Wildlife in Iraq


From BirdLife:

Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq) has completed their fifth winter survey of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) across the country. …

“This winter we observed a flock of 410 Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus and considerable numbers of Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca – both Vulnerable – in Kurdistan”, said Korsh Ararat – leader of Nature Iraq’s KBA surveys in northern Iraq. …

“We observed African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus and African Darter Anhinga rufa making the Mesopotamian Marshes one of the only known sites in the Middle East for these birds. In addition, we recorded over 5,000 Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris, 2,340 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and seven Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga – all Globally Threatened or Near-Threatened species”, added Mudhafar Salim. …

“We were very excited recently when we discovered an endemic sub-species of otter – the Vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli”, noted Mudhafar Salim. …

However, the marshes are now shrinking again as a result of drought and intensive dam construction and irrigation schemes upstream. “Flooding has been disrupted by the dams built in Turkey, Syria and Iraq itself”, noted Dr Azzam Alwash. “The natural flow system is not going to return until and unless the dams outside Iraq are actively managed as part of a basin-wide coordinated management of the Tigris and Euphrates. In response, Nature Iraq is currently producing a drought management plan”.

As Iraq runs dry, a plague of snakes is unleashed: here.

A flim documentary on the regeneration of Iraq’s Mesopotamian Marshes, a project led by Azzad Alwash, the CEO of BirdLife Affiliate Nature Iraq, will get its first public screening tomorrow on the UK’s BBC TV Channel. The documentary is being shown at 2000 GMT on BBC2’s Natural World series: here.

In recent years, many people have been struggling to survive in Iraq. Even now the country’s far from safe. However, since 2005 Nature Iraq (BirdLife Partner) staff have been doggedly surveying the rich biodiversity found within their country, taking them to some of the most dangerous spots in search of elusive species like Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius: here.

IRAQI officials revealed on Monday that nearly 150 acres of forest have been incinerated over the past two months due to Turkish and Iranian shelling of Kurdish guerilla bases in Iraq: here.

The Birdwatcher of Baghdad: here.

Azzam Alwash, Founder and President of Nature Iraq, gave a presentation at the recent TED Worldwide Talent Search on protecting Iraq’s natural environment and cultural heritage: here.

August 2013. The Iraqi Council of Ministers has approved the designation of the Central Marshes of Iraq as the country’s first National Park. The efforts to declare this unique landscape as a National Park and protected area began in 2006 through a joint effort by Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Environment, and Ministry of Municipalities with support from Nature Iraq, an Iraqi environmental conservation organization, and other national and international institutions. Financial support for the effort came from the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land & Sea: here.

Qatari Students Join CI in Mapping Mangroves: here.

New Technology Aims to Expand Knowledge of Qatar’s Mangroves: here.

5 thoughts on “Wildlife in Iraq

  1. The dawn of birdwatching in Iraq – A recent training course by Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq) successfully recorded 128 birds species during ten days of intensive tuition in birdwatching techniques. “Birdwatching in Iraq is a relatively new activity, and we uncovered a huge amount during the training”, said Mudhafar Salim from Nature Iraq. A team of ten trainees from across the country came together in Kurdistan (northern Iraq) to learn more about bird identification and counting methods, and how to input data and analyse threats. Notable observations during the course included: Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (Endangered), Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (Vulnerable), Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata and Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea (both Near Threatened). The course was conducted by Nature Iraq staff with the help of Richard Porter – BirdLife’s Middle East Advisor. “The training course provided crucial support to Nature Iraq’s monitoring activities at Important Bird Areas (IBAs)”, added Mudhafar Salim. “We also identified a number of potential IBAs, and agreed to undertake regular monitoring at these sites”.

    http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2009/05/news_byte_11.html

  2. Nature Iraq breeding bird survey results – Most extensive breeding bird of survey of Iraq ever has been completed by Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq), showing that the country is globally important for its avifauna. The 2009 Key Biodiversity Area summer survey extended the known breeding range of over 80 species. Highlights include:

    Land Birds: Iraq’s three near-endemic species – Iraq Babbler Turdoides altirostris, Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus and the Endangered Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis had all extended their known breeding ranges.

    Waterbirds: The Vulnerable Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris was discovered breeding at 13 sites, and over 1,000 birds were counted. Two duck species were recorded breeding in Iraq for the first time, and in considerable numbers: Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (Near Threatened). Slender-billed Gulls Larus genei were present at over ten sites in the south and two in Kurdistan, where one colony held over 2% of the world population.

    Birds of Prey: The high densities and range of species of birds of prey in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq was impressive: 17 species breeding or probably breeding. The Endangered Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus was found at 20 sites, totalling over 70 individuals, and Vulnerable Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni was observed at 14 sites, with over 110 birds recorded.

    Houbara Bustard hunting in Iraq – The open shrubby steppes and flat arid habitats in Iraq are favoured wintering grounds of the migrant Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii. This species is classified by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable because it has undergone rapid population declines over three generations (20 years) owing largely to unsustainable hunting levels. Because of the absence of wildlife protection legislations under the newly established Iraqi Government, many areas around the country are witnessing over-hunting activities.

    “A recent hunting expedition in Iraq reportedly killed over 100 Houbara Bustard alone”, said Omar Fadil from Nature Iraq. As a result, Nature Iraq are calling for (i) restrictions on the transport of hunting birds entering or leaving Iraq; (ii) that the Iraqi Government should enact wildlife protection legislation and establish hunting limits and/or bans for specific species like Houbara Bustard; and, (iii) more support and education to help the Iraqi security forces actively control hunting activities.

    http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2009/08/news_in_breif_15.html

  3. Houbara Bustard hunting in Iraq – The open shrubby steppes and flat arid habitats in Iraq are favoured wintering grounds of the migrant Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii. This species is classified by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable because it has undergone rapid population declines over three generations (20 years) owing largely to unsustainable hunting levels. Because of the absence of wildlife protection legislations under the newly established Iraqi Government, many areas around the country are witnessing over-hunting activities.

