First meeting of the AEWA Sociable Lapwing International Working Group in Syria

Written by AEWA

The AEWA Sociable Lapwing International Working Group (SLIWG) is an inter-governmental body which was convened by the AEWA Secretariat in 2010 in order to coordinate and guide the implementation of the Single Species Action Plan (SSAP) for the Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius). The Sociable Lapwing SSAP was approved by the 2nd Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) in 2002, but a revision was initiated in 2009 and a significantly revised and updated SSAP will be presented to MOP5 in 2012. SLIWG is the second AEWA Species Working Group to actually convene a meeting after the Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group.

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Meeting participants of the first SLIWG meeting. Image curtesy of AEWA

The first SLIWG meeting took place from 18 – 20 March 2011 in Palmyra, Syria. It was attended by representatives of eight Sociable Lapwing Range States: India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Turkey. Additionally, experts of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), BirdLife International and the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia (OSME) took part as observers to SLIWG.

The event was hosted by the General Commission for Al Badia Management and Development and the Ministry of State for Environment Affairs of Syria and was accommodated in the Headquarters of the Al Badia Commission. Locally, the organization was ably handled by the Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife, supported by the BirdLife International Middle East Secretariat. The meeting would not have been possible without the funding provided by a list of organizations, institutions and initiatives: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife UK) through a UK Darwin Initiative grant, BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme, Swarovski Optik, the AEWA Secretariat, Save Our Species and the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

On the first day the Working Group dealt with house-keeping issues, one of which was the election of the chair, Saudi Arabia, represented by Dr. Mohamed Shobrak, who will be heading the group for the period until the next meeting, provisionally planned in three years’ time. The three NGOs attending the meeting (RSPB, BirdLife International and OSME) were confirmed as permanent observers to SLIWG. The Group also signed off two important papers – its own Terms of Reference and the format for National Reports. The Terms of Reference clarifies the goals, role and scope of SLIWG, its membership (expanded to 13 Range States after recent discoveries of important non-breeding congregations of Sociable Lapwings, such as in Oman the frequency of meetings (three years) and the rotational principle of chairmanship (triennial term of office). Financial assistance for eligible countries to attend future meetings will be conditioned by the timely submission of national reports. The Group’s logo, website and intranet were discussed and directions were given to the AEWA Secretariat and the Group’s coordinator on their finalisation.

SLIWG members agreed with the proposal of the Secretariat to outsource the coordination of the Group to RSPB.

The SLIWG also included a session to close the Darwin-funded project on the flyway conservation of the Sociable Lapwing which was implemented by RSPB and other partner organizations over the last two years. The present Range States gave updates on the status of the species in their countries and undertaken research, monitoring and conservation action. Finally, the project leader, Dr. Robert Sheldon, summarized the outcomes of the whole project which constitute a great contribution to our knowledge about the species and its conservation.

On day two, participants broke up into two regional groups and held workshops on the prioritization of activities from the draft revised SSAP to be implemented by each Range State over the next triennial period. This priority list will be guiding the work and fundraising efforts of all involved stakeholders.

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The group also brainstormed on monitoring gaps and needs which produced a broad outline of a common monitoring scheme which will be further developed by a drafting group.

Towards the end of the meeting, Jim Lawrence of BirdLife International presented the activity of BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme and particularly the work done on the Sociable Lapwing where the species’ champion has been Swarovski Optik. The meeting participants greatly welcomed the announcement that Swarovski Optik has extended its support for the Sociable Lapwing by another three years. On behalf of Andreas Pittl, Head of Marketing at Swarovski Optik, Jim Lawrence distributed five pairs of binoculars and two spotting scope sets to Range States in support of their field work.

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On the final day participants went into the field in the vicinity of Palmyra, including to Al Talila Nature Reserve where Sociable Lapwings have been observed staging during migration in the autumn of 2010.

The SLIWG meeting was supported and moderated by the AEWA Technical Officer, Sergey Dereliev.

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