The re-appearance of one northern bald ibis in Palmyra, Syria, with two others on its tail, has been heralded as a success for the nine-month tracking project that began when scientists tagged three adult birds last summer.
The trio, Sultan, Salam and Zenobia, the latter named after Palmyra’s third-century warrior queen, have flown more than 3,800 miles across seven countries on their migration route spending the winter in the Ethiopian highlands 50 miles from the country’s capital Addis Ababa.
The National Geographic Society, RSPB and others are funding the project. Bedouin nomads and rangers from the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform are protecting the breeding site and the new tracking data will help conservationists safeguard the birds on migration and over winter as well.
Dr Ken Smith, a senior scientist at the RSPB, said: “The birds’ return is fantastic news and a huge relief. Hunting, poisoning by the pesticide DDT or disturbance is stopping the colony increasing despite the birds breeding well in Syria. Knowing the migration route is a major breakthrough and means we can now tackle the huge challenge of protecting the birds throughout the year. The next riddle we must solve is where the young birds go and how we can safeguard them as well.”
The Palmyran colony was only discovered in 2002 and its numbers have never risen above 13. Little was known of the birds’ migration before the project began but researchers have plotted each stop-over and the length and time of each leg. They have followed the birds’ flight on a special tracking map on the RSPB’s website. The tracking devices led to the discovery of the birds’ wintering site in Ethiopia.
The birds’ return route was one of the factors that surprised scientists most. They flew west rather than east of the Red Sea, crossing from Sudan to Saudi Arabia at the Sea’s widest point of about 180 miles.
“Our hearts were in our mouths because they set out to sea quite late in the morning and were still far offshore when night fell,” Jeremy Lindsell, an RSPB research biologist said. “These birds have been surprising us from the outset but we are determined to save them. The technology has worked superbly and the tags have lasted far longer than we expected.”
Tagging a young bird in Palmyra is the task for this summer and Lubomir Peske, an expert from Prague, is likely to be involved. “It is a delicate job and a huge responsibility, especially for such a rare species,” he said. “You must watch the birds for many days to understand their habits and hope they quickly resume normal behaviour once the tag is fitted. Attaching the tracking device is like fitting an invisible umbilical cord; that's how close you feel to the birds. The success of the project so far is hugely gratifying and makes me very optimistic about tagging a young ibis this summer.”
Paul Buckley, International Officer at the RSPB, said: “None of the nine younger birds in Syria last summer have been seen and that suggests that they use a different over-wintering site. A year ago we were sure the birds would stay together but these ibis are behaving very differently. Tracking a young bird should solve this new mystery and perhaps broaden the level of the protection the colony needs.”
Abdulkhalek Assaad, National Project Coordinator with the MAAR, said “We are pleased to see our birds returning once more. We will do our best to protect them and ensure they breed successfully. We are encouraged by this new knowledge about where they spend the winter and hope to find out more about the young birds through the use of additional satellite tags.”
Ibrahim Khader, Head of BirdLife Middle East, said: “The birds’ migration remains perilous and it is our job to make that journey safer. If we can do that, this population will have a much better chance of survival. Without this project, the northern bald ibis would have been consigned to history and hieroglyphics.”
Cath Harris | alfa
Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology