Report of Morocco Slender-billed Curlew survey 2011

During February 2011, a team formed by two Moroccan and one British ornithologists carried out a survey to search the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) along the Mediterranean and northern Atlantic coast of Morocco. The survey was entirely voluntary, the Moroccan members of the team (M. A. & A. E.) paid their own expenses while R. D. M. received some support.

The following is the summary of the report about the survey.

The entire Mediterranean coastline as well as the northern section of the Atlantic coastline of Morocco was surveyed between 06/02/2011 and 13/02/2011. Visual searches of sites were completed with substantial effort focused on those sites which supported numbers of Numenius sp. and those sites where Numenius tenuirostris had been reported in the recent past.

Key recommendations/observations resulting from these surveys are:

  • The Ramsar sites/Important Bird Areas of Oued Moulouya and Sebkha Bou Areg are under increasing pressure from development. A number of concrete drainage channels appear to have been recently installed at Oued Moulouya and this has resulted in very little open water being present away from the main river channel. Although this site was only surveyed on a single date, it would now not appear to support high enough populations of important bird species to justify the joint status of IBA/Ramsar site. Similarly, plans for a number of tourist ‘resorts’ around Sebkha Bou Areg are likely to have adverse impacts upon the bird populations at this site. Current pollution levels and apparent high-intensity fishing activity are also likely to be having a continuing detrimental impact on the bird community. There is however an ambitious project to create an Ornithological Park of 74 ha in the southern part of the lagoon. This project aims to transform and rehabilitate the old sewage area and adjacent marshes. This will hopefully maintains the current and past importance of Sebkha Bou Areg.
  • Whilst receiving no specific protection, Smir Wetland appeared to be one of the most important sites for wintering/migratory/breeding birds visited during the survey. This site is proposed to be near totally drained in the near future.
  • The provision of local language materials (e.g. reporting forms, search protocol and SBC toolkit), optical equipment and instructions to local ornithologists to photo-document and report any possible Numenius tenuirostris as soon as possible should all be promoted.
  • The proposed Casablanca-Tangier TGV railway through Lower Loukkos marshes will surely undermine the site’s quality unless its course is changed. This project if undertaken will probably affect habitat of many regionally and/or globally threatened bird species.

Overall, the current land and resource use in all main sites visited during our survey appeared not to be sustainable. Many activities witnessed appeared to be counter to Morocco’s international obligations under treaties such as the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), AEWA and the Ramsar convention.

Read the report:

Moores, R. D., Amezian, M. & Elbanak, A. 2011. Morocco Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) survey: Mediterranean coast and northern Atlantic coast, 06.02.2011 – 13.02.2011. Unpublished report.

Eurasian Curlews (Numenius arquata) at Sebkha Bou Areg, a Ramsar Site on Mediterranean coast of Morocco
Eurasian Curlews (Numenius arquata) at Sebkha Bou Areg, a Ramsar Site on Mediterranean coast of Morocco (R.D. Moores).

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