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Nan Thar Island lies just off the northwest coast of Myanmar in the Mayyu River estuary. The mudflats that form Nan Thar provide globally important habitats for wintering migratory shorebirds. The most significant of these is the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. About 5% of the global population of this unique species winter annually at Nan Thar before migrating to Russia to breed. Nan Thar Island also provides a winter refuge for other globally threatened migratory shorebird species. Since 2008, annual monitoring has consistently demonstrated the value of this site for threatened shorebirds. In addition, the sandy beaches of Nan Thar serve as nesting sites for three species of sea turtles.
Communities living around Nan Thar are impoverished. Some hunt shorebirds and sea turtles to collect turtle eggs to supplement their incomes. Shorebird hunting has marginal livelihood value, but with such important wintering populations of Spoon-billed Sandpipers and other species, it can have a substantial impact on small populations.
Rainforest Trust and local partner Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) seek $274,217 to assist in designating the new 8,916-acre Nan Thar Island Wildlife Sanctuary. BANCA, with local partners, has already helped reduce hunting through engagement with local communities. Nevertheless, hunting activities continue, alongside sand extraction and climate change. BANCA confirmed a strong local interest in protecting the site during a recent stakeholder workshop for local communities and government. Establishing a protected area will not only secure the land for biodiversity, but benefit the local communities by establishing regulations for the management of the area and its declining fisheries.
Spoon-billed Sandpiper (CR), Spotted Greenshank (EN), Great Knot (EN)
Unsustainable exploitation of resources, hunting, climate change
Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association
Price per Acre:
Nan Thar Island and its surrounding inshore waters are an ecologically important coastal landscape in western Myanmar, harboring a mosaic of wetland types including intertidal mudflats and mangroves.
Nan Thar Island is recognized internationally as a key wintering location for migratory shorebirds, some of which are globally threatened. It meets the criteria of a Ramsar Site and has recently been declared an East Asian-Austalasian Flyway Network Site. Most notably, about 5% of the known global population of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper winters on the island. Other globally threatened birds that regularly visit include the Endangered Great Knot and Spotted Greenshank. Although it is only a small area, about 5,000 shorebirds winter on Nan Thar Island; to date, 67 shorebird species have been recorded. The island and surroundings are known nesting sights for three threatened species of sea turtles - the Endangered Green Turtle, the Vulnerable Loggerhead Turtle and the Vulnerable Olive Ridley. These have not yet been extensively studied locally.
Nan Thar Island and its surrounding inshore waters do not currently receive legal protection. This has led to the unsustainable exploitation of marine and coastal resources.
Declining fish harvesting has resulted in some local community members hunting shorebirds, which is the main threat to these species. While the impact of local hunting has yet to be assessed, a mere 63 hunters in the Gulf of Mottama in Myanmar have reportedly contributed to the global decline of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Sea turtles are also regularly hunted and their eggs collected. In recent years, BANCA has worked with local communities to raise awareness and hold community patrols, which has resulted in a decline in shorebird hunting. Communities around Nan Thar are impoverished and dependent upon natural resources for their livelihoods, so BANCA’s conservation interventions have been focused on alternative livelihoods and resource use. Climate change has caused sea levels to rise and extreme weather to erase important habitat.
There are five villages near Nan Thar Island with a total population of about 5,300 people. However, none of the villages lie within the proposed protected area.
These local communities highly depend on fisheries and aquaculture. Agriculture is practiced during the rainy season, mainly for rice, watermelons and chili peppers. There is a lack of education and health services in the villages. Water and sanitation are generally poor in these communities, and some villages even experience water scarcity during the dry season. BANCA and R-BANCA have established strong relationships with the local communities. They have been raising awareness through several campaigns discouraging shorebird hunting and instilling local pride in the presence of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The partners have also conducted socio-economic surveys and supported local communities by providing hand pumps for water. During a conservation workshop in September 2018, leaders from each local village agreed on the establishment of a protected area. BANCA will ensure gender equity and social inclusion of marginalized community members at consultations, which are set to take place at each stage of the designation process.
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