Rare Ibis Tagged in Race to Save Bird of Pharaohs
LONDON Scientists have tagged three northern bald ibis, among the last survivors of a species of Middle Eastern bird once so revered that it had its own ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, in an effort to save them from extinction.
Only 13 of the birds remain in Syria, Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the conservation agency BirdLife International said in a news release.
The birds, with their distinctive black Mohican-style plumage and long, downward-curved red bills, were once revered by pharaohs and were found throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and the European Alps.
They are now classified as critically endangered, the highest level of threat, by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Until four years ago the species was thought to be extinct in Syria. The only other wild population is in Morocco.
"Without this tracking project, the bird would have been consigned to history and hieroglyphics," Ibrahim Khader, head of BirdLife Middle East, said in the statement.
"We knew they were in Palmyra because of reports from Bedouin nomads and local hunters."
Scientists from BirdLife and the RSPB tagged the three ibis, named Zenobia, Sultan and Salam, in southeast Syria's Palmyra region, hoping to track them when they begin their annual migration this month to discover where they breed.
"Tracking the birds and finding their wintering sites may be the last chance to save them," RSPB scientist Ken Smith said. "We won't be able to help them until we know where they go and the threats and pressures they are facing."