Mheimideh under immediate threat

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Mheimideh is probably the best birding site along the Syrian Euphrates; all who visit come away astonished that such a rich site can exist in the middle of a village. It has an outstanding list of breeding species, notably three RDB species of duck (White-headed Oxyura leucocephala, Ferruginous Aythya nyroca and Marbled Ducks Marmaronetta angustirostris), White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus and Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola, with good numbers of Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus and Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus. But the pressure on it is massive including illegal hunting and every year more good habitat round its edges disappears under houses. An application has again been lodged for the whole site to be drained for agricultural and housing purposes. On this occasion the application is likely to be refused, but at some stage soon it will be accepted unless there is international pressure and a long-term plan for its conservation.
The Ministry of State for Environment Affairs and the Syrian Society for Conservation of Wildlife are very keen to mount a campaign to save Mheimideh and to develop it as an educational nature reserve, ensuring that there are significant benefits for the local people (in terms of jobs, ecotourist income and prestige). This will require major involvement by the international conservation community and significant funding.
Mheimideh has exceptional potential as a flagship nature reserve that can serve as a major education point for local people. Illegal hunting is widespread along the Syrian Euphrates and directly impacts many species, notably the Critically Endangered Sociable Plover Vanellus gregarius. Thus a conservation presence at Mheimideh is very important. Dr David Murdoch will be contacting potential supporters in the near future to elicit support for the Syrian stakeholders’ campaign. (Source: David Murdoch).

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