity. In areas where the water is brackish more species are found such as Aphanius fasciatus, Atherina mockon and other representatives of the Family Gobudae. In addition Anguilla anguilla, Mugil cephalus and Liza ramada which belong to a separate group of obligatory migrants.
Finally, some pure Nile fishes inhabit the lake such as Hydrcyon forskalu, Labio niloticus, Barbus bynni, Clarias lazera, Lates niloticus, Bagrus buyad and Oreockromis niloticus niloticus. During the last 10 years the production of typically freshwater fishes have gradually increased, associated with a decline in the production of marine fishes. Thus, a remarkable decrease was recorded in the production of mullets, from about 44.7% of total production in 1963 to 15.1% in 1992. This was accompanied by an increase of cichlid fish production from 42.8% of total production in 1963 to 72% in 1992. On the other hand, the total annual production of the lake has increased gradually from 7.549 tons in 1963 to its maximum of 52.520 tons in 1990 (AFRD, 1994). This is primarily attributed to increase of nutrients reaching the lake though the newly constructed
huge drains at the lake area and also to the tremendous increase of catch effort, fishermen and boats, in the lake. 5-Waterbirds: on the other hand, lake Burullus is considered as a wintering area of international importance for waterbirds, especially for Wigeon (Anus penelope) (35600 birds), Shoveler (A. clypeata), Pochard (Aythya ferina) (8300), Feruginous Duck (A. nyoca) (6580), Coot (Fulica atra) (153000) and Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) (17500). Lake Burullus is considered one of the most important wintering areas for the Whiskered Tern breeding in Europe and Western Asia as it contains the highest concentration of this species in the world. Up to 42 Marsh Harrier (Cirus aeruginosus) have been recorded and Redthroated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), Rock Pipit (A. spinoletta) and Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) are reported to be abundant in winter. The total number of waterbirds wintering in lake Burullus and adjacent marshes may well exceed half a million (Meininger & Atta, 1994). Land reclamation, especially along the southern and south-eastern periphery of the lake, is the main threat, and the continuos land reclamation projects have an irreversible impact on the ecosystem of the lake, because of its great international importance as a wintering area for the Palearctic waterbirds it is strongly suggested to stop further land reclamation and make lake Burullus and adjacent marshes a wildlife reserve. 6-Temperature: lake Burullus is located in the warm temperature zone. The average monthly air temperature usually attains its minimum value of 13.3oC during winter (January). It increases gradually thoughout the spring, reaching its average maximum values of 26.6oC in the summer (July). This is followed by a gradual decrease in the autumn. The air temperature is also subjected to diurnal variations, which fluctuates within 16oC between maximum and minimum values. 7-Wind Action: the dominant wind in the lake Burullus area blows mostly from the western direction. It sometimes changes its direction to north or north-western, and less frequently to northeastern directions. It may also blow from the south-western during winter.
The prevailing wind speed averages between 1 and 16 knots. Wind speed more than 16 knots is less frequent, while wind speed more than 27 knots is very rare and is confined mostly to winter months. The direct effect of the increased wind speed on the general hydography of the lake is manifested by the introduction of the sea5 water into the lake through the Boughaz channel by the northern wind, the magnitude of which depends on the wind velocity and duration. According to the shallowness of the lake, the increased wind velocity causes also a turbulence of water by stirring up surface sediments, particularly in areas devoid of hydrophytes. Also, the wind movements play an important role in the distribution of salinity in the lake. When it is easterly winds, the drain's freshwater covers most of the lake and decreases the salinity to a large extent. The northerly winds drive water southerly and the salinity increases even next to drains. 8- Rain Fall: the north Mediterranean coast of Egypt is considered as the rainiest part of the country. Such rain represents additional source of fresh water to the lake, which amounts to an average of about 100 million m3 per year as computed from meteorological data. The rainfall in lake Burullus area is mostly confined to late autumn and winter (December-February) while the other months are often dry. The average annual rain fall is about 200 mm per year, but this value varies from one year to another and usually fluctuates between 150 and 300 mm per year (Aboul-Ezz, 1984). All of lake Burullus has been declared a protected area under law 102/1983, in May 1983, with the lake and the sandbar included within the boundaries of the reserve.
