Khaled Etayeb is the President of the Libyan Society for Birds and the Mediterranean Waterbird Network focal point in Libya. He answer the Tour du Valat’s questions regarding the conservation of birds in North Africa.
1) You are the national coordinator of the Mediterranean Waterbird Network (MWN) in Libya. According to you, what are the main issues regarding waterbirds in a country that has been in the grip of very strong political tensions since the beginning of the decade?
As the president of the Libyan society for birds (LSB) and International Waterbird Census national coordinator, I will speak from this point of view. Since the beginning of the revolution in Libya in 2011, the LSB has assumed the responsibility of studying and protecting birds in Libya. We have continued the annual IWC program over the years despite the difficulties we faced including wars and battles in some regions and sometimes unexpected incidence and timing, or some other circumstances such as financial and transportation issues. However, we continued the census and studies by avoiding military and conflict areas.
In the last three years, we have got partners in some important areas for birds such as the Bado society in Zwara and the Najm Libya company for salt extraction in Misrata. After that, the number of covered areas has increased to a half of what it was before 2011. Also during this period, we have not stopped celebrating the environmental events, especially the events that related to the protection of birds and their habitats.
I would also like to point out that as I am a university professor and ornithologist, some students have been attracted to make their graduation projects in the field of birds, sothat I can say that the number of lovers and workers in the field of birds has increased.
However, I must emphasize that the current situation of the country is the main obstacle to the attention of birds, which assumed to be prioritized in the environmental strategies and plans, as well as the absence of government control, rules and the law. These lead to increase the risks that the birds face in Libya.
2) In what extent can the MWN help you to respond to these issues, at the national scale?
Of course our experience with the MWN was very useful. We received all the support and moral encouragement during the period in which our activities were supposed to stop. Through North African cooperation, we have consolidated data collection methods. We have also received from the MWN some field equipment, as well as training some people on waterbirds count and identification.
In general, the MWN did not abandon Libya in the bad conditions that it is going through.
3) You will soon become the MWN focal point for North Africa. How can the five concerned countries contribute to the protection of waterbird populations at the Mediterranean scale, given their location in the middle of the migratory flyways between Europe and Subsaharian Africa?
As I mentioned above, one of the positive points of the network is to unify the census methods and create communication and cooperation among specialists in the region as well as communication with the experts in the Mediterranean countries. This will facilitate the protection of migratory waterbirds through the exchange of information and the detection of vulnerabilities in the migration flyways.
The countries of North Africa are very important for migratory waterbirds. Some countries have a good experience and some have modest experience in bird protection, but through exchange of experiences, these countries will contribute to the protection of water birds. Also through international cooperation, comprehensive awareness campaigns can be carried out, including workshops, field visits, awareness-raising leaflets, media, as well as communication with the hunters. These will ensure safe passage of waterbirds through North African countries.
Contact: Khaled Etayeb (e-mail)