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Forests and wooded areas, and their importance in maintaining healthy wetlands, are the theme of World Wetlands Day.
WORLD Wetlands Day on 2 February is a landmark occasion for conservationists, and this year is a particularly meaningful one as it is the 40th anniversary of the signing of an international treaty advocating wetland preservation.


Thokoza Park will host a World Wetlands Day eventThokoza Park will host a World Wetlands Day eventThe theme for this year’s day is “Wetlands and forests”, chosen since 2011 is the United Nations International Year of Forests. And the Johannesburg Zoo will use the day to teach school goers about its Wattled Crane Recovery Programme (WCRP).

It will put into context how useful wetlands are as ecosystems by educating schoolchildren about the plight of wattled cranes and how the children can help to save the species through the WCRP.

When worry escalated over the decline of the species in South Africa, a population and habitat viability workshop was held to find a solution to the problem. A captive breeding and release scheme was identified as the best answer for ensuring the long-term survival of the species; and the WCRP was born in July 2000.

Abandoned eggs are collected from the wild and the hatched chicks are costume and puppet-reared to avoid human imprinting. This happens at the Johannesburg Zoo’s conservation breeding farm in Parys, on the banks of the Vaal River in Free State, and at the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. The cranes are then released into existing flocks in the wild to boost their population.

The zoo spearheads the programme, which is one of the most successful endangered species conservation efforts in South Africa. Even so, there are only 235 wattled cranes left across the country.

For more information or to make a contribution to the cause, go to the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme website.

Ramsar Convention
World Wetlands Day commemorates the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the Caspian Sea in 1971. The pact has since become known as the Ramsar Convention, and is the only global environmental agreement that deals with a specific ecosystem.


The Joburg ZooThe Joburg Zoo will use World Wetlands Day to educate leaners about its WCR programme (Photo: WCRP)It is an intergovernmental accord that provides the framework for national action and international co-operation regarding the conservation and wise use of resources in this natural environment.

World Wetlands Day was first observed in 1997, and groups such as government agencies, non-governmental organisations and interested citizens have since turned it into a tradition worth preserving. Activities and programmes are hosted by various organisations globally to raise awareness of the value of wetlands.

“Forests for water and wetlands” is the slogan of the 2011 event, and the Ramsar Secretariat, which is responsible for co-ordinating the planning of the annual occasion, is hoping to use it as a banner to educate people about the significance of forests.

There are three main matters on which Ramsar wants to focus: the benefits of wooded areas, the role forests play in people’s lives and their function in how wetlands operate.

Benefits of forests include that they are biologically diverse, help manage freshwater and play vital roles in carbon storage. Freshwater availability and, to some extent, quality depends on forests, and the health of wetlands around the globe is linked to the health of forests in catchment areas. There roles in people’s lives concern water, food, livelihoods and recreation.

To mark World Wetlands Day, City Parks will unveil the new Lakeside Park in Orange Farm on 1 February and later on in the month, on 23 February, Rand Water will use Thokoza Park in Soweto as the setting for an event to observe the importance of the day.

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