LITERATURE REVIEW The present value of lake Burullus as a breeding area for waterbirds is high, both in respect of an Egyptian standard and on an international scale (Meininger & Atta, 1994). Lake Burullus is the least disturbed wetland in the Nile Delta, and being the second largest lake, makes this area relatively important compared to other wetland areas in the Nile Delta.
Breeding waterbirds in lake Burullus include Little Grebe (fairly common), Little Bittern (probably hundreds of pairs), Water Rail (fairly common), Moorhen (common), Purple Gallinle (common; together with Lake Manzala probably the most important breeding site 6 in the Western Palearctic), Painted Snipe (locally southern shore), Collared Pratincole (at least 2000 pairs along the southern shore in 1992, one of the most important breeding site in the Western Palearctic), Kittlitz's Plover (scarce; southern shore), Kentish Plover (common; over 300 pairs were recorded in 1992), Spur-winged Plover (fairly common), Little Tern (common; over 500 pairs were recorded in 1992). Reed-beds (salt-marshes) hold a variety of other breeding species; including Turtle Dove, Senegal Coucal (fairly common), Pied Kingfisher, Blue-cheecked Bee-eater, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Fantailed Warbler, Graceful Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler and Streaked Weaver. The Reed-beds of lake Burullus undoubtedly hold one of the largest populations in the Western Palearctic of Little Bittern, Purple Gallinile, and Clamorous Reed Warbler. The only western Palearctic populations of Painted Snipe and Senegal Coucal are found in Egypt. The salt marshes around lake Burullus are of major importance for two subspecies endemic to Egypt: Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens nicolli), which is only known from the northern Nile Valley and Delta. Lake Burullus may well be the stonghold of Calandrella rufescens nicolli (Goodman & Meininger, 1989; Meininger, et al. 1986; 1992 data collected by G.A.M. Atta and G. Wintermans). Proper management of the lake, e.g. with a reduction of the direct distribution in some selected areas, would undoubtedly have an immediate positive effect on the numbers of waterbirds breeding in the area (Meininger & Atta, 1994). Spring and Autumn: There are virtually no data on the function of lake Burullus as a staging area for birds during spring and autumn migration. Considering the geographical position, the habitat types present, and a comparison with lake Manzalla, lake Burullus is most likely of major importance for waterbirds (especially Herons, Ducks, Wiaders, Gulls and Terns). Apart from the winter surveys, the only reasonably complete census of waterbirds was made on 11-15 November 1981 (Bennett et al., 1982). Since this census was carried out after the main autumn migration period of most waterbirds between Eurasia and Sub-
Saharan Africa, and before the main winter influx of ducks and coot, numbers of most species observed were lower than in winter. The number of Shoveler (2100), Tufted Duck (13400), Ferrugineous Duck (100), Coot (64000), and Whiskered Tern (3000) are noteworthy. The marshy areas are undoubtedly of importance for enormous numbers of passerines during migration (Meininger & Atta, 1994). Winter: The lake is a wintering area of international importance for wintering waterbirds, where significant numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler, Ferrugineous Duck, Coot and Whiskered Tern have been recorded. The world's second largest known concentration of Ferrugineous Duck is from Lake Burullus (Meininger & Atta, 1994). The species is decreasing and the total world population may be less than 25000 birds (Monval & Pirot, 1989). The wintering number of Whiskered Tern in the Delta Lakes is the largest known in the world. It is likely that lake Burullus is the main wintering area of the western Palearctic breeding population (Meininger & Atta, 1994). The cause of the variation in the number of the most numerous species, e.g. Wigeon, Shoveler and Coot, is not clear. The importance of the Nile Delta lakes may be substantially larger in winter with cold spells around the Black Sea and in Turkey, thus becoming even more crucial for the wintering populations in the Black Sea-Mediterranean region. There was a significantly greater coverage during the survey in 1989/90 with respect to the fish farms and shallow enclosed basins along the southern fringe of the Reed-beds (aerial survey), the adjacent parts of the Mediterranean Sea (aerial survey) and parts of the shores. However during all three surveys a comparable coverage was achieved of main open water area in the central part of the lake (census from a boat). For five species, considered important, a comparison was made based on these selected parts of the surveys, a reduction in numbers was recorded in all species. For three species, Shoveler, Ferrugineous Duck and Coot, the changes were dramatic (reduction of 69% to 96%).
