Endangered Species



The peculiar features of the northern bald ibis: bald and red head, elongated and loose feathers of the hind neck and iridescent body plumage. Photo @ J. Crisalli.

Government authorities, led by the Desert Commission, were extremely supportive of, and proactive in, efforts to conserve the Ibis. A protected area was created around the breeding colony.  Further awareness is essential, in Palmyra and Damsacus, to generate a sense of national pride in the birds.

Syria has made recent strides in conservation, although there are still no national parks, limited conservation infrastructure, and little awareness among the population and an active hunting community. Hunting is the main threat to the tiny Syrian population. Overgrazing and collecting of firewood have reduced habitat quality in feeding areas. A well was under construction at a main feeding site in Syria in 2007. 

Ibis breeding grounds @ G. Serra

Ibis breeding programme @ google

Ibis breeding grounds @ R. Berry 2005
The last flock of northern bald ibis @ G.Serra. Spring 2003.
The migratory route of the oriental northern bald ibis was discovered in 2006 through satellite telemetry. Autumn journey south then east; spring journey north then west. Each journey being about 3200 Km long. Map @ J. Lindsell

The Euphrates softshell turtle

The Euphrates softshell turtle is not very well known. It lives in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. The species is threatened by waterway pollution and habitat destruction. The name of this species comes from the fact that the carapace does not have horny plates like many turtles, and is instead made up of a tough, leathery skin which is covered with numerous hard tubercles. The species is currently listed as endangered. The Euphrates softshell turtle is a semi-aquatic species, the relatively calm tributaries of larger rivers being its preferred habitat. This species is also found in oxbow lakes, formed when a wide meander from the main part of the river is cut off.

Photo @ Durzan Cirano

Ilisu dam project, river Tigris,Turkey @ google
Photo @ Arkive www.arkive.org

Habitat destruction, caused by damming projects along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is a major threat. Dams cause changes in the environment by decreasing water temperatures, and by flooding sandy banks which are necessary for the Euphrates softshell turtle to nest on. It is thought that a population of this species was driven to extinction near Halfeti, Turkey, as a result of a drop in water temperature due to the construction of a dam 60 kilometres upstream.  

An imminent threat to the Euphrates softshell turtle is the planned construction of the large Ilisu dam which will flood approximately 300 square kilometres of land along more than 136 kilometres of the Tigris river. The dam will significantly reduce the number of nesting and basking areas available for this species.

Pollution and poaching are also threats to the Euphrates softshell turtle.

The viper

This viper is endangered and found in high mountain areas of Lebanon, Israel and Syria. It is classified as Endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.This indicates that it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild because the extent of its occurrence within its geographic range is estimated to be less than 5,000 km², its distribution is severely fragmented and there is a continuing decline in the extent and quality of its mountain habitat due to overgrazing. 

The Nubian ibex

The Nubian ibex is listed as Vulnerable and a continuing rate of decline. There were some introduced ibex in the Golan heights, otherwise is could be extinct in both Syria and Lebanon, although it may have survived near Palmyra until the late 1990’2. Nubian Ibex occur in rocky, desert mountains with steep slopes and hills (which provide vital escape routes), and associated plateaus, canyons and wadis. They consume a wide array of herbaceous and woody plants.

Threats to the species includes: hunting and habitat loss and degradation throughout its range. Competition with livestock, camels and feral donkeys is a general threat throughout the range Syria has no protected areas and hunting regulations are not enforced. It was believed that two areas, each about 20,000 ha, had been set aside one in 1968 the other in 1983, as areas for “le patrimoine animal”

Information about the Nubian ibex from:  http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/3796/0

IUCN:  International Union for the Conservation of Nature