Palestine lesser kestrel conservation


This is a lesser kestrel video from Quintanar de la Serena, Extremadura, Spain.

From BirdLife:

Lesser Kestrel shot for preservation

By Djamila Le Pair, 19 Jan 2017

Armed with telescopic lenses, 24 West Bank photographers took to the Jerusalem wilderness for a two day photoshoot, zooming in on Palestine’s Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni. Sponsored by the Middle Eastern HIMA Fund, these passionate paparazzi snapped over a thousand pictures, framing the small falcon for future generations to admire.

This photogenic initiative was part of a creative conservation package put together by Imad Atrash, Executive Director of the Palestine Wildlife Society (PWLS, BirdLife Partner) and his team. An artisan and agriculture event, breeding surveys and educational and conservation awareness activities were among a spectrum of initiatives that made up the initial kestrel conservation kit.

Serendipity triggered the photoshoot. This snappy idea was the brainchild of two men who, independently of each other, searched for novel ways to further their cause. While Atrash was contemplating ways to draw attention to the plight of the Lesser Kestrel. Firas Jarrar, Chairman of the group of Palestinian Assembly for Photography and Exploration (PAPE), was exploring ways to enrich the portfolio of the group’s members. Nature photography, he concluded, was still an underdeveloped skillset of many of its members and it was time to boost this expertise.

And so, one fine Friday afternoon last Spring, Atrash, a keen amateur photographer himself, invited the group to a workshop. Consisting of Palestine West Bank professionals (doctors, engineers, students), the group was taught every birdwatcher’s ABC (how to observe, which bird to look out for, how to distinguish it from others and where to find it) and told how their work would help support the falcon’s recent population growth.

Although positive, the Lesser Kestrel’s recent population climb is humble compared to the species’ previous steep decline. As is the reality for many birds, habitat loss and degradation due to increased agricultural activity, afforestation (the establishment of forest where previously there was none) and urbanisation can cause rapid reduction of numbers. To halt this kestrel’s downfall,close monitoring and management of some of its sites and habitats on an international level have been stepped up. And not in vain: recent years have seen an increase, however slight, of numbers, a trend that has also been observed in Palestine itself.

“With the help of 120 students and an innovative birdwatching app, we observed around 30 pairs, this year,” says Atrash. While still small, the numbers are a huge improvement on the all-time low of a mere four pairs in the region, recorded several decades ago. The good news is relative, though, as this year’s cast totals less than 10% of population numbers pre-dating the 1950s. There is still every reason to monitor this grey and rusty plumaged bird closely. The upward trend must be sustained, an urgency Imad Atrash impressed all too well on the PAPE members in April.

The Judean desert, hostile and seemingly otherworldly to the average human, is the perfect breeding haven for the Lesser Kestrel. Against a backdrop of Mar Saba, a sand-coloured Greek Orthodox sanctuary and one of the oldest monasteries in the world, the high cliffs of this wilderness provide safe and secluded nesting sites. Just a plateau or niche is all the Lesser Kestrel requires – no need for tedious fiddling with twigs and leaves.

Contradictory as it may sound, even this arid Middle Eastern landscape is slowly being lost to agricultural expansion. As welcome as the growing number of newly planted fruit trees may be, their arrival is instantly followed by an intensified use of pesticides, killing off part of the Lesser Kestrel’s own diet as well as that of some of the bird’s other prey. Moreover, prey that feeds on sprayed vegetation will become poisonous to the next species up the foodchain. Whether instantly poisonous or accumulatively, insecticides can drastically alter food supplies and chains, an effect which is seen all over the world.

Meanwhile, underneath the expanding olive orchards, herds of cattle now roam freely and strip the wilderness of its skimpy greens. This, too, is bad news for the Lesser Kestrel, for the modest foliage provides food and shelter for reptiles, rodents and small birds. These animals coincidentally make up the healthy diet the falcon hunts down to feed its offspring. No easy feat, when your three to six chicks have an insatiable appetite.

On top of these threats, Palestine’s Lesser Kestrel has a more direct enemy to ward off: ravens not far from the kestrels’ steep cliffs. “Ravens are very much part of the Lesser Kestrel’s habitat and are its greatest threat”, Atrash explains. “They attack the much smaller falcon, but we are not sure if they are after the falcon’s eggs, are defending their own, or if their battles are merely territorial.”

