The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) highlighted the importance of transboundary cooperation among Asean member-states in protecting wildlife and migratory species, and their habitats in the region.
“Species know no national boundaries and so the responsibility of protecting them is not borne by one country alone. This makes subregional cooperation paramount,” ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said.
Lim spoke about Asean’s joint efforts in reducing threats to biodiversity at a recent plenary session of the Eighth Annual Conference on Environmental Science held at Mindanao State University on its Tawi-Tawi campus in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
She cited the collaboration between the Malaysian and the Philippine governments to protect the population of marine turtles moving across their boundaries. This was formalized by the bilateral agreement to establish the first transboundary protected area in the region, the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area, which aims to ban the collection of turtle eggs and introduce alternative livelihood projects to involved communities.
Another important project in the region, she noted, is the Asean Flyway Network, which aims to conserve migratory water birds and their habitats in the coastal and inland wetlands along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF).
The first phase of the project began in 2018, with support from Japan-Asean Integration Fund and the Singaporean government as the country lead.
The project facilitated networking and collaboration among countries through the annual meeting of the Asean Flyway Network. National planning workshops were also conducted to identify priorities and challenges.
The Asean region lies at the heart of the EAAF, one of the major flyways in the world, which supports the annual migration of 50 million water birds.
Among the birds flying this route is critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, which breeds in northeastern Russia and winters in Southeast Asia.
As a result of the destruction and degradation of wetlands in which it resides, its global population has been rapidly declining. The number of spoon-billed sandpiper is estimated between 240 and 456 individuals based on recent counts from the International Waterbird Census.
The Asean Biodiversity Outlook 2, citing findings by the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association, reported that Nan Thar Island in Rakhine State and Gulf of Martaban in Myanmar, both along the 8,000-kilometers EAAF, are critical wintering grounds for the species.
Lim said the network of coastal and inland wetlands along this flyway is an interconnected system crucial for the survival of migratory water birds.
“Cooperation in the Asean is the most effective approach to conserving and protecting these migratory flyways,” Lim said.
The ACB also showcased the milestones and achievements of the Asean Heritage Parks Program in an exhibit during the three-day conference.
Organized by the Philippine Environmental Science Association (Pesa), the conference gathered experts, government officials, students and members of the academe and the private sector for research updates and discussions on key environmental agenda. Pesa is a consortium of higher education institutions in the Philippines.
Image credits: ACB