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Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds started the project 'Development and implementation of the programme for monitoring and protection of globally threatened species at the KRB 'Talimarzhan Reservoir' together with land users and conservation authorities.' This project is supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

The Talimarzhan reservoir is one of the five priority Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in Uzbekistan. This territory, located in the industrial center of Kashkadarya region, is a stopover for over 29% of the entire world population of critically endangered Sociable Lapwing during the autumn migration of this rare species along the eastern flyway. Despite the global importance of Talimarzhan reservoir for biodiversity conservation and very strong anthropogenic pressure at this site, this territory still does not have any official protected status.

Several thousand critically endangered Sociable Lapwings spend more than a month at Talimarzhan every year during autumn migration from their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan to wintering grounds in Pakistan. For development and implementation of measures aimed at protection of Sociable Lapwing in Uzbekistan, it is necessary to regularly collect information on number, distribution and threats of this species on its migratory stopover at Talimarzhan.

In order to receive up-to-date and regular information on Sociable Lapwing number, distribution and threats on Talimarzhan, in fall of 2020, Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds developed and tested a Monitoring Programme for this critically endangered species. This programme is based on Sociable Lapwing regular and voluntary monitoring carried out by representatives of civil society and local land users in Kashkadarya region.

A group of caretakers of Talimarzhan reservoir, named 'Sociable Lapwing', was created specifically to monitor the globally threatened Sociable Lapwing in Uzbekistan. This group joined lecturers and students of the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Karshi State University, representatives of governmental conservancies and local anglers.

On September 4, 2020, fishermen from the coast of the Talimarzhan reservoir informed members of the Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds in Kashkadarya region that first Sociable Lapwings arrived at Talimarzhan. The next day, a group of Sociable Lapwing caretakers carried out Sociable Lapwing counts at the reservoir according to the method proposed by the UzSPB. Here is what they reported:

- On September 5, at three monitoring points in the coastal part of Talimarzhan reservoir, a total of 2,750 Sociable Lapwings were recorded - over 16% of the entire world population of this endangered species! It was noticeable that the birds had just reached the reservoir and looked very tired; in the afternoon, they were practically motionless. Among the factors of possible disturbance of Sociable Lapwings on this day, several flocks of sheep were noted on the reservoir, as well as five rowing fishing boats placing and checking nets twice a day.

It can be seen from the chart below that during the period from September 5 to September 20, Sociable Lapwings fed, rested and spent the night in the coastal zone of the reservoir, which is surrounded by thickets of yantak (Alhagi). Due to the high level of humidity and a large amount of nutrients, these thickets attract insects, which birds feed on. Due to the overgrazing, Sociable Lapwings could no longer find insects on the hills (adyrs) around the reservoir by that time...

Starting from September 22, the number of Sociable Lapwings staying at Talimarjan began to increase and reached a peak by September 30. On this day, more than 4,000 Sociable Lapwings - about 37% of all remaining birds of this rarest species in the world were concentrated on the reservoir.

However, along with the increase in number of migratory Sociable Lapwings on Talimarzhan, there was a sharp increase in the number of grazing livestock. Uncontrolled, spontaneous grazing was carried out in the coastal zone of the reservoir in the areas most favorable for feeding Sociable Lapwings. Probably this was the reason why on September 27 almost all Sociable Lapwings had to leave the coastal zone of the reservoir and move to the lifeless adyrs beaten by livestock. Here is what representatives of the 'Sociable Lapwing' Site Support Group told us:

- Due to the pandemic in 2020, local people were unable to take their sheep to the summer pastures in mountains. For this reason, more than 6 thousand sheep kept along the coast of the Talimarzhan reservoir during summer and autumn. This was the reason for a strong overgrazing.

Last Sociable Lapwings left Uzbekistan on October 21. They continued their difficult journey further south - to Pakistan. It is a pity that probably not all of them flew away from hospitable Uzbekistan well fed and satisfied...

In order to provide better conditions for endangered Sociable Lapwing in Uzbekistan, the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Ecology and Environmental Protection is recommended to create a state sanctuary in the coastal area of Talimarzhan reservoir with the main function of managing pasture areas where Sociable Lapwings concentrate annually in the period from early September to late October.

Supported by: BirdLife International NABU

© Compiled by Oleg Kashkarov
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Last modified: 15.04.2021