Rare bird may disappear as IS captures Palmyra

Rare bird may disappear as IS captures Palmyra

PanARMENIAN.Net - A rare bird may become extinct in Syria because of the capture of Palmyra by Islamic State, experts say.A tiny breeding colony of the northern bald ibis was found near the city in 2002, BBC News reports.

Three birds held in captivity were abandoned last week after their guards fled the fighting. Their fate is unknown.

Officials have offered a reward of $1,000 for information about the whereabouts of a fourth bird.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon told the BBC that finding the missing female, called Zenobia, is crucial. She is the only bird who knows the migration routes to wintering grounds in Ethiopia and without her other captive birds cannot be released.

Then the species could go extinct in the wild in Syria, said ornithologists.

"Culture and nature, they go hand in hand, and war stops, but nobody can bring back a species from extinction," said head of the society Asaad Serhal.

The BBC says that the species was thought to have been extinct in the region until seven birds were found nesting near Palmyra more than 10 years ago.

But despite being protected, their numbers dwindled to just four wild birds. This year only Zenobia made it back to the site. Another three captive birds were being kept nearby but it is not clear if they are still safe.

Bald ibis were originally widespread across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, but due to hunting, habitat loss and pesticide poisoning, they underwent dramatic population declines and are now only found in Morocco and Syria.

These two populations are incredibly small, with the Moroccan population being unusual for the species in that they are not migratory, spending all year at the same site in the Atlas Mountains.

Most historic populations were highly migratory, and the relic Syrian population contains the only remaining individuals who have the knowledge of historic migration routes from Syria to wintering grounds in Ethiopia.

The loss of this remnant population would result in the loss of the last migratory bald ibis, while also losing the genetic diversity these migratory individuals contain.

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