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Famous "Moonbird" Still Alive after 20 Years and 672,000 Kilometers

Recent sighting of Red Knot extends longevity record for this ultra-long-distance migrant

Rio Grande, Argentina, March 12, 2015 -- Word is quickly spreading among the birding community that the famous shorebird nicknamed "Moonbird" was sighted at Tierra del Fuego, Argentina in January, bringing the known minimum age of this bird to 22 years. Argentinian Luis Benegas and Canadian Guy Morrison made the positive identification. A long-distance migrant, its nickname derives from its having flown a distance from the Earth to the moon and most of the way back.

The avian celebrity is a member of the rufa subspecies of Red Knot (Calidris canutus), whose population has declined dramatically in the last two decades. Also called "B95" for the numbered tag on its leg, the bird was first banded in February 1995 in Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego, during the first International Shorebird Banding Expedition led by Dr. Allan Baker of the Royal Ontario Museum. The bird was then at least two years old, and it has been recaptured and re-sighted several times since.

Each year rufa Red Knots migrate about 32,000 kilometers round-trip from their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic to their wintering areas in Tierra del Fuego at the south tip of South America. Moonbird has thus flown at least 672,000 km in migration-the distance from the Earth to the moon and three-quarters of the way back.

Elated biologist Patricia González relayed the news to her colleagues at the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC). The Argentinian shorebird researcher, who is ICFC's Shorebird Conservation Coordinator, took part in the 1995 Río Grande expedition and added the B95-inscribed flag when the bird was recaptured in 2001. She has re-sighted B95 several times in Río Grande and at Delaware Bay in New Jersey and Delaware.

ICFC's efforts on behalf of Red Knots include helping to protect a key shorebird migration stop-over site at San Antonio Oeste in Argentina. Conservation efforts by others have focused on wintering grounds at Tierra del Fuego (Argentina and Chile) and other stopover sites in the flyway like Delaware Bay, where knots stop over to boost their energy reserves for their continued northward migration. Delaware Bay offers shorebirds abundant protein-rich horseshoe crab eggs, enabling rapid weight gain. Overharvesting of this resource in recent years has been a serious problem, but conservationists say that this is now being addressed.

"This is a lovely bit of news", commented Anne Lambert, Managing Director of ICFC. "Moonbird and the efforts of shorebird conservationists such as Patricia González and the late Allan Baker have helped to bring this remarkable shorebird species the attention and assistance it deserves".

The International Conservation Fund of Canada is a Canadian charity dedicated to protecting the world's most important and threatened ecosystems. It has programs in Latin America, Africa and Indonesia.

Patricia M. Gonzalez
P.Morón 385
8520 San Antonio Oeste
Río Negro, Argentina
Phone. 54 2934 422294
Anne Lambert
International Conservation Fund of Canada
P.O. Box 40
Chester, NS B0J 1J0
Phone: 902-275-4860


Kayapo "defenders of the Amazon" have help from Canadian friends

BRAZIL—A sizeable portion of the Amazon rainforest remains intact in part due to the efforts of a small group of Canadians.

In the Xingu river basin of the Brazilian Amazon,9000 Kayapo indigenous people are protecting their legally demarcated territories—which span an area twice the size of Nova Scotia—from the rapacious illegal goldmining, logging and colonization that is rapidly carving out forest in the southeastern Amazon. Key to their success has been outside help from conservation groups, including the International Conservation Fund of Canada.

Their epic struggle is told in the January 2014 cover story ("Defenders of the Amazon") of National Geographic magazine. Kayapo culture and traditions remain intact— they hunt, fish and collect wild foods — as does their pride and attachment to their lands. For decades they have fought off incursions by ranchers, loggers and miners in a lawless "wild West" frontier.

"The Kayapo have always been fierce protectors of their lands" explains Barbara Zimmerman, who has worked with the Kayapo for twenty-five years, earlier with Conservation International and since 2007 with the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC).

"We hit the jackpot with our first project", says Anne Lambert, managing director of ICFC. "I don't know of any conservation program that is as important in protecting tropical forest and the wealth of biological diversity it contains". Lambert and Tom Welch joined forces with Zimmerman in 2007 when they founded ICFC. Since receiving charitable status in 2009, ICFC has been the lead funder of the Kayapo conservation effort.

"The Kayapo are the heroes of this conservation success story", says Tom Welch. But defending 2,500 kilometers of border takes organization and resources. Zimmerman forged the creation of Kayapo organizations to link the forty remote Kayapo communities and enable their coordinated action. International conservation organizations have fostered the growth of these organizations and continue to provide needed financial support.

The Amazon is home to about a third of the planet's terrestrial life forms and safeguards indigenous tribes and cultures. It cycles about one quarter of Earth's freshwater and plays a key role in global carbon cycles and climate. Roughly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil. The Brazilian Amazon faces the threats impacting rainforests globally. Industrial agriculture — especially oil palm, soy and cattle production — is the main driver of rainforest loss worldwide, with cattle ranching the leading cause in Brazil. Barbara Zimmerman explains that loggers spearhead the deforestation process in the tropics by building roads and opening up previously remote areas in their search for high value timber. Settlers follow the roads and clear the land for agriculture and towns, from which more roads are built, and so the process expands.

Traditional indigenous territories make up 22 percent of the world's land surface and may hold 80 percent of the planet's biodiversity, according to the World Bank, which calls the role of indigenous people in biodiversity conservation a "win-win". Tropical nature—and the entire world—are the beneficiaries.

For further information: Contact Barbara Zimmerman, (416) 846-2236, Zimmerman@ICFCanada.org

National Geographic articles:


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