A few weeks ago I was invited to contribute an article to China Dialogue, one of the most respected platforms on China issues relating to the environment. In the build up to what will be arguably the most important meeting ever on nature, due to take place in Kunming, Yunnan Province, in 2021, biodiversity is climbing the political agenda. However, it would be a mistake to think that national governments alone can solve the nature crisis. Home to the majority of the world’s population, cities have a vital role to play. My article focuses on how Beijing could help to show the way in designing and managing a city that is good for people and for nature. You can read it here (available in English and Chinese).
Featured image: an artist’s impression of the “wild ring road” that could help link habitats around Beijing, whilst at the same time providing a place for leisure and environmental education for Beijingers. By Madeleine Donahue.
It is with a heavy heart that I must report the loss of Баян (BAYAN), one of the Mongolian Cuckoos.
The last signals received from his tag were at 1035 local time on 12 May 2020 and showed him almost exactly 100km north of Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province. Since then, there has been radio silence. The following analysis of the data from BAYAN’s tag was provided by Dr Chris Hewson of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) who fitted the tag to BAYAN in Mongolia in June 2019:
“…there were some slightly unusually high temps around 1000 local time on 9/5 – reaching 40-41 C on the scale of the PTTs, compared to a normal max in the high c 35 C even in Africa (it does rise to around 37-38 C on occasion though). The tag temperature was also pretty cool the next morning, probably cooler than it should be – down to about 26 C, which is probably indicative of lack of regulation of tag temp due to behaviour / absence of body temp buffering of temp. My best guess, all things considered, is that Bayan died between 1000 8/5 and 1000 9/5. The circumstances of disappearance are similar to Flappy who died in Myanmar on spring migration. These birds are really racing on spring migration, which might leave them vulnerable to not finding good stopovers / predation etc.”
In the small hope that the tag’s temperature sensor was malfunctioning or there was an alternative explanation, we waited a few days for further signals. None were forthcoming, strongly suggesting that BAYAN had indeed died on 8 or 9 May 2020.
It is always sad when we lose a tracked bird but we should celebrate his life and the impact he has had on people around the world.
After crossing the Arabian Sea to India, hot on the heels of ONON, he captivated a country with an incredible surge of interest among people in India, most of whom were previously unaware of the distances travelled by some of the most familiar migratory birds. Below are just a few of the reactions to BAYAN’s crossing of the Arabian Sea:
BAYAN is almost going in same path as ONON, we are waiting to welcome BAYAN in India🇮🇳
One of the main purposes of the project was to reach and inspire more people about the wonders of bird migration. Judging from the reaction on social media, BAYAN certainly did that.
Being able to follow the incredible journeys of these cuckoos opens our eyes to the phenomenal endurance of these birds and the mind-boggling distances they travel. It also reminds us that migratory birds live life on the edge with little margin for error.
If there is one message BAYAN, whose name translates as “prosper”, could carry with him, I am sure it would be something like this:
“Migratory birds like me don’t recognise human borders. We travel around the Earth, crossing oceans and deserts, powered sustainably by caterpillars, just to survive and breed. As humans, you are changing the planet in profound ways. Please ensure there are places for us to rest and refuel along the way so that we all may prosper.”
The fact that we last heard from BAYAN close to Kunming, Yunnan Province in China is fitting. Next year, this city is due to host the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, at which governments are due to agree a “new deal for nature” including targets to slow and reverse the loss of biodiversity. In many ways it is the most important meeting ever on nature.
Wouldn’t it be good to think that BAYAN’s legacy is to send his message to delegates to the UN meeting in Kunming?
Thank you to everyone who has supported, followed and engaged with Баян (BAYAN) and the other Mongolian Cuckoos during this project. You have all helped to raise awareness about migratory birds and the places they need.
BAYAN’s journey at a glance:
7 June 2019: fitted with a tag (number 170437) at Khurkh in northern Mongolia.
11 June 2019: named by schoolchildren at Khurkh Village School
7 June 2019 to 9 May 2020: Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bangladesh – India – Oman – Saudi Arabia – Yemen – Saudi Arabia – Eritrea – Ethiopia – South Sudan – Kenya – Uganda – Kenya – Tanzania – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Zambia – Malawi – Tanzania – Kenya – Somalia – India – Bangladesh – India – Myanmar – China (31 border crossings involving 18 countries)