RARE SPECIES 53 species were recorded during the present study, 5 of them are 8 considered rare species (according to Goodman, 1989); Circus pygargus (Montaga's Harrier), Cuculus canorus canorus (Cuckoo), Limosa lapponica lapponica (Bar-tailed Godwit), Recurvirosta avosetta (Pied Avocet) and Lymnocryptes minimus (Jack Snipe).
ENDEMIC SPECIES There are 17 bird species listed in Egypt as endemic species. During the present study 3 of them were recorded: Streptopelia senegalensis (Palm Dove), Centropus senegalensis aegyptius (Senegal Coucal) and Merops orientalis cleopatra (Little Green Bee-eater).
ENDANGERED SPECIES There are 11 globally threatened bird species occurring in Egypt (IUCN, Red list of threatened animals). These species are Pelcanus crispus (Dalmatian Pelican), Marmaronetta angustirostris (Marbeld Teal), Oxyura leucocephala (White-headed Duck), Aegypius monachus (Cinereosis Vulture), Aquila heliaca (Imperial Eagle), Falco naumanni (Lesser Kestrel), Crex crex (Corncrake), Totis tetrax (Little Bustard), Larus leucophthalmus (White-eyed Gull) and Larus audouinii (Audouin's Gull). None of them was observed in the present study.
NOTEWORTHY SPECIES Wall paintings on the old Egyptian temples prove that wildbirds played some economic roles in the ancestors life who utilized them for several reasons such as food, decoration, medicine, education, domestication, sport and religion. At our present time wildbirds are still being utilized and several bird species are being trapped and shot all over the Egyptian wetlands and deserts mainly for food and sport. However the effect of these activities on the population of the victim
species as well as on the economy was attempted by a few researchers (Mullie and Meiniger, 1981 and 1983; Goodman and Meininger, 1989; Baha El Din and Salama, 1991; and Baha El Din, 1992). This paper provides a survey of the activities of bird hunting in terms of the quantity of being hunted such as Waterfowl; Quails; birds of prey; and other species. Also it attempts to identify the types of hunting and number of hunters and the value of the economic return of this activity. On the other hand the paper outlines the major adverse effects of the pest species of birds to the economy especially the damage they cause to agriculture and fisheries. Waterfowl Hunting: Waterfowl hunting is an old activity in Egypt that goes back to the dynastic time. At present waterfowl are still being hunted all over the Egyptian wetlands especially on lake Burullus. Two types of waterfowl hunting are known such as: commercial hunting and sport hunting. Both are practiced mainly during the winter season when there are an abundant number of wintering birds. The commercial hunting occurs by trapping and shooting waterfowl by the local people living around the lake who are mostly fishermen. The catch is sold alive or dead to middlemen in popular markets in Port Said and Damietta; some smaller bird markets are distributed in villages around the lake. However it was estimated that the total annual catch of waterbirds from lake Burullus ranged from 28000 to 57600 birds. The overall estimate of the annual number of waterbirds is about half a million birds which brings a modest economic value to the national income (Goodman & Meininger, 1989). Sport Hunting: Sport hunting is a non commercial hunting occurs mainly for pleasure and the hunted birds are not offered for sale, but are consumed by the hunter's families and friends. This type of hunting is well organized by two shooting clubs based in Cairo and Alexandria. The Cairo Shooting Club hires a number of lakes from the governorates of Sharkia and Ismaelia and maintains them to be used in the winter season as hunting reserves. Duck shooting at these reserves is allowed only on 16 days per year (one day every week), lasting from early December to Mid March. The total number of Ducks shot at the hunting reserves of Egyptian Shooting Club was estimated to be between 20000 to 30000 per season (Meininger and Mullie 1981). The economic value of hunting by the shooting club is related to the fees of hiring the lakes from the governorates and to few individuals employed by the
