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Innovative tool to raise awareness about migratory birds

 
New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) In an amalgamation of art, conservation, and science, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and partners from a small community on Guatemala's Pacific Coast recently unveiled an innovative tool to raise awareness about migratory shorebirds -- a 90-foot-long, nine-foot-tall mural.

Also, the interpretive mural aims to be a tourist attraction with which community guides can inform people about the biodiversity and importance of the Sipacate-Naranjo National Park as part of the Pacific Americas Flyway.

The interpretive mural, painted on the wall of a school in the village of El Paredon Buena Vista, depicts more than a dozen shorebird species and the entire Pacific flyway from Alaska to Chile.

Key landmarks shown include Mount Denali, the Golden Gate Bridge, Baja California, and Machu Picchu, along with cultural scenes such as a giant head of the Olmec civilization.

In the centre of the mural is Sipacate-Naranjo National Park, the most important of the shorebird stopover points on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, consisting of mangroves, mudflats and nearby salt farms that attract migratory shorebirds.

Species shown include red knots, ruddy turnstones, American avocets, sanderlings, black-necked stilts, American Oystercatchers, semi-palmated plovers, lesser yellowlegs, stilt sandpipers, Wilson's plovers, black bellied plovers, whimbrels, willets, marbled godwits, Wilson's phalaropes, and least sandpipers.

Until recently, Guatemala's relatively remote Pacific coast was a recognised information gap on where and when different areas were used by migratory birds.

However, after three-years of work, WCS conservationists developed relationships across jurisdictions, cultures, and disciplines, with many of those gaps in knowledge and capacity now significantly narrowed -- and key areas increasingly protected.

Importantly, the work to monitor and protect migratory birds now continues under the leadership and expertise of Guatemalans.

WCS and the team of partners wanted to make a mural that reflects the importance of coastal wetlands and shorebirds at this site to promote their conservation in the community and its visitors.

Bianca Bosarreyes, one of the WCS research, team highlighted "how the work depicted reflects a new understanding for her, where her local desire for conservation of these birds at Sipacate-Naranjo is shared with many other institutions from Chile to Alaska."

Said Miriam Castillo of WCS Guatemala: "We chose to make a mural because it is colorful and eye-catching. In addition, because it is an area with a lot of tourism, the mural becomes a local attraction and is an opportunity to raise awareness through art about the biodiversity in the area.

"An interpretive mural with information on geography, ecology, local activities, and biodiversity is something that has not been done here before. In many communities in Guatemala, people cannot read, and a mural is a way of learning for anyone."

Recent efforts have developed flyway conservation plans to highlight the most important information gaps or places where new management and policy can make a difference.

Programs in the US such as the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 can provide grants to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, encouraging habitat protection, research and monitoring, capacity building, and education.

--IANS
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