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‘Birds are helpful creatures to the people’

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Sam Ivande


Sam Ivande is a passionate ornithologist (an expert in bird studies) and lecturer at the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), the degree-awarding facility of the University of Jos. He spoke to TONY ERHA on biodiversity conservation and bird watching, especially the ‘Lesser Spotted Eagle’ (Aquila pomarina) that flew to Weppa from Beringunszentrale Hiddensee, Gustrow, Germany.

Recently, two birds, each from South Africa and Germany, were caught with rings on the legs at Weppa Farm, located in Edo State, while numerous others are usually sighted within. Have this made Weppa neighbourhood being an international bird sanctuary?
BIRD ringing has always been an important method in the study of bird migration, helping to identify migratory routes and important habitats for birds. The recovery of these two ringed birds and sighting of numerous others in Weppa Farm certainly highlights its importance as a breeding, key stop-over or winter habitat for these migrants from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Why Weppa village, among the Nigeria’s vast land?
The Weppa Farm has a well-managed woodland and conservation area since the year 2000, when it had been protected and recognised as one of 27 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Nigeria.

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Is Weppa area a transit or destination for migratory birds? Are there also birds of this origin that migrate to other countries?
From the birds that have been recorded here, as well as the ringed birds sighted or recovered, we can say that Weppa Farm and its conservation area is both a breeding, wintering and stop-over habitat for Afro-Palearctic and Intra-African migratory birds as well as Afro-tropical birds.

Bird study and bird-watching are very interesting features, for ecotourism and bird-site promotion. Is Nigeria leveraging on these for the needed development?
This recent growth and development is largely due to the capacity building work and citizen science initiatives such as the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project that the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) has been implementing and promoting since its establishment in 2002. APLORI remains the foremost institute for scientific study of birds and their habitats as well as the promotion of bird-watching, as a way for members to connect with nature. As developing activities, there remains a lot to be done for Nigeria to fully benefit from these activities for its development.

Bird ringing and natural history museums are vital activities in the developed countries. Are they also present in Nigeria?
APLORI had been running a bird ringing scheme at the Amurum Forest Reserve in Jos and in some other habitats across the country. APLORI gathers vital information about the breeding origin of some of the migrants that use the habitats in Nigeria as well as improved understanding about the phenology and migratory timing of birds in the Afro-tropics in West Africa. The ringing information also helps to provide new information about the survival and life history of many Afro-tropical bird species. However, of the few natural history museums in Nigeria, that of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile-Ife is also doing well.

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Really?
Yes, it gets funding from several supporters, including the Leventis Foundation in Nigeria. As one of its many objectives, the Natural History Museum in Ile-Ife helps to prepare data on natural history and cultural resources of Nigeria.

Why is bird study so important for a degree-awarding institution, APLORI and other to be dedicated to its studies?
Birds are very helpful to mankind. They are excellent indicators of environmental health. Birds are ubiquitous and relatively more conspicuous than many other organisms. Mankind already has cultural connections with birds and the ability of flight ensures they are relatively capable of moving in and out of disturbed habitats, hence making them good candidates for studies to better understand the impact of our activities on biodiversity.

The Leventis dynasty appears to be doing great humanitarian work in Nigeria and West Africa?
Actually, the Leventis Group, which is currently led by Dr. A. P. Leventis, has a long history of trade and business practices in West Africa. It also has a long history and remains a leading example and unique promoter of environmentally sustainable businesses. In 2001, Dr. Leventis, who is also an admirable bird watcher and nature photographer founded the APLORI, which has remained a foremost institute dedicated to Ornithology and conservation capacity building in West Africa.

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