Ng Wai Pak is a senior conservation officer at Malaysian Nature Society (MNS). He works primarily on wetland and migratory bird conservation. He received a THF Travel Grant to attend the International Conference on Wetlands and Migratory Waterbirds of the Asian Flyways (CWAMWAF) in Lonavla, India in November 2019. This is his report from the conference.
The International Conference on Wetlands and Migratory Waterbirds of the Asian Flyway (CWAMWAF) held in Lonavla, India from November 18 to 22, 2019, was organized by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). Established in 1883, it is one of the oldest natural history societies in the world.
This highly regarded conference provided a forum for scientists and researchers from over 20 countries to share updates and devise strategies on wetland and migratory waterbird conservation. This was also the first conference to bring together the two main Flyway experts from the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) partner countries. Over the course of five days, a total of 21 oral presentations, 15 panel discussions, 14 posters presentations, 8 technical sessions, 4 plenary sessions and 2 side events took place. Representatives from organisations such as BirdLife International, Wetlands International and Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) delivered talks covering various topics related to migratory bird research and findings, wetland and flyway conservation and transboundary collaboration.
The plenary talk by Dr Taej Mundkur, a Senior Technical Officer at Wetlands International, provided deep insights on the migratory patterns and strategies of birds. Changes in these movements may help us better understand the impacts on the environment. Dr Evgeny Syroechkovskiy also delivered a thought-provoking plenary talk highlighting the decline of shorebirds such as the Great Knot, Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, along the East Asian—Australasian Flyway and the American Flyway. During this session, he addressed the threats from poaching and other challenges, as well as conservation solutions for waterbirds along flyways.
Since birds using the Asian flyways travel across a large area between the Arctic and Indian Oceans, as well as the associated island chains, international collaboration is an absolute necessity.
Malaysia is one of the East Asian—Australasian Flyway countries, with about 20,000 migratory birds crossing over on their way from Siberia to Australia, to overwinter. Many of these waterbirds depend on the coastal wetlands for food and shelter during their migration. I had the honour of presenting the Malaysian component of the Asian Waterbirds Census 2019, which consists of data gathered by Malaysian volunteers who participated in an annual citizen science survey. It highlights the most important sites for migratory waterbirds along the flyway on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, such as the North Central Selangor Coast Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. Since Malaysia was the only Southeast Asian country represented at the conference, it was important to share this information with other countries, as well as the global waterbird monitoring programme at large.
In addition to hosting the conference, India is one of the countries that participated in the Asian Waterbird Census. It has a huge network of volunteers and the conference was a great opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas with the local participants on how to recruit and organise volunteers. Amongst them were dedicated young scientists working on special and threatened species such as the Saurus Crane and Amur Falcon.
I would like to sincerely thank The Habitat Foundation for the travel grant support to represent the Malaysian Nature Society and present at this international conference. The opportunity to meet with so many experts allowed me to gain a lot of new contacts from the EAAF countries, as well as valuable information and new ideas. These will be useful for me in handling the North Central Selangor Coast project, especially on the long-term waterbird population and wetlands health monitoring.