Plastics are killing migratory birds — Wildlife Society

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman

The Ghana Wildlife Society has called on Ghanaians to protect migratory birds from the harmful effects of plastics in Ghana.

The society has consequently appealed to the public to refrain from reckless disposal of plastics into the sea and fresh water bodies in order not to endanger the lives of birds and marine animals.

"When birds are migrating, they see plastics that float in the sea, lakes and rivers as fish and pick them, ingesting these materials which eventually kill them," the society said.

The Conservation Education Officer of the GWS, Ms Louisa Kabobah, made the call last Saturday, as the non-profit entity marked the 2019 World Migratory Bird Day at Bueyonye in the Lower Manya Krobo District in the Eastern Region.

"When the stomachs of birds are full of plastics, they feel satisfied but since they do not get the nutrients they need they die as a result,” she said.

"Other times, as they dive to pick plastics, they get entangled in broken nets left in the sea and they die," she added.


The event, dubbed "Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution!”, focused the attention of local communities on the negative impact of plastic pollution on migratory birds and their habitats.

Supported by Birdlife International, a non governmental organisation, the celebration brought together chiefs, queen mothers, assembly members, pupils, students and teachers from Jekiti, Oborpah East, Oborpah West, Yongwase and Bueyonye farming communities to undertake a two-kilometer bird walk from Bueyonye MA Primary School to a conservation site at Bueyonye.

Held with a photo exhibition, the event also aimed at raising awareness about the importance of migratory birds and the vulnerability of such birds in Ghana.

Migratory birds

Migratory birds fly over distances of hundreds and thousands of kilometres in order to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding and raising their young ones.

When the conditions at breeding sites become unfavourable due to low temperatures, migratory birds fly to regions where conditions are more favourable.

They have a particular importance due to their economic, ecological and cultural values and the role they play in tourist attractions and agriculture in destination countries.

Alarming deaths

Ms Kabobah said with an annual production of more than 300 million tonnes of plastics out of which nine per cent was recycled, plastic was one of the most widely used materials in the world.

She, however, said it was bizarre that plastic was used mostly for single purpose compared to its life cycle of 20 to 500 years.

"Sadly, having wings does not help birds escape the threat of plastics.

Birds with stomachs full of plastic entangled and smothered by plastic rings and nets are all too real consequences of the toll that plastic takes on wildlife," she said.

She said plastic pollution across the world was affecting water birds in many ways.

“Water birds are facing so many threats, everyone can do something to tackle this one,” she said.

"The number of seabirds dying from the effects of plastic every year is currently one million and growing.

Existing research pinpoints the urgency of the matter: not only do 90 per cent of seabirds have plastic in their guts but this proportion will reach 99 per cent by 2050,” she lamented.