A controversial landfill site bordering the reserve provides a permanent buffet for these intelligent black omnivores. They presently outnumber the Lesser Kestrel more than tenfold. Ravens have few natural predators, but their eggs are savoured by owls, martens and eagles. “Perhaps they classify the Lesser Kestrel among those”, Atrash ponders. “We are considering ways to limit the ravens’ numbers, for example by replacing their eggs with fake ones, but we haven’t explored all options yet.”

“Interestingly, although the abundance of food has increased their numbers significantly, it appears to make the ravens slightly less aggressive, too. Whatever the reason, we find that the kestrels are increasing their wins in air battle.”

Equipped with Ashad’s briefing and their own state-of-the-art apparatus, the group entered the wilderness, eternalising the already roosting kestrels with their cameras until darkness fell. They zoomed in again the next day at 6am, capturing the elegant bird in action.

“It was excellent,” says Rasheed Livdawe, one of the co-founders of PAPE. “It was my first time photographing birds in the wild and I quickly learned that the early morning hours and late afternoon work best for bird photography in terms of natural light. For two full days I watched and followed this bird. It was difficult, but very spectacular.”

Of the thousand pictures, one hundred were entered for PWLS’s photo competition. Judged on use of shadow, captured movement and animal behaviour, money prizes were awarded to the first three winning photographers. The sharpshooters’ collection forms excellent PR material that will greatly help to promote the Lesser Kestrel’s cause.

PWLS’s conservation project is one to follow, with a documentary currently in production. The West Bank in Palestine is a relatively small place and resources are limited. But proving that targeted cross-border collaboration and the exchange of expertise can trigger low-cost, effective campaigns and mutual enrichment, PWLS is given the struggling kestrel its very best shot.

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Wildlife and eco-tourism in Palestine


This video says about itself:

21 February 2012

Close-ups of foraging Palestine Sunbird (Cinnyris osea). Song & call – Judean Desert.

By the Palestine Wildlife Society, 10 November 2016:

Navigating a sustainable path to eco-tourism in Palestine

Palestine’s first-ever eco-tourism conference which took place yesterday focus on finding ways to protect Palestine’s unique natural heritage while sustainably tapping its economic and social benefits.

The varying geography and climate are represented by the Mediterranean Sea, the long shoreline of Gaza, the Jerusalem mountains, the eastern slopes and the Rift “Jericho and El-Gour” Valley. Within a small area the biodiversity is truly astounding: more than 2,720 plant species “Flora Palaestina” and around 520 bird species reside or migrate through this compact ecological area. Many avian species journey all the way from Africa to Europe through small land bridges in the south and centre of Palestine. In addition, more than 70 species of mammals and thousands of other insects, reptiles and amphibians are represented in this compact but diverse stretch of land. Palestine is a land of immense natural beauty and diversity. However, conflict, climate change and environmental stress has placed Palestine’s natural heritage under enormous threat.

This requires the redoubling of conservation and protection efforts, as encompassed in Palestine’s commitments to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In this regard, eco-tourism can help conserve Palestine’s unique natural environment while creating economic and social opportunities. “Palestine Wildlife Society – Birdlife Palestine PWLS is a pioneer in the ecotourism work as they trained around 40 tour guides and community based tour guides and now they are organizing the first ecotourism conference in Palestine. Furthermore, they look forward to initiate a diploma program for teaching ecotourism,” said Imad Atrash Executive Director of the PWLS.

Under the auspices of Palestine’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Rula Ma’ayaa, the first-ever Palestinian Eco-Tourism Conference took place yesteday at the Ush Ghurab Garden in Beit Sahour. “Eco-tourism has a deep impact on the outreach to villages and towns، usually off the traditional tourism track, and is a primordial leverage tool in the vast array of tourism diversification” said Rola Maayah Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.

National and international experts, Palestinian government officials, academics, and civil society actors discussed, in a number of dedicated sessions, the various aspects of Palestine’s evolving capacities in eco-tourism and how this can be accomplished while protecting Palestine’s rich but fragile natural heritage.

