May 1, 2009

Botswana Birds At Risks Due To Pesticides

In Botswana, conservationists fear that the pesticide used by the government to prevent birds from ravaging commercial crops might kill other species.

Officials are using aerial sprays to target breeding places of the quelea in Panadamatenga in northern Botswana, where there have been reports of birds destroying 20 tons of corn a day.

Keddy Mooketsa, Birdlife Botswana project manager, said the quelea, which gather together in flocks, were causing trouble as they breed quickly, but the environmentally safer controls like bush burning should be used.

"That area is a breeding site for the white-backed vultures which can feed on the dead birds. The Kori bustard also is found there and it feeds on insects which would not escape the chemical."

The world's heaviest flying bird is the Kori bustard, with males weighing close to 44 pounds, and Birdlife Botswana lists it to be a conversation concern.

The bird is classified as a vulture with a distinct white back and is listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"Other birds of prey which feed on the birds can also be affected," Mooketsa added.

Botswana's acting director of crop production, Barutwa Thebenala, said that recommended spray dosages of the pesticide, cyanophos, were being used.

"We are not in a position to talk about the side effects yet because we are in the middle of the study," he said.

Currently, the government is using explosive blasts to scare away the quelea in their nesting grounds.


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