Last Northern Bald Ibis in Syria?

OSME has received the following sad news on the Northern Bald Ibis (International Advisory Group for Northern Bald Ibis – IAGNBI) Despite the current crisis in Syria, the field team have continued to monitor the ibis, and have reported the sad news that only one of the Northern Bald Ibis has returned to the breeding site at Palmyra this spring. Unfortunately, there are no signs of any more birds so far returning from their migration to Ethiopia. The returning female ‘Zenobia’ was last year paired to ‘Odeinat’, the last male, which was fitted with a small satellite tag that stopped transmitting in southern Saudi Arabia in July 2012

It has not been possible to search for Odeinat, as the last signals did not give an accurate location. Subsequently, a total of four birds was seen briefly in January this year by Yilma Abebe and Tariku Dagne (a visit supported by the Ethiopian Natural History Society and the Culture and Tourism Office of Ethiopia, with funds from RSPB) at the usual Ethiopian highland wintering site, but it now seems clear that only one of these birds has returned to the breeding area.

This looks ominously like it may be the end for the relict eastern population of the species, having been rediscovered in 2002 when there were 3 breeding pairs. Despite huge efforts the colony dwindled to just one pair in the past two years and now it seems to just the one bird. This comes at a time when coordinated efforts are strengthening and indeed after the establishment of the new International Working Group was held in Jazan, Saudi Arabia in November 2012…

Among the hopes for maintaining the eastern population are further releases from the former colony site at Birecik in SE Turkey where a semi-wild population persists. Meanwhile the only other wild population which is also the subject of dedicated conservation efforts by Souss-Massa National Park and the Spanish BirdLife International Partner SEO /BirdLife, has remained relatively stable (some recent increases) over the past 20 years despite the growing development pressures, but comprises just over 100 breeding pairs at only two colonies in Morocco.

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