shooting clubs to guard the hunting reserves. However this economic value cannot be considered of significant value to the regional economy. Furthermore, there are several thousands of sport hunters who are not members of shooting clubs; they hunt waterfowl all over the Delta lakes and the western desert lakes. Their annual bag is estimated to be 10 3000 - 4500 birds (Goodman & Meininger, 1989). There is no economic value to this type of hunting, a part of the free meals it provides for several thousands of people. However most of the hunters are not dependent on these meals and the hunting occurs mainly for recreation. Until recently, sport hunting was advertised free to Europeans by tourist companies. Every winter several hunting expeditions are organized by tourist offices bringing hunters mainly from Italy and Malta to shoot waterfowl in lake Qarun and other areas. This type of hunting occurrs also for commercial reasons as some of the catch was carried by the hunters to their countries to be mounted and sold at high prices. Therefore most of the economic value here goes to visitors who sell their catch abroad while other profits go to the organizing tourist companies and to the few guides and hotels used by hunters during the hunting season. This type of hunting was received by criticism from the national and international organizations for bird protection as it was announced that 10000 birds were killed in few days by one hunting expedition. Therefore the government has decided to stop this dramatic bird hunting until it well be regulated. Historically, Quail netting is an old activity in Egypt that dates back to the old kingdom (2325 Bc) as depicted on the tombs of Mereruka at Saqqara (Houlihan and Goodman, 1986). At the beginning of this century, the time of abundance, millions of Quails were exported from Egypt to Europe. Between 1906 and 1913 the number of Quails exported ranged from one to two millions. In 1919 the estimated figure was 3/4 million, and in 1925 and 1926 about half a million were exported to Europe. Since the 1920's and 1930's the number of Quail netted along the North coast have declined, consequently there was no more export (Meinertzhagen, 1930-8; Moreau, 1927-8 in Goodman and Meininger, 1989).
THE PRESENT STUDY 11 The present study was conducted in August 24-27, 2000 and October 12 & 13, 2000. On August 24 & 26 birds were observed around lake Burullus (tables 1 & 5). Observation points are shown in table (5). On August 25 & 27, birds were observed inside the lake and on the lake islands. GPS points are shown in tables (3 & 7). The same procedure was done on October 12 & 13 where first was for observation around the lake while the second was for observation inside the lake and on its islands. Observation points with their importance are shown in table (12). Tables 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10 show the number of observed birds per day recorded every hour for a maximum of about 12 hours a day. Wind direction, temperature and cloud cover were recorded as well as relative humidity when available (tables 2, 4, 6, 8). The total number of bird species recorded during the present study is shown in table (11) with their scientific names and Arabic names (local names) written in Arabic letters with their pronunciation in Latin letters. Table (13) shows the total number of birds for each species compared with their status in North Africa obtained from a report by Wetlands International (1999) wherever applicable.
RECOMMENDATIONS Two basics needs hamper all conservation efforts in Egypt; the need for more effective implementation of currently existing legislation, and the need to improve the existing conservation legal frame work, the former being the more immediate and important action area, and is the one we try to address below. One must understand the reasons for the current failure of the existing laws, before proposing how to make them more effective or issue new ones. Our efforts at present should concentrate on local and small-scale action with the aim of implementing existing legislation. The lack of resources and the need for a successful example make pursuing such a small scale strategy sensible, the success enjoyed in 1990 in implementing the Quail catching ban at the zaranik protected area is a good example.