It has been agreed that ecotourism is a vital sector and has to be dealt with on a national scale. Some local and global organizations have focused their activities on this topic. Some sites in Palestine have been selected to be models for these new concepts that combine cultural heritage and nature, such as the Jerusalem wilderness, St. Saba Monastery (Bethlehem), Masafer Bani Naeem (Hebron), Wadi Qilt and the Monastery of St. George and the city of Jericho.

Through ecotourism, the Palestine Wildlife Society aims to promote the sustainable use of natural and cultural values of Palestine’s heritage sites, to help in the conservation and monitoring of these sites, to build up the local capacity for conservation and ecotourism nationally and regionally and to promote ecotourism and other sustainable development programmes in Palestine through local communities and travel agencies.

CIA-funded Syrian ‘moderate rebels’ behead 12-year-old sick child


This video from the USA says about itself:

CIA And Pentagon Arming Opposite Sides In Syria

1 May 2016

Syria is an unbelievable mess, and the US military-industrial complex is only making it messier. The CIA is arming one faction, the Pentagon is arming another, and they’re now fighting each other. Who’s side are we on? Do we even know? Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, breaks it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter five-year-old civil war.

The fighting has intensified over the last two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other while maneuvering through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.

In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.”

Read more here.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

21 July 2016

A horrific video circulated on social media records an incident in the Syrian city of Aleppo in which so-called “rebels” of the Nour al-Dine Zinki Islamist militia cut off the head of a young boy they had captured on Tuesday. The executioner is seen holding the boy down on the bed of a pickup truck, sawing away at his neck with a small, dull knife and then holding the severed head in the air in triumph after the deed is done.

… Those who carried out this savage killing either are, or at least were until recently, armed by and on the payroll of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The murdered child, identified as Abdullah Issa, was just 12 years old. His captors claimed that he was a fighter with Liwa al-Quds (Al Quds Brigade), a Palestinian militia fighting on the side of the Syrian government.

Liwa al-Quds, however, issued a report saying that he was not one of their fighters but rather the child of a poor refugee family, who was taken hostage in the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp in northern Aleppo. The boy, who appears dazed, had apparently been taken while receiving medical treatment, as an intravenous drip attached to his arm is visible in the video.

In the video, one of the child’s tormentors can be heard shouting, “We’ll leave no one in Handarat!” This is apparently a threat by the militia to “ethnically cleanse” the camp of its Palestinian population. Liwa al-Quds described the grisly execution of the child as “cheap and despicable revenge” by the jihadists for losing a battle for control of the area.

In a statement, Nour al-Dine al-Zinki’s leadership formally condemned the barbaric murder of the child, while claiming it represented “individual errors that represent neither our typical practices nor our general policies.”

The video itself, however, shows a number of the group’s fighters cheering on the beheading and recording the tormenting of the boy and his execution on their cell phones.

Moreover, the incident comes just two weeks after Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, issued a report titled “Armed opposition groups committing war crimes in Aleppo city.” In addition to Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, and three other Islamist militias, the report accuses Nour al-Dine Zinki (named first in the report) of having “carried out a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings” in Aleppo and elsewhere in northern Syria. It further charges the US and its regional allies with arming and supporting these groups, which operate with impunity.

The Obama administration’s response to this atrocity has been ambivalent at best. Asked whether the execution of the child “would affect assistance” to the group responsible, State Department spokesman Mark Toner responded that “if we can prove that this was indeed what happened and this group was involved in it, I think it would certainly give us pause.”

Pressed as to what consequences it would have in terms of US support, Toner sidestepped the question: “I can’t say what that consequence will be, but it will certainly give us, as I said, serious pause.”

According to a December 2014 report by the McClatchy news organization, Nour al-Dine Zinki was one of the only CIA-backed groups not to be cut off as the al-Nusra Front began making serious gains, either absorbing these militias or seizing their weapons.

According to McClatchy, the CIA was paying the salaries of the Nour al-Dine Zinki fighters at the rate of $150 a month. The militia was also the recipient of US TOW anti-tank missiles manufactured by the Raytheon Company, in addition to so-called “non-lethal” supplies.

The savage murder of young Abdullah Issa is a grim exposure of the real character of the forces described by the Obama administration as the “moderate opposition”—and by its pseudo-left apologists as Syrian “revolutionaries.”

