A GNA Feature by
Amadu Kamil Sanah/ Japheth Roberts
Accra, May 12, GNA – At the foreign missions each day, it is a usual scene to see a number of Ghanaians in queues for various travelling documents.
Admittedly, whiles some people could afford the luxury of holidays, for others it is all about striving for greener pastures.
Visa ''wahala'' stories are commonly reported in the newspapers and the storylines are often one of people being duped by “connection men” or travelers stranded in the deserts or sinking in the high seas due to lack of basic safety rules.
The irony of these stories with the fatal endings is that thousands of birds do the opposite each year as they flee the cold and freezing temperatures of Europe and the Americas for a holiday in Africa with quite a proportion migrating to Ghana.
The birds, which are attracted to the African vegetation travel without visas, ignore national boundaries and the countless immigration authorities.
Is this not wonderful? Thousands of miles covered by migratory birds yearly are often made on the same course year after year with little deviation.
First-year birds often make their very first migration on their own and amazingly could somehow find their winter home when they return.
The secrets of their amazing navigational skills aren’t fully understood, partly because birds combine several different types of senses when they navigate.
Birds could get compass information from the sun, the stars, and by sensing the earth’s magnetic field.
They also get information from the position of the setting sun and from landmarks seen during the day.
The term migration describes periodic, large-scale movements of populations of animals and birds migrate from areas of low or decreasing resources to areas of high or increasing resources.
The two primary resources being sought for are food and nesting locations and about three billion birds migrate between Africa and Europe of which 215 species are passerine (song/perching birds) and 128 species are non passerine (non song birds/non perching birds).
Migratory birds are a vital part of biodiversity and play a critical role in all ecosystems.
They also play an important cultural, aesthetic and economic role in the lives of people around the world most especially in Ghana.
For those who have lived in the villages or ever farmed before, when you start seeing the White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicolis (Nhwire hwire/Nko-hwero (Akan) or Ewuli (Ewe) then you know the rains are coming.
This intra-African migrant follows the rain. Migratory birds serve key functions in the interconnected systems that keep nature healthy, including pollination and seed dispersal of crops for human and livestock consumption, insect and pest regulation.
When places such as the Keta, Densu Delta, Sakumono and Songor Lagoon's are visited between the months of November and March each year thousands of shore birds are found gathered and feeding.
Come April the same places would be significantly empty of birds as the vacationers would have flown back to Europe.
In places such as the Mole National Park and Damongo Scarp Forest reserves, many new birds would be seen and heard filling the skies with sweet melodies until they depart for Europe.
For many, this is just tales "too le" how could a bird fly such long distances? For us it is just theory, until you start working as an ornithologist.
In the Nsuatre area of the Brong- Ahafo Region, people working in collaboration with British colleagues caught and ringed a migratory bird.
They put a small aluminium ring on the feet of the Garden warbler.
The ring had a specific number that identifies the bird and surprisingly the same bird was found in a garden in the United Kingdom. To add the icing on the cake the same bird was caught at Nsuatre the year after.
It had travelled to Ghana twice, what a wonder to see such a tiny bird that had made such a journey. In awe of these amazing birds the World celebrated World Migratory Bird Day on May 10.
Despite their glorious beauty and economic benefit through tourism, migratory birds are being hunted, killed and traded in an unsustainable manner, hence the theme:”When the skies fall silent-Stop the illegal killing, taking and trade.”
Nets along the north coast of Africa kill millions of birds each year. The problem is not just a North African one. In Ghana children and the elderly hunt and kill birds for fun or food.
Our forest reserves are being deforested at alarming rates, landscape management within off-reserve areas is lacking. These do not bode well for the future of migratory birds whose populations are already declining massively.
Organisations such as Ghana Wildlife Society, the Centre of African Wetlands and the Ghana Ringing Scheme have been conducting research into migrant birds in Ghana towards addressing the threats faced by the migrants.
Such studies have been carried out across the Forest reserves and wetlands in the country with places such as the Ramsar sites (Sakumono, Keta, Songor and Densu Delta) identified as important feeding grounds for migrant shore birds.
Whereas areas such as the Damongo Scarp Forest reserve and the Tono Irrigation Dam are key staging areas for Palaearctic migrants as they fatten up for the journey across the desert.
We cannot imagine the Ghanaian sky bereft of birds especially the migrants, Hence the clarion call to all to actively stop killing birds both adults and children, to stop purchasing bird parts as this fuels the trade and killing.
Let us do our part to ensure that these ''visa free travellers' can continue to live for future generations to benefit.