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Monday, 21 October 2013

More bad news on the Turkish BALD IBIS front

Northern bald ibis – Abrupt end to 2013 Turkish tagging release trial?

The trial release of six ibis from the semi-wild colony at Birecik, three of which were satellite tagged, has ended abruptly, and unfortunately, we don't have a clear idea as to what has happened.
The birds were released in late July and, after an initial spell staying nearby in Turkey, five of th e six (including all three tagged birds) suddenly moved off south in August and most intriguingly ended up stopping for almost three weeks very close to the last Syrian colony near Palmyra... where only one adult of the truly wild population had spent the spring this year.  The birds then started moving again in early September, but instead of heading further south, they moved west towards Homs and just a few days later all three tagged birds stopped transmitting within a few hours of each other - we don't have very clear information on the exact last locations, and its obviously not an area that could be searched owing to the current security situation.
So we are left speculating as to what might have happened. We did have a similar experience with birds released in 2008 which suddenly stopped transmitting in Jordan, and Sharif Al Jbour from the BirdLife Middle East Office managed to drop everything and immediately get to the site an d locate the corpses of three birds under an electricity pylon. One of the tags had been subjected to very high voltage which led us to conclude that electrocution was probably the cause of death. It could well be something quite different this time of course - the tagged birds that stopped transmitting in northern Saudi Arabia in 2009 and 2010 seem most likely to have been hunted... but we may never know for sure.

Chris Bowden