Like Al Qaeda before them, they are a Frankenstein’s monster created by US and Western imperialism and unleashed upon the people of Syria and the broader region to achieve definite strategic aims by means of regime-change.

See also here.

Britain: Channel 4 News promoted known war criminals [Zinki] in Syria, and is now hiding its own report: here.

Don’t be fooled by reports that al-Qaeda and Nusra have split for the good of the suffering Syrian people. Turn it into a respectable army of “moderates”, give it a spanking new name, and then the Americans and Russians will stop bombing the daylights out of it and Qatar’s loyal militia will destroy the Assad regime and… Well, if that happened, Qatar would control the future of Syria: here.

War against Isis: US-led coalition accused of killing civilians using ‘scorched earth policy’ in Syria: here.

Washington escalates covert backing for Al Qaeda militias in Aleppo: here.

The Nusra Front’s adoption of the new name Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and claim that it has separated itself from al-Qaeda was designed to influence US policy, not to make the group any more independent of al-Qaeda: here.

Fifteen years after launching a “global war on terror” in the name of wiping out Al Qaeda, Washington is arming and funding its associates in Syria to counter Russia: here.

Our sons-of-bitches: western media and the Syrian rebels – here.

“Human rights” propaganda campaign paves way for military escalation in Syria: here.

Disabled Palestinian refugee from ISIS now in Dutch ex-prison


Rafiq in the Haarlem prison building, photo: NOS

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Man on crutches in ISIS area, nearly drowns, but makes it to the Netherlands

Today, 18:24

In late August of this year we got to know him, Rafiq, a 65-year-old Palestinian from Syria, sweaty and exhausted, breathing heavily and inching, using crutches, crossing the border between Serbia and Hungary. He wanted only one thing: to go to the Netherlands. Correspondent Marcel van der Steen saw him disappear into the night.

Van der Steen decided to keep in touch with Rafiq and recently received notice that he had managed to reach the Netherlands. Rafiq is now staying in the Panopticon Prison in Haarlem, which is now an emergency shelter. Reporter Nicole le Fever met him there.

Rafiq’s journey is hard to summarize. To flee Syria he had to cross ISIS territory. A Chechen stopped him and asked why he had no beard. “That does not grow with me,” he replied. But the young man thought that was not a good excuse and Rafiq received twenty lashes.

When asked if he smoked, he lied, because he had heard that he should never admit it. Fortunately, the cigarette pack that he had was not found on him. Finally, the legs of his trousers above his ankles were cut off because Muslim men, according to tradition, must not wear clothing over their ankles.

Once in Turkey, it turned out that as a Palestinian he was not allowed to stay because he had no papers. “Stateless”, therefore, says the new card which he received from the Dutch authorities.

Nearly drowned

So the only way was to try to reach a Greek island by boat. The first attempt failed. The boat made water and Rafiq would have drowned if he would not have been saved by an Iraqi friend. The second attempt succeeded though.

Late August Marcel van der Steen saw him stumble in the dark towards the Hungarian border. He managed to enter the country and for 1000 euros he took a taxi to Germany. The last stage, to Amsterdam Central Station, was by train. There he got a ticket for the train and bus to Ter Apel refugee camp to report there.

Rafiq is grateful that he has arrived safely in the Netherlands. Syria and his problems with the government he won’t talk about much because he is worried about his wife, who stayed behind in Syria. However, he talks about his old life, including in Dubai and Eastern Europe, where he used to own electronics stores and a furniture store.

Will he still see his wife?

His greatest wish is that his wife may come to the Netherlands, but he is concerned about the length of the procedure. First he was told he would hear something within 5 to 12 months, but that is now a year. And then it takes another year before family members can come. Rafiq is afraid that he will not live that long.

All is not well with his health. He has many problems with his legs and kidneys. He also has to follow a special diet. Fortunately, he gets help from two Syrians in the cell next to him. They help him out of bed and with cleaning. For one of his neighbours bad news came today. One of his sons was killed in Syria and his 16-year-old daughter has remained all alone. The man is desperate.

“So, we all have our stories and problems.” says Rafiq.

Benedict Cumberbatch condemns UK government’s inhumane refugee policy: here.