Continuity should be a central theme in all conservation efforts in Egypt as a whole, The continuity of interest, pressure, encouragement, support and display of commitment by foreign conservation bodies, is of great importance for the growth of local conservation interest and understanding. 12 Major issues such as the economic situation and cultural trends have direct influence on the successes of any conservation efforts. Unfortunately we do not foresee significant lasting changes on the conservation scene in Egypt without parallel changes addressing the socio-economic problems of the country; these however; cannot be addressed by conservationists in any practical terms, but should be kept in mind when establishing policies and expectations, which might be foreign to the existing situation in the country.
Recommended actions in El Burullus: Considering the case of bird catching in north Sinai, we recommend that future efforts should focus on the more severe problems, and the implementation of the bird catching regulations at specific restricted regions. Attempts at broad front implementation of conservation legislation and the addressing of less urgent problems, will only serve to dilute the currently available resources with no tangible outcomes. We suggest there immediate action area which might formulate an initial step toward better implementation of conservation. We selected these action areas based on their urgency, importance and the feasibility of addressing them successfully. There is also a need for a more long-term strategy, which should concentrate on environment education in the region, as well as augment the manpower of local conservation authorities. Control of the capture and trade in birds of prey: It is certain that the capture and trade of birds of prey (other than large falcon) is the most destruction and least economically justifiable bird catching activity practiced in North Sinai. There are also relatively few key trade outlets through which the birds reach the market, which might be relatively easy to ban the birds off the market.
A first step in this action area is to pressure strongly to change Law No.53 for 1966, which provides protection for all birds beneficial to agriculture, including birds of prey (according to Ministerial Decree 66 for 1983). The Law protects birds of prey from being captured and killed, but no where does it prohibit the trade in these birds. Thus, it is currently not possible to take any legal action concerning birds offered for sale on the market. 36 It is probably unpractical to attempt banning the capture of birds of prey completely, but it might be feasible to regulate this practice, allowing the catchers to capture a certain number of large falcons every year, and prohibit completely the capture and trade of all other birds of prey. Certain catching methods which involve the use of other birds of prey as decoys should also be banned, limiting catching methods to the noose harnessed pigeon and some forms of the kafaya.
We need to establish a training program to train people in bird watching, identification of birds, ringing, counting and photography both in the field and in the lab. Support the protected area with a powerful zoom video camera that will help in the recording of bird movements and identification. Strengthen the law enforcement in the protected area. Run public awareness programs to inform people about the importance of protected areas and wildlife. Encourage the activity of bird watchers and find the best way to attract them. Publish a newsletter every 3 months and a field guide for the avifauna of the area. Establish a page in the World Wide Web about the avifauna of the area. An international conference should be held every 3 years to discuss the status of the avifauna of the area and compare it with the world status. Encourage the study of birds as pests for agriculture and aquaculture in Egypt as an important factor affecting the national economy. Extend the study of the Egyptian avifauna to be done throughout the year seasons. There is a great need for action to prevent habitat manipulation that occurs in protected areas and damage the avifauna indirectly. There must be a study of EIA for any project or activity in or around the protected area. The prevention of Quail netting inside any protected area is needed. Establish a program that protects endangered or threatened bird species supported by donors or international agencies. Encourage local organizations and NGO's to participate and play their role in the conservation of the area. Concurrent research by the Ministry of Transport and Waterworks has revealed that little loss of mud flat area will occur over the next
hundred years as a result of sea level rise. A similar, fairly inexact estimate of the change of habitat as a result of climate change means that we are at present only able to draw general conclusions. We can, for instance, conclude that the Oystercatcher numbers will decline due to the effect of climate change on the loss of both summer and winter habitats. For the time being, therefore, we are not able to make exact predictions about the consequences of climate change for the numbers of wading birds (Ens, 1996). According to this, there is a great need to study the correlation between the physical factors and bird migration. Also, we need to study the correlation between physical factors in the breeding area of migratory birds, the migration timing and the behavior of migratory birds during migration.
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