Steps save bird species
Wed, 29 August 2012
By Kabeer Yousuf — MUSCAT — As the world continues to add figures to the species that were in existence and at the verge of extinction, Oman is home for more than 20 species of birds which are considered threatened globally, according to ornithologists in the country. This is possible because of the nation’s highly proactive habitat settling for both migratory and resident birds, such as strict laws governing their protection, noise-free environment, better climatic conditions for breeding and other factors that make a perfect home.
“The world over, there are many bird species at the verge of extinction as red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Oman is protecting some of these birds,” Hanne and Jens Eriksen, Wildlife Photographers residing in the country for more than 25 years told the Observer. “We have about 100 species of birds that are residents here in Oman. But the number of migratory birds is about 400, thus making the total number of bird species just over 500 in Oman.
“Oman has strict rules governing the protection of these birds. It has banned hunting of all species. There are very few countries which have banned hunting of all birds." They said while some of the countries in this region is encouraging falcon-hunting as a sport, Oman has taken a bold step by banning the same in its soil. “In some countries in the region hunting falcons is allowed, but it is banned in Oman. Falcon hunting is banned here whereas it is a sport in several other countries in the region.
Also, the bird communities are relaxed here in Oman as they are not hunted in this country”, the Danish couple who shifted their lives from university professors to serious ornithologists/wildlife photographers said. They started their careers inOman at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) way back in 1986. “What the birds basically need is an environment free from disturbance. Naturally, they also need water and food, ie insects, reptiles or seeds and for some of the species a third prerequisite comes into play, namely a place to breed and build their nest, if they stay in Oman during their breeding season.
Depending on the species, nests are made in bushes, trees, rock crevices, on a beach or even underground. And Oman is blessed with all these positive factors”. Among other bird spotting locations, Hanne and Jens are regular visitors to Almouj Golf, the Greg Norman designed course at The Wave, Muscat which, thanks to a unique design incorporating natural khawrs (lagoons) and greenery, offers an ideal habitat for bird species of every size and colour, both resident and migratory.
“We come to Almouj Golf to observe the birds here — it really is a paradise for birds and golfers alike and provides a home for many different species thanks to its serenity and resources,” they said. Even the golfers at the club are starting to get involved in bird watching — often golfers on the course will ask Hanne and Jens questions about the resident and migratory species while taking a break from their round. “Birds come down to Oman mainly from Asia during September, October, and November. These are the three important months for autumn migration.
Also, quite a few birds come from Europe and Africa too. It is assumed that millions of birds fly to Africa while a large number stay here through the winter. But by spring, they go north again. From Africa, through Arabia, including Oman, they stay a few days, stock up on foods, water and go up to Asia again.Some of them fly all the way to Siberia and some even as far as to Alaska”.
In Oman, bird watching tourism was not an option till some 30 years ago. But today, there are lots of birdwatchers visiting Oman and on average, some 500 tourists come to the country every year just to watch birds. They watch birds in Oman and send their observations to the Oman Bird Records Committee. Apart from this, it is Hanne and Jens’ hope that the number of local birdwatchers, especially young Omanis will increase with time. There is much interesting and important work to be done in the future to increase awareness and to keep Oman’s bird diversity in good health.
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