Entry from Tessa McGregor presenter of Wild Arabia
- 30 Aug 07, 03:17 PM
Tessa sent us an entry about her trip to the middle east as part of the series Wild Arabia, the final programme is on Monday at 9pm, (it will also be on our podcast) over to Tessa...
Syria Bald Ibis
Watching Northern,Bald Ibis feed in the Palmyra desert is a rare privilege and my heart soars as I watch them fly back to the colony at mid day. I’m spending the day with experts; local ranger, Mahmoud Abdullah, and Lubomir Peske, bird catcher and tagger ‘extraordinaire’. The tiny transmitters fitted to 4 adults last year unlocked the mystery of their migration route. – all the way from their summer breeding grounds in Syria to their winter feeding grounds in Ethiopia, crossing the Middle East and Arabia on their way, but where the young birds spend the winter is still a mystery. Catching adult birds was difficult enough, but catching a young bird is the Herculean task facing Lubomir now.
Northern Bald Ibis were thought to be extinct in Syria, so the discovery of these birds in 2000 caused great excitement. Syria is so little studied, who knows what is still left to discover? I am impressed by the Government’s enthusiasm and close cooperation with the RSPB and Birdlife International to safeguard this colony; but what amazes me even more is to see how well local people are protecting these birds on the ground.
“They eat scorpions and snakes….they protect our children so we must protect them…This very beautiful bird”, I am told, time and time again by the Bedu men and women I meet, who live in tents and herd their livestock, just as they have done for more than 2000 years. Their vigilance is impressive. Hunters don’t stand a chance. They are spotted and deterred before they can get close to the birds. It’s wonderful to see everyone, from Bedu herders to international experts working together, all equally committed to saving this very rare species. The knock-on effect ensures that the rest of wildlife is also protected - except for the predators. They still get a hard time. How can you welcome wolf, hyena or caracal when your livelihood depends on sheep and donkeys? Even the Bedu dogs wear impressive spiked collars as wolf protection.
Suleiman is a local man who not only loves the birds but all the animals too. He lives alone in the desert, dedicated to protecting all the wildlife. As we sit in the shade of his tent-cum-hide, drinking hot, sweet tea after hours in the field, Mahmoud tells me how frustrated he got trying to persuade herders that the predators also have their place here.
“Then, one man, I take his prayer beads and I cut one bead. I give it to him and I say is it good now? He is angry and he say no, it’s no good now….needs all the beads. And I tell him – it’s like that for the wolf…all animal like the beads…if one gone, it’s no good. And the man, he understand!” Suleiman nods and smiles in agreement. What a powerful way to explain the importance of Biodiversity. And what an inspirational place to be. In the company of Mahmoud, Suliman and Lubomir I feel great optimism. With passion and dedication like this, wildlife has a fighting chance.