The International Birding & Research Center, Eilat “Community based conservation of the bird’s flyway” campaign, was declared by COP-15 conference as one of the globally most important projects of conservation of bio-diversity
The fifteens Conference of parties (COP-15), held by the UN earlier this year in Kunming, China, have declared the “Bird observatory – a community based biodiversity conservation of the Migratory birds’ flyway in Eilat”, conducted by the International Birding & Research Center, Eilat, as one of the globally most important projects of biodiversity conservation. The conference’s committee examined 258 different projects from 196 organizations from 26 countries and 7 continents and chose 107 “Global Outstanding Practices”. From these, the organizers chose our initiative in Eilat as one of the 19 most “outstanding” projects.
“Our way to safeguard our skies and stopover sites as hazardless and nutritious for the migratory birds, pass through recruiting our communities and decision makers”, says Noam Weiss, the director of the International Birding & Research Center, Eilat. Eilat and Southern Arava are located on the only land-bridge, connecting Eurasia and Africa and on the edge of the vast and hostile Sahara Desert. Therefore, we are located on one of the most critical migration bottle-necks in the world, that millions of birds use. The conservation of the flyway involves keeping our skies clear of hazards such as wind turbines, cable held antennas, problematic power lines and even window covered buildings, that birds collide into. Furthermore, the birds that used to enjoy thriving natural habitats such as the Eilat Saltmarsh, that is now practically extinct, are pushed to manufactured habitats – gardens, fields, orchards, Sewage treatment works and saltpans. “To improve these man-made stopover sites for the birds, we need public support and participation and creative collaborations”, explains Noam.
“To convince a farmer that birds can do pest control just as good or even better than pesticides, and therefore birds should feel safe and invited to the farms, or to collaborate with the local water company “En Netafim” to make the treated water reservoir a safer and better site for the birds, we need deep roots in our communities, research that involves the farmers and tons of good will”. Any visitor to the Eilat Bird Sanctuary we run, will realize that it is built taking the bird’s needs in mind, but at the same time allows the human visitors to appreciate and identify with the migratory birds and develops the urge to keep them safe. The wide window of our research station, where bird banding to examine the physical condition of the migrants and their ability to complete their epic journey takes place, faces the tens of thousands of visitors who come here every year and watch research being done, ask questions and even get to hold a tiny bird and release it to its challenging way.
“It’s a life changing experience” says Iris Gorin of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, who runs the ringing station. “a kid or adult holding a warm and energetic bird and letting it go back to its migration challenges, wish from all their hearts that it will make it safely home. They are recruited to love and conserve birds, in their gardens or at work, now and forever”. Tzadok Zemach, the maintenance manager of the bird sanctuary, always wanted the Eilaties to see the sanctuary as their own home. “Eight years ago we started conducting large communal events at the sanctuary, inviting our communities to see, understand and love birds, the they came in their thousands. This adds up to schools, work places and families who even bring their kids an hour before school starts, to see the birds every morning”.
The success to recruit the community to the goals for the birding center translated instantly to achievements in conservation campaigns. Four wind farms located on the main flyway and stopover sites, stopped by the bird sanctuary’s volunteers and their communities. The treated water reservoir is now undergoing a tremendous change for the sake of the birds, by the enthusiastic team of “En netafim” and the “Salt of the Earth” invested in the bio-diversity of its saltpans, now called the “Flamingo pools” by all. Antennas lost their planned cables, Regularization of building’s fronts (max. 50% glass) , all made for the safety of the birds, by good intentions and people.
Noam Weiss, the director of the Eilat bird sanctuary summarize: “This international recognition gives us strength and motivation. Nature conservation can be a very lonely job, nevertheless, here in Eilat we are surrounded by dedicated volunteers and a supportive and loving community. People say that money and political power drive the world, but emotions are stronger than money. Our local community loves birds and is prepared to go a long way for them. We create together a real change in the way our region refers to nature, and it goes through the big and wide hearts of our people”.
The International Birding & Research Center, Eilat is a rare partnership of the Society for the Protection of Nature, KKL, Nature and Parks Authority, The municipality of Eilat, Eilot regional council and the Ministry of Tourism. It runs through the Eilat tourism corporation.
“Between the bay of Eilat, declared one of the most beautiful in the world, and the Edom red mountains, Eilat provides many magical sites. A unique such site is the Eilat Bird Sanctuary, an environmental culture, educational, and touristic and research hub, visited by thousands of pupils, researchers, tourists and visitors, along with millions of migratory birds”, says the mayor of Eilat – Eli Lankry, who proudly adds: “Eilat is exceptionally proud to be such an important stopover site of the flyway of so many birds. It is time to thank and acknowledge the Bird Sanctuary’s staff, who are busy day and night to develop and make the sanctuary better for birds and people. It’s time also to thank the partners: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, The Nature and Parks Authority, KKL, Eilot Regional Council, the municipality of Eilat and the Ministry of Tourism for their partnership and help, and the Eilat Tourism Corporation for managing the Bird Sanctuary on behalf of the municipality. The chosen project is based on the work with the loving Eilat and Eilot communities who hugs the birds and the work of the Bird Sanctuary. Winning this award expresses the respect to this unique community based nature conservation work and all the involved partners”.