BirdLife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have been working alongside local people to research and monitor this enigmatic species. A major step has been to train and manage a team of wardens in Morocco to monitor breeding and roosting sites, prevent disturbance by tourists or fishermen, collect information, and make local people aware of the bird’s significance; these conservation measures have resulted in a recent slight population increase (1) (7). The recently discovered Syrian population is also being carefully monitored (7).
In the semi-wild Turkish population, the birds are recaptured and kept during the winter in large aviaries, but are freed during spring-summer to breed in the traditional breeding colonies (8). The importance of the bald ibis here is well known; the species is the main symbol of Birecik, and ibis imagery appears everywhere there - from the logo of the local council to the names of companies and restaurants (8). When the northern bald ibis population at Birecik declined to just 41 birds by late 2001, the RSPB and Doğa Derneği (BirdLife Turkey) became actively involved with the Turkish authorities and started to implement a local project, which has had huge success (8). An aviary management and husbandry manual has been produced, and technical advice provided throughout, so that aviaries have been better managed, and the population now reaches almost 100 birds (8). A small interpretation centre at the bald ibis station has been established, where some educational activities are carried out, and a tourism plans are currently being developed for the area based on the image of the bird, which would help raise awareness of the bird’s importance and help create funds for its ongoing conservation (8).
However, despite these conservation initiatives and successes, the future of the bald ibis is far from secure, and constant vigilance will be needed if this bird, once revered by the ancient Egyptians, is to remain in even this fraction of its former range (10).