We have supported (along with birdlife Middle East and IUCN) a protection programme whereby the ibis population has been protected by a 24-hour guard comprising local Bedouin and wardens on secondment from the nearby desert reserve.
The Syrian government authorities led by the Desert Commission have been extremely supportive of and proactive in efforts to conserve the Ibis and a protected area has been created around the breeding colony. However further awareness raising is essential both in Palmyra and Damsacus to generate a sense of national pride in the birds, so that there is political support for the programme.
In the six years since the birds were discovered, most resources have been placed on protection activities. However, we have undertaken studies on feeding ecology to better understand the use of different areas and habitat preferences. This has been essential in guiding management decisions and in influencing development in the surrounding area eg a collaborative programme of work with Petro-Canada in relation to their exploration of gas fields in the region.
After discovering the wintering grounds of the adults, we continue to attempt to place additional satellite tags on fledgling or immature birds. This may require research and conservation intervention in other countries outside of Syria although at present the birds appear safe in Ethiopia and knowledge of migration remains too poor to enable meaningful interventions. However, conservationists, especially in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabla and Yemen, have been proactive in searching for ibis and visiting birds identified by satellite tracking.
BirdLife has formed an association with the Syrian Society for Conservation of Wildlife (SSCW), a fledgling NGO based in Damascus. RSPB are working to support their institutional development as the NGO movement expands in Syria. We will also assist the development of skills and training among local government staff involved in the ibis programme including appropriate personal assistance, training and exchange visits.