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BirdLife leads Iraq project

Restoration in the marshes…

Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshes – thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden, and the site of brutal habitat destruction during the Saddam Hussein era – are the focus of a pioneering BirdLife International project to monitor and improve the status of wildlife in the Middle East.

Funded by the Canadian government, BirdLife's Middle East Conservation Advisor Richard Porter has been travelling to the region to train local biologists in skills to survey, monitor and improve Iraq’s marshes for the wildlife that live there. He will be leading a team from BirdLife International’s regional headquarters in Jordan to train biologists from Nature Iraq, a new non-governmental organisation established in the region to help protect the country's environment.Eighteen globally threatened species of bird occur in the marshes between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, alongside three types of bird that are found almost nowhere else in the world. The region is also home to Iraq’s Marsh Arabs. Drained of water during the Saddam Hussein era, 90% of the marshes became almost devoid of wildlife. Since the collapse of the regime, a rehabilitation programme has begun. Water has started to return to the internationally important wetland, restoring a vital habitat that is critical for the survival of several bird species in the region.

"My hope is that that project will make a difference in the region by training young Iraqi biologists to take good care of the spectacular wetlands that make up Iraq’s marshes. If more people both internationally and locally can realise the biological significance of the region, they will be able to help conserve this wonderful area." Said Richard Porter, BirdLife.Another member of the team – a local Iraqi biologist trained by Richard – has created a photographic exhibition that records the wildlife, landscapes, people and the way of life of the Marsh Arabs who live in the area.

The photographic exhibition will be going on show in the UK from 22 April until 2 May at the BIRDscapes gallery in Glandford, Norfolk, before moving on to Greece and Jordan. For further details contact BIRDscapes on +44 (0)1263 741742.

In summer 2006, BirdLife International and Nature Iraq will publish a Field Guide to the Birds of Iraq in Arabic. All 400 species that occur in the country will be included in full colour. The illustrations and text have been taken from Birds of the Middle East (in the Helm Field Guide series), which has recently been translated into Arabic.

4th July 2014