Damara Tern

Damara Terns
If you visit the area around Swakopmund you may see little signs out in the desert with a picture of a bird on them. The Damara Tern is a breeding near endemic to Namibia. They are small little Terns (family Laridae) that breed on the open gravel plains.

These small terns have suffered the off-roading craze. In the Namib Sand Sea, south of Walvis Bay, the area is protected. But the dunes and gravel plains north of the Kuiseb River are declared a 'recreation area.' This isn't some small little park. This is a significant peace of land, with hundreds of kilometers of coast.

Each year Swakopmund becomes a mad buzz with holiday makers in December. If you stand along the road leading in to Swakopmund from the east, thousands of four-wheel drive vehicles and thousands of quad bikes on trailer arrive into the town. Prior to this boom, the terns had miles and miles to breed and the loss of a few nests here and there could be tolerated. Now, however, the sheer number of vehicles that use these areas means a significant threat to a very special little bird.

If it wasn't for the work of a few dedicated individuals, this bird may well have been right on the point of extinction. There is one man, Rob Braby, together with his family, who has almost single handedly taken on the plight to save this bird. Elevator cable fences have been put up in places to restrict the use by off-road vehicles. Nests are monitored and the constant battle with developers and those who wish no restrictions to be placed on the off-roading community.

I will certainly post a lot more about the coast in 2009, but if you would like to learn more about conservation of the Damara Tern and other Namibian birds, visit the NACOMA website.
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