Save the Ibis
Ibis are birds with long legs and long-down curved bills which are used to explore mud for getting food. All 30 of the extant species are aerial and they mostly live a monogamous life. Majority of the species are found in terrestrial and freshwater habitats which accounts for 33.3% and 24.4% respectively while another 24.4% of the species are adapted to both terrestrial and freshwater habitats.
Various factors are contributing towards the deteriorating situation of ibis populations: hunting, trapping, logging, gathering terrestrial plants.
Habitat degradation due to agricultural practices such as shifting agriculture, small-holder farming, agro-industry farming, livestock farming and ranching are also contributing significantly towards this situation.
Human activities such as urbanization, industrialization, usage of toxic pesticides and herbicides, mining, and recreational activities are forcing many of these species to shift their long-adapted habitats as they look to new places for food and propagation. Further threats come from invasive or problematic native species and various pests and pathogens.
The latest IUCN data shows that 15 species of Ibis are dwindling in numbers. The Sub-Saharan African region tops among all regions, being the home of seven of these species. Likewise, Southeast Asia homes six species whereas there are four from South America and three from West and Central Asia. Major areas of concern are countries like Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia each of which harbor four of the endangered species.
Among all the species, 10% are critically endangered, 10% are endangered and 3.3% vulnerable. The dwarf ibis is currently enlisted as critically endangered in Sub-Saharan Africa and West and Central Asia whereas similar status is prevailing for white shouldered and giant ibis from South and Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, the Jamaican ibis or clubbed wing ibis have already been pushed to extinction.
Several steps need to be taken to conserve the critically endangered and endangered ibis species. Natural breeding and propagation processes need to be ensured by protecting their existing habitats. To achieve that, strategies of industrialization, farming and urbanization should be adjusted appropriately, i.e., not undermining the habitats of these birds. Besides, habitat restoration activities such as effective management of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, protected in-land water bodies are crucial and such places need to be established in countries where such facilities are not available yet. A point to mention here is that the situation of the northern bald species of ibis is showing substantial improving due to actions of conservationists in the Souss-Massa National Park, Morocco.
Ex-situ conservation practices such as captive breeding and artificial propagation could increase their numbers. Once success is achieved in this process, then these species could be reintroduced to their original habitats or new habitats. The crested ibis lately made a comeback to South Korea 40 years after becoming extinct due to successful captive breeding programs. Nowadays, tracking the movement of threatened species by taking advantage of satellites is possible and this should be done for ibis as well. They should also design experiments to understand the breeding practice of these birds and to find a solution against various alien species and pathogenic diseases.
WSO's Activities and Initiatives
WSO has also taken some critical steps as part of its ongoing activity towards certifying products generated from sustainable aquaculture and agriculture:
1. It launched a Change.org campaign to save the following Critically endangered Ibis:
❖ The White-shouldered Ibis in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
❖ The Dwarf Ibis of Sao Tome and Principe.
❖ The Giant Ibis in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Vietnam.
2. Communicate with key politicians, industrial bodies, agricultural and aquaculture business owners as well as farmers to notify them about their social responsibilities and act accordingly to protect critically endangered ibis species.
3. Organize or participate in various seminars, symposiums, conferences to raise awareness among the local communities so that they become educated about these birds and carry out vigilance against illegal hunting and trading of ibis.