BNM report on the important Bird Area at Belualasmau
On November 3, 2017, Belau National Museum issued an authoritative report on the legacy of the migratory shorebirds of Belualasmau and surrounding coastal wetlands in Peleliu. The report traces a legacy of more than 150 years of scientific studies of the large numbers and rich diversity of the migratory shorebirds at Belualasmau. [restrict]
Although migratory birds have been overwintering at Belualasmau for millennia, scientific research on the birds of Belualasmau began in 1861 when Carl Semper visited Palau to collect bird specimens for the Godeffroy Museum in Hamburg, Germany. Ten years later, the famed anthropologist Johann Kubary was commissioned by Godeffroy to collect more specimens. The period from the Japanese Mandate through the US Navy and US Trust Territory administrations saw a steady flow of scientists who collected and studied the migratory birds of Belualasmau. The bird specimens that were collected by Semper, Kubary and others are still preserved in museums in Germany, Japan and the U.S.
When Palau became independent, local scientists continued the study of migratory birds to the present day. As a result, the legacy of Belualasmau was internationally recognized in 2015 when BirdLife International established the site as a global Important Bird Area (IBA) named the “Northern Peleliu Lkes IBA.” The IBA status of the Northern Peleliu Lkes is based on sheer numbers of shorebirds (more than 3,000) and the presence of several endangered species of migratory shorebirds – as well as the endangered Palau Megapode (Bekai), which nests on Belualasmau itself. Based on the studies from 1861 to the present, BirdLife International declared the Northern Peleliu Lkes IBA to be the most important site for migratory shorebirds in Micronesia and Oceania. BirdLife International also determined that the site is in extreme danger of destruction from commercial development.
The scientific studies proved that Belualasmau is refuge for the only stable population in Palau of a culturally important migratory shorebird known as the Far Eastern Curlew. The globally endangered Far Eastern Curlew is the living archetype of Delerrok (Palauan Money Bird), an ancient icon of Palauan culture, pride and prosperity. Now days, Delerrok icons appear throughout Palau on traditional abais, government buildings, business facades and even the logo of Belau National Museum. Because of the endangered status of the Far Eastern Curlew (Delerrok), failure to protect its habitat at Belualasmau from commercial development or any other threat will certainly result in the extinction of Delerrok in Palau, depriving future generations of a cherished cultural legacy.
The museum report notes that Appendix I of the U.N. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) singles out the Far Eastern Curlew (Delerrok) for highest priority protection. The CMS calls for the immediate protection of the habitats of each species listed in Appendix I. Moreover, all of the shorebird species at Belualasmau (Northern Peleliu Lkes Important Bird Area) are protected under CMS Appendix II. The museum’s report on the legacy of Belualasmau concludes that the Northern Peleliu Lkes Important Bird Area, including Belualasmau, must be protected as a national legacy and critical habitat for migratory shorebirds, especially the Far Eastern Curlew (Delerrok), pursuant to the Republic of Palau’s commitments as a party to the U.N. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
The full report is available for viewing at the Belau National Museum front desk. A video about the migratory shorebirds of Belualasmau entitled “Winged Ambassadors” is currently showing in the museum’s Natural History Gallery. The video was produced by Palau Conservation Society and Lightning Strike Productions in collaboration with the museum’s National Program for Monitoring Forest and Coastal Birds. BirdLife International, the David and Sarah Gordon Community Grant Program and the Marisla Foundation provided valuable support for the making of the video. [/restrict]