‘Birds are helpful creatures to the people’ says Sam Ivande, bird expert.

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    Sam Ivande is a passionate Ornithologist (an expert in bird studies) and  lecturer at the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), the degree awarding facility of the Nigeria’s University of Jos. Ivande, who is a PhD holder in Ornithology from St. Andrews University, United Kingdom (U.K.), helps in the design and implementation of bird species and habitat conservation projects at APLORI, as a pioneer Manager of the Nigeria Bird Atlas Project (NiBAP) – the first nationwide citizens’ project aimed at promoting public participation in biodiversity conservation through bird-watching. NiBAP facilitates and nurtures enthusiasts who are spread across 20 bird clubs in Nigeria, an initiative being replicated in other West African countries. In this interview with TONY ERHA, he dwelt on the “Lesser Spotted Eagle” (Aquila pomarina), a bird with a yellowish leg-tag “TEZ DEH CA 16564”, that flew to Weppa from Beringunszentrale Hiddensee, Gustrow, Germany and others.

    Recently, at Weppa Farm, located in Edo State, Nigeria, two birds, each from South Africa and Germany were caught with rings on the legs, whilst numerous others are usually sighted within. Is this a stamping on the Weppa neighbourhood being an international bird sanctuary?

    Bird ringing has always been an important method in the study of bird migration, helping to identify migratory routes and important habitats for birds. The recovery of these two ringed birds and sighting of numerous others in Weppa Farm certainly highlights its importance as a breeding, key stop-over or winter habitat for these migrants from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

    Why Weppa village, amongst the Nigeria’s vast lands?

    The Weppa Farm has a well-managed woodland and conservation area since the 2000s when it had been protected and recognised as one of 27 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Nigeria.

    Is Weppa area a transit or destination for migratory birds? Are there also birds of this origin that migrate therefrom to other overseas countries?

    From the birds that have been recorded here, as well as the ringed birds sighted or recovered, we can say that Weppa Farm and its conservation area is both a breeding, wintering and stop-over habitat for Afro-Palearctic and Intra-African migratory birds as well as Afro-tropical birds.

    Bird study and bird-watching are very interesting features, for ecotourism and bird-site promotion etc. Is Nigeria leveraging on these for the needed development?

    This recent growth and development is largely due to the capacity building work and citizen science initiatives such as the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project that the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) has been implementing and promoting since its establishment in 2002. APLORI remains the foremost institute dedicated to the scientific study of birds and their habitats as well as the promotion of bird-watching, as a way for members to connect with nature. As developing activities, there remains a lot to be done for Nigeria to fully benefit from these activities for her development.

    Bird ringing and Natural History Museums are vital activities in the developed countries. Are they also present in Nigeria?

    APLORI had been running a bird ringing scheme at the Amurum Forest Reserve in Jos and in some other habitats across Nigeria. APLORI gathers vital information about the breeding origin of some of the migrants that use the habitats in Nigeria as well as improved understanding about the phenology and migratory timing of birds in the Afro-tropics in West Africa. The ringing information also helps to provide new information about the survival and life history of many Afro-tropical bird species. However, of the few natural history museums in Nigeria, that of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Natural History Museum in Ile-Ife is also doing well.

    Really?

    Yes, it gets funding support from several supporters, including the Leventis Foundation in Nigeria. As one of its many objectives, the Natural History Museum in Ile-Ife helps to prepare data bases on natural history and cultural resources of Nigeria.

    Why is bird study so important for a degree awarding institution, APLORI and other to be dedicated to it studies?

    Birds are very helpful to mankind. They are excellent indicators of environmental health. Birds are ubiquitous and relatively more conspicuous than many other organisms. Mankind already has cultural connections with birds and the ability of flight ensures they are relatively capable of moving in and out of disturbed habitats, hence making them good candidates for studies to better understand the impact of our activities on biodiversity.

    The Leventis dynasty appears to be doing great humanitarian work in Nigeria and West Africa etc.?

    Actually, the Leventis Group, which is currently led by Dr. A. P. Leventis, has a long history of trade and business practices in West Africa. It also has a long history and remains a leading example and unique promoter of environmentally sustainable businesses. In 2001, Dr. Leventis, who is also an admirable bird watcher and nature photographer founded the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), which has remained a foremost institute dedicated to Ornithology and conservation capacity building in West Africa.

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