    “A recent hunting expedition in Iraq reportedly killed over 100 Houbara Bustard alone”, said Omar Fadil from Nature Iraq. As a result, Nature Iraq are calling for (i) restrictions on the transport of hunting birds entering or leaving Iraq; (ii) that the Iraqi Government should enact wildlife protection legislation and establish hunting limits and/or bans for specific species like Houbara Bustard; and, (iii) more support and education to help the Iraqi security forces actively control hunting activities.

    http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2009/08/news_in_breif_15.html

  4. Baghdad’s trade in wildlife anything but tame

    By DAVID RISING Associated Press Writer

    Published: Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
    Last Modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 1:03 a.m.

    A dozen fluffy white kittens with piercing blue eyes frolic in a wire cage, perched perilously atop a pen containing two African lion cubs. Neighborhood schoolchildren stop to feed sunflower seeds to a chained monkey, while three red foxes cower in their curbside enclosure from the street noise.

    In this photo taken April 23, 2010, a boy looks at a monkey that sells for $700 at a pet shop in Baghdad, Iraq. The sale of wildlife and trafficking of endangered species has been largely ignored by Iraq’s government as it has struggled to make the country safer and even though the security situation has improved, it is still not a priority. Conservation groups warn at the same time, however, that the wildlife trade is on the increase as people have fewer concerns about going out shopping and more money to spend.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    Iraqis can get just about whatever animals they want, whether as pets, novelties or status symbols or for a private zoo – and as violence subsides many are stocking up at Baghdad’s several pet markets.

    The lack of government regulation means animals like lions and crocodiles are going home with people unequipped to take care of them.

    “There is no wildlife legislation here in Iraq, and that is what encourages these kinds of dealers to export and import wild species,” said Omar Fadil, of the conservation organization Nature Iraq.

    “Do people have the ability to raise a lion in their home, or a vulture or a pelican?” he said. “There is a big gap in understanding wildlife in Iraq. They take it as a cub but after it becomes big and starts to attack people I don’t know where the animal goes, and the concern is that they’re killing them.”

    Crowds flock to the exotic animal market in northwestern Baghdad, which doubles as a zoo for neighborhood families.

    There is no fee to go in and look at the scores of animals – pelicans, peacocks, wolves, cats, monkeys, a porcupine, an owl, bear cubs and a dizzying array of dogs – and for the right price, you can take any one of them home with you. For about $8 you can have a duckling or a bunny; for $6,000 one of the lion cubs.

    Another major open-air pet market about 3 miles (5 kilometers) away used to be targeted regularly by insurgents. But crowds there have now grown from about 4,000 to double that every Friday when the market is held, Fadil said. Rich sheiks who used to spend their time hunkered down in their heavily fortified compounds now buy exotic pets to entertain themselves. More private zoos are sprouting up as well.

    Many animals are likely being illegally imported into Iraq with forged papers or bribes to border officials, Fadil said.

    The government acknowledges the problem, but an immediate solution is unlikely, said Environment Ministry official Ziad Ameer Salman.

    Current laws governing wildlife date back to the 1970s or earlier, and under the regime of Saddam Hussein many dealers were given permits to sell wild animals, which are still valid.

    The Agriculture Ministry this year proposed a new conservation law, but it has taken a back seat to March’s inconclusive elections, the transfer of security from American to Iraqi forces and scores of other issues, Salman said.

    “We need a strong legislation and a strong law,” he said. “But we need time because the members of parliament are changing, the government of Iraq is changing.”

    These are common problems in any unstable country devastated by war where law enforcement authorities have a difficult enough time trying to protect people, let alone animals, said Leigh Henry, senior policy officer on species conservation for the World Wildlife Fund.

    She cited examples in Afghanistan, where the WWF discovered snow leopard pelts were being exported, and Congo, where troops were illegally killing hippos to eat and to sell their teeth as ivory.

    “Wildlife is often seen as a status symbol, and where wealth and opportunity exist, people will collect – whether it be reptiles, big cats, great apes, or rare orchids,” she said.

    At the pet market, store owner Sabah al-Azawi said he gets his animals from all around the country, though primarily from northern Iraq. Some are brought in from outside – the lion cubs came in from Turkey for example – but al-Azawi said he doesn’t ask questions about their provenance.

    “This is not my business,” he said.

    Though the cages at his store are cramped, they are all are shaded and regularly cleaned, the animals are given a plentiful supply of water, and none of them appeared to be endangered species. He said a vet regularly checks the animals, and when he sells an exotic pet to someone he gives detailed instructions on how to care for it.

    Scores of neighborhood children and others come by daily to gawk.

    “We come here every day when we have some extra time. My family got our dog here,” said 13-year-old Mohammad Marwan, who stopped by for a visit recently on his way to school.

    Al-Azawi said that for him, running the shop is not about getting rich.

    “This is my hobby, just to be among these animals I am happy,” al-Azawi said after climbing into the lions’ cage to feed them ground beef out of his hands.

    Still, he said everything is for sale, including two 5-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) Nile crocodiles he keeps at home.

    “I got them for myself, but anyone who comes through I say ‘I have a crocodile in my house,’ and I’ll sell it to him if the deal is good,” he said.

    Associated Press Writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this story.

  5. Pingback: Iraqis help British birds | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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