BirdLife trains Iraqi conservationists
BirdLife's Middle East Office in Jordan has organised and delivered a study tour of Jordan for eight Iraqi biologists. The group took part in workshops on Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and Site Support Groups (SSGs), and in turn were able to supply the findings of their own recent fieldwork in the Mesopotamian/southern Iraq marshes.
Using the techniques they had learned, the group ranked the IBAs of the marshes in terms of how deserving each one is for bird conservation work in the near future, and concluded that Haur al Hammar (IBA 039) was the single highest priority IBA.
In January 2005, as the next stage in their training, the group will put the principles learned into practice, when they carry out wetland surveys of some of the major IBAs in Syria. On their return to Iraq in February, it is anticipated that the group will commence a six-month field survey of all the IBAs in southern Iraq.
"There's a very good chance that the survey team could find other rare and unexpected species" —Sharif Al Jbour, BirdLife Middle East Project Officer
This survey is expected to be the beginning of systematic conservation work for the protection and future management of the key biodiversity areas of Iraq. It will be led by the Iraq Nature Conservation Society in cooperation with the Iraq Foundation, a well-established national NGO.
"By a nice coincidence on the last day of the Iraqi group's visit to Jordan, a satellite-tracked Lesser White-fronted Goose originally ringed in Siberia turned up at an unsurveyed IBA east of Baghdad," reported Sharif Al Jbour, BirdLife’s Project Officer in the Middle East. "This is a good example of how little we currently know about Iraq's birdlife and what remains to be discovered. There's a very good chance that the survey team could find other rare and unexpected species, including even the tantalising possibility of the critically endangered Slender-billed Curlew."
This study tour was a part of the Environmental Training Programme for Iraqi Biologists that BirdLife is helping to deliver, together with the University of Waterloo (Ontario) and Environment Canada, under the umbrella of the Canada-Iraq Marshlands Initiative (CIMI), funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).