BirdLife International has stated that no extinctions are predicted as a result of the devastating tsunami that struck Asia on December 26, 2004. There are 27 globally threatened bird species in areas potentially affected by the earthquake, but BirdLife says that few of these are likely to have been seriously affected by the destructive wall of water that has wreaked such havoc.
The international birding organisation has said that surveys are needed to confirm the situation. The Nicobar Islands are of particular concern, due to their proximity to the epicentre of the quake and their rich biodiversity.
Three “Endemic Bird Areas” (areas which contains bird species that are not found anywhere else on earth) were affected by the tsunami. Many coastal wetlands and lowland forests will have been swamped by saltwater, causing potential habitat destruction for many species. The Sundaland lowland forests and coastal mangrove forests are two key habitats that are most likely to suffer from the tsunami, immediately and from future reconstruction and development activities. However, many of the threatened species are found in highland forest, and are less likely to be affected in the long term.
Species in endemic bird areas that are most at risk from the tsunami include the Narcondam Hornibill, Andaman Teal, the Nicobar Megapode, Nicobar Parakeet and the South Nicobar serpent-eagle.
BirdLife has expressed concern that the reconstruction process and new developments needed to help the people affected by the earthquake may cause further habitat damage if not properly managed. However, BirdLife Director Mike Rands has also stated “The reconstruction process is likely to provide opportunities to integrate environmental protection and management with economic development in the region, including the opportunity to conserve and restore coastal habitats such as mangroves as coastal defences.”