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Boost for Iraqi Wetlands

Canadian Government to help restore the Mesopotamian marshes of southern Iraq.

BirdLife have welcomed plans by the Canadian Government to help restore the Mesopotamian marshes of southern Iraq. As well as helping the repatriation of former inhabitants of the region, the $3 million scheme will also help to improve the outlook for the region`s unique birds.

The Mesopotamian marshes are one of the largest wetland areas in the Middle East, proving a vital stop-over for thousands of water birds on migration and during the winter months. They are also recognised by BirdLife as an Endemic Bird Area (EBA). During the 1990s, the wetlands were reduced to just seven percent of their original size, due to dam construction upstream in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Any projects that will improve the habitat of the marshes for the people and birds that find a home there are very welcome after decades of neglect. said Adnan Budieri for BirdLife International.

Almost the entire world population of the Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis, breeds in the Mesopotamian marshes. It has recently seen its conservation status upgraded to Endangered, mainly as a result of the destruction and degradation of its breeding reed-bed habitat. The species now faces a very real threat of extinction within the next few years.

The Basra Reed-warbler breeds only in the Mesopotamian marshes and one other site in Iran. Its numbers are thought to have declined by up to 80% since the 1970s, said Adnan Budieri, Head of BirdLife`s Middle East & Central Asia Division. As soon as the situation is stable enough, BirdLife plans to visit the area to find out the full extent of the predicament facing this and other Iraqi species.

4th July 2014