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proposed standard Ibis annual protection program

(based on lessons learned during 2002-09)

1. Period of operation: from 1 February to 30 July, every year

2. Staff needed

Type

Number

Duties

Trained national veterinarian better if assisted by experienced international ornithologist

1+1

Scientific coordination and supervision

Trained ranger with proven experience in ibis protection

4-6

Protection, monitoring and data collection, supervision of Bedouin guards, assistance of ornithologists

Bedouin local guard

3 (1 in Gattar, 1 in Mayuf, 1 in Mazrur Dreila)

Protection and monitoring

3. Equipment needed

* two 4x4 vehicles (+ maintenance and fuel)
* four high-quality telescopes
* ten high-quality binoculars
* three tents and accessories

4. General recommendations

4.1. It is recommended to not underestimate the level of specialized protection efforts needed by ibises during the period from February to July, which is crucial to ensure a smooth breeding: namely, the quality of the protection effort depends on the scientific coordination, the number, the role and the level of training and experience of rangers involved; and by the number and role of the Bedouin guards.

4.2. It is highly recommended to use as a model the successful protection programs taken place during breeding years 2002-04 and 2006-07. These 5 successful protection programs were based on three levels: strong field scientific coordination, at least 2 trained and experienced rangers and at least 4 Bedouin guards helping the rangers.

4.3. It is recommended to not underestimate the importance of the level of experience of the rangers involved in the protection program: for instance, by 2007 the 2 local rangers mentioned above had accumulated a significant amount of experience (5 years of training and on-the-job experience), and, despite in that year the scientific coordination was quite low, they were able to detect the raven threat on time and to control it successfully during the critical time.

4.4. It is recommended to not overlook the level of motivation of rangers required: this is another critical issue, as working intensively in the desert under difficult climate conditions, whole day, every day including week ends, certainly requires a genuine passion and interest. This specific factor, not easy to be assessed objectively was not used in the analysis shown in Annex 12: it would have certainly made the correlation between the breeding success and the protection effort even stronger and more significant. Considering the sheer amount of overtime work needed, an incentive integrating their normal salary is recommended, at least for rangers, guards and drivers involved in field operations.

4.5 Enabling and authorizing the rangers to drive the vehicles by their own, without driver, makes the protection program more efficient: in fact it is not easy to find a driver motivated enough to work many hours every day and to wake up very early and go back home very late. Also this arrangement would enable rangers to be sufficiently flexible as this is an important requirement of their work.

4.6 Rangers should be carefully coordinated and supervised by the scientific coordinator and supervisor. Rangers should always consult the scientific coordinator before taking decisions which are not related to routine and already agreed activities. Bedouin guards should be coordinated and supervised by rangers.

4.7 Rangers should collect standard data on data sheets prepared and explained to them by the scientific coordinator, and they should avoid taking informal notes by their own.

4.8 Rangers should make sure that a minimum number of people and vehicles is present at the guard tent in front of the nesting cliff in order to avoid noise and disturbance, especially when birds are using the pasture around the tent and the ponds for drinking.

4.9 Coordination with military should be sought during the periods that birds use the area of Rkheime, which is in March and in June-July.

5. Specific recommendations in relation to threats

Based on past experience, the 4 most dangerous threats negatively affecting the ibis breeding performance are the following (in order of importance):

I.  Depredation by ravens and vultures during the first 15 days when chicks are left alone in nests by parents. This threat usually materializes some 2-3 weeks after hatching, tipically in the month of May. The scientitic coordinator should discuss with rangers how to control ravens and Egyptian Vultures around the ibis nesting cliffs early in the season, preferably before ibis return (before mid February). If this is not possible, a dawn-to-sunset ibis nest guarding should be arranged on time for the duration of 15 days from the very first day that chicks are left alone. This requires attention, preparation and readiness. Three motivated guards, covering shifts of 5 hours each, should observe the nests at a distance not less than 300 m, and use a whistle to scare any bird predator approaching the nest. Risk of depredation seems more severe in Gattar than in Mayuf. The two breeding failures, taken place in 2005 and 2008 in Gattar, were likely due to raven depredation of chicks.

IIa. Human disturbance around nests during nest selection and building during incubation and at chick fleging time. This problem usually takes place from the time of ibis return in February until mid June. No person - visitors and local staff -  should get closer than 300 m to the ibis nesting cliff during this period: better would be 500 m. Any visitor should ask authorization from the scientific coordinator and should be accompanied and monitored by trained rangers. Groups should not exceed 10 persons at a time. It is also important that rangers and guards should always ask permission to scientific coordinator in order to get closer than 300 m from the nesting cliff. No exceptions should be made for photographers, video amateurs and media.

IIb. Hunting at ibis feeding grounds and at reservoirs which are used by ibises for drinking (February-July). The most vulnerable feeding site, due to its remoteness, is that of Mazrur Dreile (Shna’a). A guard should be hired on time, early in the season, in order to stay permanently at the site from March until July. Artificial ponds close to nesting cliff should be arranged before bird arrival early in the season, for the drinking of ibises, in order to prevent them to search water at unkonw and unprotected locations. One adult breeding ibis was killed by foreign poachers at the reservoir of Shna’a in 2003. If birds use the reservoir of Shna’a (or Slem) for feeding, a local guard should be hired to protect the site.

III. Human disturbance at feeding grounds (February-July). Nobody should get closer than 300 m from the feeding birds. Any visitor should ask authorization from the scientific coordinator and should be accompanied and monitored by trained rangers. Groups should not exceed 10 persons at a time. No exceptions should be made for photographers, video amateurs and media.