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Location Syria, Hims
Central coordinates 38o 18.00' East  34o 30.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, B2
Area 245,000 ha
Altitude 400 - 1,387m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife (Affiliate)

Summary Rocky desert with scattered dwarf shrubs and a few artificial reservoirs, and cut by several sheer limestone cliffs.

Site description An area of steppe-desert around Tadmur in the centre of Syria, 150 km east of Homs, in a closed basin (c.70 × 35 km), surrounded by limestone and marl hills. There is an isolated oasis to the south of the town with extensive date-palm gardens, and Sabkhat Muh, a seasonally flooded salt-lake up to c.20 km long, lies to the south of the oasis. There are some scattered Tamarix trees around its fringe, and the steppe-desert surrounds are sparsely vegetated with perennial tussock-grass, Chenopodiaceae and Artemisia. The T-3 pumping station (34°31'N 38°45'E), 40 km east of Tadmur on the Iraq–Lebanon oil pipeline, is a small, man-made oasis with a plantation of mature Eucalyptus (c.2 ha), a garden and a sewage pond (c.0.5 ha). The main land-use is grazing livestock. The area is famous for its Roman ruins.

Key Biodiversity This is the last remaining breeding site for the eastern population of the Northern Bald Ibis. A representative assemblage of characteristic desert species occurs, with added interest due to the isolated oasis, surrounding hills and seasonal wetland. See box for key species. Other probable or confirmed breeding species include Buteo rufinus, Aquila chrysaetos, Cursorius cursor, Charadrius leschenaultii, Pterocles alchata, Bubo bubo, Athene noctua, Ammomanes deserti, Alaemon alaudipes, Eremophila bilopha, Oenanthe deserti, O. lugens, Pycnonotus leucotis (c.450 km west of its main range in Iraq) and Corvus corax. The oasis at Tadmur provides the only substantial shelter for migrant birds for 150 km to the north and west and for much further to south and east, and a very wide variety of species are attracted; the oasis is especially important for migrating raptors, e.g. Pernis apivorus, Buteo buteo (roost of 1,500, April), Milvus migrans (roost of 87, April), Circus macrourus and C. pygargus. Wintering species at the salt-lake include Phoenicopterus ruber (90, November) and Grus grus.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V; probably occurs), Caracal caracal (rare) and Gazella subgutturosa (rare). A few individuals of Sand Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa marica) are still striving to survive within a rugged section of the protected area. This is most likely one of the two last sites in Syria where this animal, iconic for the Arabic culture, can still be found. In addition of being almost completely extinct in the region, Sand Gazelle is listed as a Vulnerable species globally.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita breeding  2002-2007  1-3 breeding pairs  good  A1, A4i  Critically Endangered 
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus resident  1976  21 individuals  poor  B2  Least Concern 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni breeding  1980  1 breeding pairs  unknown  A1  Least Concern 
Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus winter  1981  1 individuals  poor  B2  Near Threatened 
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus breeding  1991  4 individuals  poor  B2  Endangered 
Chlamydotis undulata breeding  1948-1950  1 individuals  poor  B2  Not Recognised 

IBA Monitoring

2015 very high very unfavourable negligible

Human intrusions and disturbance war, civil unrest and military exercises happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Geronticus eremita Northern Bald Ibis 7 1 individuals 15 very unfavourable

Some of site covered (10-49%)  No management planning has taken place  Very little or no conservation action taking place  negligible 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Ibis Protected Area 23,000 protected area contained by site 23,000  
Jabal Abou Rojmen Designation Not Known 60,000 protected area contained by site 60,000  
Talila Protected Area 30,000 protected area contained by site 30,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial Plantations; Urban areas  minor
Desert Temperate  major
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater springs & oases; Seasonal/intermitt salt/brackish/alkali lake/flats  minor
Artificial - aquatic Irrigated land; Water-storage areas  minor
Rocky areas   minor

Land ownership The land is state-owned since the 1960s (although traditionally used by Amur and other Bedouin tribes).

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
rangeland/pastureland 100%
tourism/recreation minor
urban/industrial/transport minor
hunting 100%
agriculture minor

Protection status The Ibis Protected Area was designated in 2004 by the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR), with an area of c. 230 km2.

References Jimenez Armesto, M.J., Boehm, C. & Bowden, C. (Compilers). 2006. International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita. AEWA Technical Series No. 10. Bonn, Germany.Serra G., Scheisch Abdallah M., al Qaim G., Kanani A. In prepr. Feeding ecology and behaviour of last surviving middle eastern N. Bald Ibises breeding in the Syrian steppe.Serra G. 2002. Proposal for an action plan to protect wildlife of Palmyrean desertic steppe. FAO report project GCP/SYR/009/ITA prepared upon request of Syrian Ministry of Environment, available at FAO Representation in Damascus Syria.Serra, G., Abdallah, M., Al Quaim, G., Fayed, T., Assaed, A. & Williamson, D. 2003. Discovery of a relict breeding colony of Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita in Syria: still in time to save the eastern population? Oryx 38: 1-7.Serra G., Abdallah M., Assaed A., Al Qaim G., Abdallah A. 2005. A long-term bird survey of central Syrian desert (2000-2003). Part 1. Sandgrouse, 27(1): 9-23. Part 2. Sandgrouse, 27(2): 104-125.Serra G. and L. Peske. 2006 a. Coordinating protection efforts of breeding N. Bald Ibises Geronticus eremita in Palmyra (Syria) and trapping / satellite tagging 3 individuals. Internal Report. BirdLife International / Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.Serra G. and L. Peske. 2006 b. N. Bald Ibis conservation efforts in Syria 2002-2006: results and lessons learned. In N. Bald Ibis conservation and reintroduction workshop. Eds. C. Boehm, Bowden CGR, Jordan M. and C. King. Second International Advisory Group on N. Bald Ibis (IAGNBI) meeting, Vejer (Andalusia) 2006.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Tadmur desert and mountains. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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