Libya’s civil society celebrates its wetland wildlife and looks to the future
World Wetlands Day 2015 was celebrated in Maitiga marsh in Tripoli, with the Libyan Society for Birds (LSB) and the Environment General Authority (EGA) of Libya. This worldwide event is held annually on 2 February to raise the awareness and understanding of the importance of wetland ecosystems.
Along Libya’s Mediterranean coastline you can find several waterbird species, including Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii and Great Snipe Gallinago media. These wetland sites are important for many flora and fauna species; however, significant threats include habitat loss and the traditional hunting of waterbirds.
In Libya, the environmental challenge is considerable, and, sadly, was rendered almost impossible by the civil unrest in the country. Civil society organisations were forbidden under Gaddafi; although NGOs have been emerging since the Libyan Civil War in 2011, they have little experience or support in implementing conservation projects. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)* was the first donor directly to fund an environmental NGO in Libya; this financial support for LSB is essential to help it to build capacity.
NGOs like LSB have to face and adapt to security issues, infrastructure problems, limited internet access and legal barriers on a daily basis. Yet, despite this, great work is being carried out, successful events organised and important messages shared with the public about the significance of biodiversity.
Many people were involved in the Libyan World Wetlands Day event, including waterbird specialists, students of the Department of Zoology at the University of Tripoli and a group of young scouts. The event was designed to explain the services that wetlands provide, the varied species they support and the benefits of wetlands for humans. A practical session introducing the visitors to the waterbirds of the marsh and basic birdwatching techniques all helped to raise awareness of the wildlife richness of the site.
Libyan citizens are just as passionate about nature as those in other countries: they want to protect their precious biodiversity despite the turmoil they face every day. It is vitally important to give them the opportunity to celebrate their wildlife and educate them about its value, as well as to raise awareness in the wider world about the natural beauty of Libya.
BirdLife International - including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, BirdLife in France) - is providing the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (CEPF Med).
Find out more at www.birdlife.org/cepf-med.
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. Additional support in the Mediterranean Basin is provided by the MAVA Foundation. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at www.cepf.net.