26 Mar 2021

Nature Conservation Egypt's conservation efforts recognized

This January, Nature Conservation Egypt launched the 2021 winter bird count, gathering important data on bird populations while engaging the public in conservation issues. This month, the success of the initiative gained them recognition from the whole conservation community.

Volunteers counting birds in the Qanatir Area in Cairo © Mohamed Badran
Volunteers counting birds in the Qanatir Area in Cairo © Mohamed Badran
By Tariq Abdalla & Lewis Kihumba

In January 2021, Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE, BirdLife Partner) launched the 2021 winter bird count. The count was open to all birdwatchers and nature lovers across Egypt, with the purpose of collecting as much data as possible on the country's waterbirds. Another aim of the count was to involve the general public in bird conservation: overall, the initiative drew 38 volunteer participants from 11 governorates. The NCE team was also present on the ground, carrying out bird counts in 25 sewage treatment plants from Aswan in the south of the country to Cairo in the North, in addition to Qaaron and Rayan lakes, two protected areas and Ramsar wetlands of international importance.

“The waterbird census is a crucial way to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation measures in Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas and Key Biodiversity Areas. It is also a valuable opportunity for the NCE to encourage public participation and mainstream citizen science into bird conservation,” said Khaled El Noby, NCE’s executive coordinator.


NCE team counting birds in a waste water treatment station in the south of Egypt © Mohamed Wakry


During the count, more than 80,000 birds from 100 species were recorded. Some key highlights included spotting the Red Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius  for the first time in Upper Egypt, 1,000 black kites Milvus migrans in one location away from their regular flyway along the Red Sea, and duck species including the red crested pochard Netta rufina. Additionally, 20,000 shoveler ducks Anas clypeata were counted, which turned out to be the most sighted species.

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Following this successful count, NCE shared their experiences online through posts on social media, video content and two webinars, one of them by Ahmedd Waheed, a photographer and expert in bird identification and counting, which reached more than 7,500 people. The second webinar on the results of the count was led by NCE’s Chairman Dr. Sherif Bahaa El-Din and Dr Basma Sheta, an ornithology lecturer at Damietta University, and reached more than 1400 people. Overall, more than 50,000 people were reached through through NCE’s online platforms, with more than 6500 engagements.

“NCE is happy with the level of participation in the winter count initiative. Social media that was the main communication channel with most of our participants. Only through NCE’s Facebook page could we have encouraged public participation from cities more than 1,000 kilometres away from our office,” noted El Noby.

"The winter count is an essential monitoring activity of global importance. We are always interested in participation because it provides an excellent opportunity for our students to understand the value of collective voluntary work in conservation. Moreover, such activities help our students to work closely with expert ornithologists and learn from them,” added Dr Sheta.


Students of Damietta University participating in the a count in Burullus Lake led by Dr. Basma Sheta © Basma Sheta


Following this count, NCE received an invitation from the Egyptian Wild Animals Service to celebrate World Wildlife Day on 3rd March 2021. Activities to mark the day included an opening speech by the Egyptian vice minister of agriculture highlighting the value of wildlife conservation to human wellbeing and economic development, followed by outdoor awareness activities by various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) involving all participants. During the celebrations, NCE was recognized for its role in advancing conservation in the country, receiving a certificate for outstanding conservation efforts during the pandemic.

“Coming from peer NGOs, the certificate gives us motivation and strength to continue our work with a lot of optimism. NCE believes in the necessity of public participation in nature conservation work. The winter count initiative seems to be an excellent opportunity to work with enthusiastic people and to attract more in the future. And we are sure that next winter we will celebrate more public participation, cover larger areas and count more birds,” concludes El Noby.


A Flock of Northern Shoveler in a waste water treatment station in Luxor © Mohamed Wakry