IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre has officially launched the Northern Bald Ibis Project in the Syrian Palmyra desert. This project aims to establish new standards and practices for protected areas design and management in Syria, where activities to conserve the Bald Ibis will be undertaken in the Palmyra Ibis Protected Area (IPA) which was established in 2004.
The Northern Bald Ibis (NBI) Geronticus eremita is listed in the IUCN Red List 2006 as a “Critically Endangered” species on a global scale. Unexpectedly, a relict wild colony of 7 individuals was discovered in the Syrian Palmyra desert in 2002.
The project is being co-managed by the Desert Commission (DC) of Palmyra, a newly established institution managing protected areas in the Syrian desert, and it is strongly supported by Her Excellency the Syrian First Lady since its very inception.
The IUCN Director General visited Palmyra as part of her overall mission to the Levant countries accompanied by IUCN West Asia Regional Director Dr Odeh Al-Jayyousi and other staff from the region.
“This project is a great example of IUCN’s mandate to demonstrate the link between nature conservation and human well-being. We are inviting the Desert Commission to become an IUCN member to exchange experience and knowledge and become part of the global environmental community,” said Marton-Lefèvre in her speech.
“We are pleased to work with IUCN especially after they have given us the honour of visiting Palmyra. We are glad that five ibises have made their migratory come back to Palmyra during the second half of February 2009,” said Ali Hamoud Director of the Syrian Desert Commission. “Hopefully if extended beyond the summer, the Ibis Project will be extended to other component areas including the sustainable development of local communities living within the Ibis Protected Area,” he added.
“The project will build the technical capacity of local staff in the IPA and develop a management plan and an ibis national action plan. It will also collect baseline information both in Syria and at the Ethiopian ibis wintering grounds,” said Khaldoun Al Omari, IUCN West Asia Protected Areas Officer. “The Northern Bald Ibis, one of the critically endangered species according to the IUCN Red List, is a perfect flagship species for both sites in Syria and in Ethiopia.”
Through the project, eight staff members from the IPA will be trained by the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in Jordan, considering RSCN’s experience in the management of protected areas. Training courses will be developed for staff, scientists and rangers in that area.
A memorandum of cooperation was signed recently between IUCN Regional Office for West Asia and BirdLife Middle East to join forces on the protection, monitoring and research efforts at the IPA, during the present ibis breeding season, in cooperation with RSPB.
The Italian Cooperation (DGCS) is providing a Trust Fund for this project, while matching funds were raised locally thanks to the Finnish and Netherlands Embassies in Damascus. Additionally, the National Geographic Society released a grant for tracking the young ibises along the Arabian Peninsula next autumn.
For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Rania Faouri, Communications Officer, IUCN Regional Office for West Asia,
Tel: +962 6 5546912/3/4 Fax: +962 6 5546915 Mobile +962 777888522, firstname.lastname@example.org