Thursday, February 01, 2007

Birds in Iraq



First Field Guide to Birds of Iraq Shows No Extinctions
BAGHDAD, Iraq, January 26, 2007 (ENS) - The wildlife conservation movement that has started to emerge in Iraq took off today with the publication of "Field Guide to the Birds of Iraq" in Arabic. Despite ongoing conflict across the country, the unique guide shows that no species has gone extinct in the Mesopotamian marshes since the last assessments were conducted in the 1970s.

First Field Guide to Birds of Iraq Shows No Extinctions
BAGHDAD, Iraq, January 26, 2007 (ENS) - The wildlife conservation movement that has started to emerge in Iraq took off today with the publication of "Field Guide to the Birds of Iraq" in Arabic. Despite ongoing conflict across the country, the unique guide shows that no species has gone extinct in the Mesopotamian marshes since the last assessments were conducted in the 1970s.
Covering the 387 bird species that have been recorded in Iraq, the book is the first comprehensive, fully illustrated field guide to the birds of an Arabic speaking country and first field guide of its kind for Iraq.
The book is published by BirdLife International and Nature Iraq, a newly formed conservation organization. Nature Iraq is based in Baghdad with an office in Amman, Jordan.
"For Iraq – a nation that has lost so much of its wildlife in the last twenty years, this book opens the door for the growing conservation movement in this country." said Dr. Ali Douabul of Nature Iraq.
The book is due to be presented to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the next few weeks.
"Local language field guides are crucial tools for conservation," Dr. Douabul said. "They encourage people to realize, appreciate and get involved in bird conservation, which, because birds are good indicators of the environment, has potential benefits for all of our wildlife."
Funded by the Canadian government, an expert from BirdLife International, based in Cambridge, England, has traveled to the region to train Nature Iraq biologists in conducting bird and other wildlife surveys of the internationally important Mesopotamian marshes.
BirdLife's Middle East Conservation Advisor Richard Porter has been training the biologists doing the surveys.
"This we are doing in Syria," he told ENS. "They have been great to work with - young, keen, enthusisatic and increasingly competent. They have just completed their third winter survey."
The training has covered recording techniques, plant identification, habitat monitoring techniques, and practical skills like measuring water quality.
Thought to be the site of the biblical Garden of Eden, the Mesopotamian marshes include 28 of Iraq’s Important Bird Areas, and are home to Iraq’s Marsh Arabs.
Eighteen globally threatened bird species occur in these marshes between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, alongside three birds unique to the marshes - the Iraq babbler, Turdoides altirostris; the Basra reed warbler, Acrocephalus griseldis; and the grey hypocolius, Hypocolius ampelinus.
Drained of water during the Saddam Hussein era, wildlife fled from 90 percent of the marshes. Since the collapse of the regime, a multifaceted rehabilitation program has begun
Dr. Douabul works with several organizations on marsh rehabilitation, including the USAID. He says as early as 2003, he found small areas where the marsh dwellers themselves had reflooded the dried earth and were beginning to rebuild.
Some 40,000 people have returned to the reflooded areas to resume their traditional lifestyle and practice their centuries-old culture.
By mid-2004, the marsh dwellers had reflooded about 40 percent of the former marshlands.
Some of the re-flooded areas have experienced lush regrowth, but other areas have not recovered as well.
Still, initial reports show healthy populations of Basra reed warblers. The sacred ibis, Threskiornis aethiopicus; the African darter, Anhinga rufa; and the marbled teal, Marmaronetta angustirostris, are also thriving.
The Mesopotamian marshes are one of the most biodiverse regions in Iraq. One of the largest wetlands in the Middle East, they provide a vital stopover for thousands of waterbirds on migration and during the winter months.
"These are some of the most wildlife-rich sites in the Middle East, but often all we hear about is the conflict," Porter said.
"It’s recognized across the world that biodiversity can enhance quality of life in a region," said Porter.
"By publishing this field guide with Nature Iraq, we are improving the ease with which people can become involved in conservation in the region - a positive step which has potential economic benefits for the nation as a whole," he observed.
Iraq's Ministry of Water Resources has declared restoration of the marshes its highest priority, and has established the Center for Restoration of the Iraqi Marshlands to achieve this goal.
The field guide was made possible through funding from the Canadian Government via the Canada-Iraq Marshlands Initiative, the World Bank, the Ornithological Society of the Middle East and AviFauna.
The illustrations and text for the field guide were taken from "Birds of the Middle East," in the Helm Field Guide series, which recently has been translated into Arabic.
Nature Iraq was responsible for adapting the text for Iraq, especially the information on conservation status, distribution and habitats of the bird species.
Copies of "Field Guide to the Birds of Iraq" (price £15.00 including postage) can be obtained in the UK from OSME Sales, email: sales@osme.org
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

U.S. Plans to Remove Gray Wolves from Endangered List


Once Hunted to near extinction, gray wolves in the western Great Lakes regions and the northern Rocky Mountains have rebounded so succesfully they no longer need federal protection, officals said.



U.S. Plans to Remove Gray Wolves from Endangered List
January 30, 2007 — By John Flesher, Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Once hunted to near extinction, gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region and the northern Rocky Mountains have rebounded so successfully they no longer need federal protection, officials said.

The Interior Department said Monday it would remove about 4,000 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin from the endangered and threatened species list in about a month. State and tribal governments will be responsible for keeping their numbers at healthy levels.

The department hopes to take the same action for about 1,200 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming within a year.

"Today, through this action, we recognize a comeback of the wolves," Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett said in a conference call with reporters.

Government-approved bounty hunting nearly wiped out the wolf in the lower 48 states by the 1950s. Changing attitudes led to their protection in 1974 under the newly enacted Endangered Species Act.

The federal government will continue monitoring wolf populations for five years after they are dropped from the list and can return them on an emergency basis if necessary.

States and tribes are developing management plans dealing with touchy issues such as whether to allow sport hunting of wolves and how to deal with livestock depredation.

All three Great Lakes states would prohibit trophy wolf hunts for at least five years, while Idaho's governor has said he would push for immediate hunting to slash wolf numbers. Wyoming is pushing for greater authority to authorize killing wolves to protect livestock and wildlife.

"Restoring the wolf to its place in the natural world while addressing conflicts with people is a difficult balancing act," Scarlett said. But managers, scientists and educators in state wildlife agencies "have strong working relationships with local landowners and the ability to quickly deal with potential conflicts," she said.

The path to removing the wolf has been strewn with bitter arguments and legal challenges, and more are likely now that the government has released its plan.

A federal judge threw out an earlier version in 2004 because it combined areas where wolves were doing well with places where they were still in trouble. The latest proposal establishes the western Great Lakes as a separate wolf population region.

Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency had learned from the court case and believed its new plans would survive lawsuits.

At their low ebb, a few hundred wolves in Minnesota were all that remained in the Great Lakes region. After being listed, they quickly increased and migrated east. Latest estimates show more than 3,000 in Minnesota, over 460 in Wisconsin and more than 430 in Michigan, plus 30 on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

"A classic Endangered Species Act success story," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the environmentalist group Defenders of Wildlife. "The remarkable recovery efforts to restore the wolf have paid off, and the states are ready to assume the responsibilities of managing their own wolf populations."

But environmentalists said the proposal to delist Northern Rockies wolves was premature and that management plans drawn up in those states seemed designed for eradication rather than protection. Other critics say the government is moving too slowly to shield elk and other prey animals from wolves.


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