The migration corridor that fosters the ambitious biannual itinerary of half a billion birds has long been an incentive for Israel, Jordan, and Palestine to get along. Faced with cross-border concerns that threatened both migratory and local species – roughly 500 species in total – Dr. Yossi Leshem from Israel and Mr. Imad Atrash from Palestine made a joint commitment in 1995 to foster civil solutions.
That partnership, which has grown to include Jordan and various organizations, started with a project to track 120 German White Storks. It became enormously popular, with students from all three nations eager to track the storks as they progressed across the long sky.
And it continues today. Various conservation, research, education, agriculture, and flight safety initiatives have been implemented with financial support from the European Union, US Aid and others.
The plan to encourage Barn Owls and Kestrels as natural pest control agents was initiated with cooperation from the International Center for the study of Bird Migration at Latrun, the Palestinian Wildlife Society, and Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. A healthier approach to pest control than harmful chemicals, thousands of nesting boxes have been erected throughout the region.
The relationship has not always been easy to maintain. During the 1999-2000 period, representatives from the various countries hoped to establish better guidelines to reduce aircraft collisions with birds, but then the second intifada broke out and those discussions came to a quick halt. Despite interruptions, most of the projects that had already been established pushed on.
Another factor: among the Arab community, birds like owls are considered bad luck, so helping them change age-old beliefs probably hasn’t been easy. Obviously Dr. Leshem has found ways to show the owl is a sign of good luck. Maybe he’s used an amulet against the evil eye?
Whatever charm he’s been using today Israel, Jordan, and Palestine are still pursuing efforts to deepen research, spread knowledge, enhance agricultural practices, and ensure birds’ safe passage during the spring and autumn migrations. Theirs is an example that the even pursuit of civic commitment can overcome even the most formidable obstacles.
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