For the last three years the country’s leading conservation NGO, Nature Iraq (BirdLife Partner), has been undertaking a wildlife study and education programme in Iraqi Kurdistan, supported by DEFRA’s Darwin Initiative and co-partnered by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh-based Centre for Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) and BirdLife International.
An on-line course in biodiversity and conservation, run in conjunction with the University of Sulaimani, is now in its third year. To date more than 60 students have successfully completed the course. A further 60 students and others involved in conservation have signed up for the latest course.
Now that mobile phones are widespread, a citizen science project to study butterfly and dragonfly distribution was launched last autumn. Enthusiastically received, photos of these two insect groups are now being sent for identification from all over Iraq. Nature Iraq and Darwin have assembled a good team of international experts to help with difficult identifications. For example, in a pilot study, Nature Iraq identified four new dragonfly species for the country.
A main focus of the Darwin Initiative has been the majestic mountain of Peramagroon. Here a comprehensive study of the plants has been undertaken. This has more than doubled the number of species known from the area to more than 650 and includes several species new to science. An interactive electronic image based guide to plants is nearing completion.
A study of land-use practices on Peramagroon will help guide the development of a conservation action plan. Peramagroon has also been the focus for student field visits and its local schools have developed some exciting projects, such as the making of nest boxes.
A unique bird identification App for the 130 bird species of Peremagroon mountain is currently being tested in the field by Iraqi students. If this model proves successful it could be used for other sites in the Middle East to encourage an interest by local people. Read more