Poison blamed for Critical deaths
Three Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita have been found poisoned in a remote Jordanian desert, hundreds of kilometres from their breeding grounds in Turkey. The three birds were being tracked by satellite after leaving Birecik, south-eastern Turkey, where one of only four colonies of Bald Ibis remains.
The birds were found 32 kilometres from the Jordanian capital, Amman. Autopsies have ruled out electrocution and shooting. Scientists are investigating the source of the poison and believe it may have been laid by chicken farmers in order to kill rodents.
“The deaths are heartbreaking but they may not have died in vain. They came from a semi-captive population and the fact that they left the colony proves they haven’t lost their migratory instincts”, said Jose Tavares, the RSPB’s (BirdLife in the UK) Country Programme Officer for Turkey. “The birds flew via Palmyra in Syria, where a tiny colony hangs on, which means birds we release from Turkey next year could join the group in Syria.”
“It was sad news for RSCN to discover that these Bald Ibis were poisoned in Jordan. RSCN and BirdLife in the Middle East are cooperating with specialist labs in Jordan to identify the poison. Based on the results we will take this up with the Ministries of the Environment and Agriculture to try and control the use of this poison”, said Yehya Khaled, RSCN (BirdLife in Jordan).
"RSCN and BirdLife in the Middle East are cooperating with specialist labs in Jordan to identify the poison" —Yehya Khaled, RSCN (BirdLife in Jordan)
The Northern Bald Ibis’s migratory habits have baffled conservationists for years but in 2006, BirdLife International and the Syrian Government, tracked the 3,800-mile round trip of adult birds from Syria, finding new wintering grounds in Ethiopia. But young birds were never seen on migration and scientists fear they face mystery threats on an entirely different over-wintering route.
Sharif Al Jbour of BirdLife in the Middle East, who found the dead birds, said: “We know where the adults go but it’s crucial we follow the young birds’ migration route so that we can protect them in winter and help them return to Turkey and Syria to breed.”
To solve the riddle, more Turkish birds will be tagged next year by Czech expert Lubomir Peske. These birds will be followed to see if they join and boost the numbers of the tiny colony in Palmyra. The tracking project has boosted hopes for Northern Bald Ibis in the Middle East with conservationists now more optimistic that they can re-establish a completely wild population in Turkey.
“The people of Birecik have been hugely supportive. The bird is cherished and celebrated by all those who live there and is the gleaming symbol of the town council. Hopefully we will now be able to return these birds to the wild there”, said Dr Ozge Balkiz from Doğa Derneği (BirdLife in Turkey).
"A huge effort has been made to reveal the mystery of these lovely creatures’ migration, and we are a few steps from a significant and outstanding discovery", said Khaldoun Alomari, Protected Areas Program Officer, IUCN.
In response to the threat to so many bird species, BirdLife has launched the Preventing Extinctions Programme. This is spearheading greater conservation action, awareness and funding support for all of the world’s most threatened birds, starting with the 190 species classified as Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat.
For more information visit www.birdlife.org/extinction
This news is brought to you by the BirdLife Species Champions and the British Birdwatching Fair - official sponsor of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme
Credits: BirdLife, RSPB, RSCN, IUCN, Doğa Derneği