Trevor Poyser Species Conservation Fund supports Northern Bald Ibis conservation in Türkiye

Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita)

The 2023 Trevor Poyser Species Conservation Fund has been awarded to WWF-Türkiye for the project “Back to the Migration for Northern Bald Ibis in Türkiye.” The Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) occurs as two disjunct sub-populations, with the still small western population in north Africa slowly but steadily increasing following conservation action. The eastern population is now thought to be extinct, although there is a semi-wild population at Birecik in Türkiye. The eastern population is free-flying for approximately 5 months of the year and is then taken back into captivity before the migration period. This semi-wild population is the obvious source of birds to help re-establish a migratory population in the future. The key to re-establishing a migratory population will be to understand if semi-wild individuals still have the instinct to migrate and to survive along historical migration routes through the Arabian Peninsula to Ethiopia and NE Africa.

In 2021, fifteen Northern Bald Ibis were not returned to captivity to see if they would show their natural migratory instinct. Two of the birds were observed on the Egypt-Israel border. Project leader, Can Yeniyurt, now of WWF-Türkiye welcomes this encouraging information “it shows that despite the passage of many years, genetic information of migration is still not lost, so that a wild population can theoretically be re-established.”

The project funded by the Trevor Poyser Species Conservation Fund will enable 3 satellite transmitters to be attached to Northern Bald Ibises in July 2023. This will further the understanding of the migration behaviour of previously semi-wild birds and the threats they face. Can Yeniyurt is hopeful that “the information we will receive from the transmitters will pave the way for the Northern Bald Ibis in Turkey to re-establish their historical migratory journey.”

Chris Bowden of RSPB and AEWA Coordinator for the species is very positive about OSME’s support: “Tagging any released birds, now that the semi-wild population has increased, is a crucial step. Understanding the movements of the birds, and in particular the causes of any mortalities will provide crucial information on the viability of such releases, and can potentially inform on which threats may still need addressing” 

Taner Hatipoglu, veterinarian at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Türkiye, has had a long-standing involvement in Bald Ibis conservation: “In the process of re-establishing a migratory population understanding the migration route with satellite transmitters is very important. Releases are so much more valuable if we can fit tags on the birds, so this support is very timely and welcome. 

OSME are delighted to support this project that focuses on the only population of this globally Endangered species in the OSME region. This is the fourth Trevor Poyser Species Conservation Fund grant that has been awarded which to date has supported work on Egyptian Vulture, Syrian Serin, Saker Falcon and now Northern Bald Ibis. Trevor Poyser was a giant of ornithological publishing, joint founder of the renowned publishers T & AD Poyser famous for their ground-breaking books, particularly the Species Monograph series. Very sadly Trevor died in his nineties in 2018 but he kindly left us a significant legacy to spend on research and conservation within the OSME region. The Trevor Poyser Species Conservation Fund was established by OSME in his memory.

For more details on the Trevor Poyser Species Conservation Fund visit the OSME website.

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