While thousands of refugees risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean each day to commence an arduous journey through the Balkans, the governing coalition in Berlin is fighting over the most effective way to send them back: here.

Pro-peace rallies in Israel, Tel Aviv Saturday, Haifa Sunday


This video says about itself:

21 October 2015

Israeli cafe offers discounts for Jews and Arabs who sit together

A hummus cafe in Israel is seeking to foster understanding amid a series of violent incidents by offering a discount for Jews and Arabs who sit together.

From the Gush Shalom peace movement in Israel:

Stop the Madness! Protest march in Tel Aviv, rally in Haifa

Saturday, October 24, 7:30 pm – marching from the Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. Sunday, October 25, at 7:30 pm – rally at the Cinematheque Square, Haifa.

At 7:30 pm on Saturday, October 24 the march will set off from Rabin Square to the Defense Ministry gate on Kaplan St., Tel Aviv. The march was initiated by Peace Now and joined by various other peace and human rights groups.

These difficult times – days of violence, fear and pain – are only reinforcing our understanding that there will not be real security here until there’s peace through a negotiated solution.

Only a political process that will lead to the end of our control over millions of Palestinians will end the bloody conflict between the two peoples and allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and quiet. The only way to prevent further deterioration is through a two state solution.

Join us this Saturday – *To protest the government actions that are pushing us away from a solution. *To protest extreme right-wing provocations. *To call upon Israeli society to choose a different path.

Transportation: If enough people register, there will be buses from Jerusalem, Haifa and Be’er Sheba – register here.

Contact: maya@peacenow.org

Haifa – Jews and Arabs stand together for a common future. Sunday, October 25, at 7:30 pm – rally at the Cinematheque Square, Haifa

We, Jews and Arabs, Arabs and Jews, will not give in to fear and despair. On Sunday, we will stand together in the city of Haifa – a city that can and must lead the way towards a shared life in complete equality. Standing together, we will call for a peace based on independence and justice to both peoples, for full equality in all spheres of life, for an end to racism and discrimination.

Arabs and Jews, Jews and Arabs, we all want to live in security. True security can only be security without occupation and without bloodshed. Only with an end to occupation and a move towards a just peace can we put an end to the killing and hatred, build an different reality and ensure security to all of us.

The terrible violence and fear on the streets did not come out of the blue. The time has come to address the root cause of the cycle of bloodshed: the system of control and separation which denies to millions of Palestinians their right to independence and a life of dignity. Instead of dealing with this root cause, the government goes on pouring ever more gasoline on the fires of incitement and violence.

On Sunday, October 25, at 7:30 pm we will hold a rally at the Cinematheque Square, Haifa (Merkaz HaCarmel, 142 HaNasi Avenue).

Starting at 5:30 pm, there will be in the same location a creativity workshop for children, in Hebrew and Arabic. Bring your entire family, to take part in a manifestation of shared life!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1481267028845995/

FRIDAY PRAYERS at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque ended peacefully yesterday after Israel relaxed restrictions, allowing Palestinian men of all ages to enter: here.

Israeli army kills Jewish ‘Palestinian’ ‘terrorist’


This video says about itself:

Israel: Arabs & Jews march for peace in Jerusalem

17 October 2015

Arabs and Jews marched through Jerusalem in solidarity on Saturday, protesting against the recent cycle of violence that has rocked Israel and Palestine.

From the Times of Israel:

Military police probe Wednesday night’s shooting of Jerusalem man by soldier

Israeli man was killed after altercation on bus with two soldiers who say they suspected he was a terrorist

Military police investigators are joining the investigation into the shooting death of an Israeli man Wednesday night in Jerusalem by two IDF soldiers who said they believed he was a terrorist.

The victim was shot and killed by a soldier on a bus near the western entrance to the capital on Wednesday night, after a physical altercation he had with two soldiers in which both sides apparently concluded the other was a Palestinian terrorist.

After the lynch mob killing of an Eritrean refugee in Israel who had nothing to do with terrorism, ‘for terrorism’ …

After a fanatical nationalist stabbed a Jewish shop assistant for supposedly being Palestinian …

Time to stop this vicious cycle of violence, and of hallucination instead of reality.

See also here.

URI AVNERY wonders if the extremist colonisers of the Occupied Territories have taken over Israeli politics.