IS threat to rare bird near Palmyra

A northern bald ibis

A small breeding colony of the northern bald ibis was found near Palmyra in 2002

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.

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 (£646) 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.

A general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria, released by Syrian news agency (Sana) (File photo)

Palmyra was built when the area was under Roman rule

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut 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. Our correspondent says that 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.

The fall of Palmyra came just days after IS captured the major Iraqi city of Ramadi.

The capture of the World Heritage site next to the modern city of Palmyra has raised international alarm.

IS militants have destroyed several sites in Iraq – most recently the ancient city of Nimrud, one of Iraq’s greatest archaeological treasures.

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