Local community protects nesting birds in Fayoum wildlife reserves of Egypt

As birds flock to North Africa in the winter months, the government and locals are still battling poachers on World Wildlife Day 2022

The Egyptian province Fayoum is known nationwide for its waterfalls, great lakes and its natural reserves.

They are particularly popular among bird watchers, who visit the area to watch thousands arrive from Europe and Asia to nest during the colder months.

Flamingos, cormorants, grey herons, spoonbills and many ducks are among the species that arrive to nest in Egypt each September.

They remain in the country during the winter and spring, departing north when summer comes.

But poachers remain a problem. Ahmed Mansour, an experienced environmental tour guide, says the threat persists, despite the constant presence of environment ministry personnel at all nature reserves.

The Red List of Threatened Species, overseen by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, registers more than 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora as critically endangered.

It is their plight that World Wildlife Day, marked on March 3, hopes to highlight.

As of 2018, 14 species of bird were threatened in Egypt.

Mr Mansour said this is why the public was such a powerful weapon against poachers.

“The locals are by far the most active combatants of poaching in the area. They report any incident they see to the authorities right away,” he said.

“What you have to understand is that the nature reserves are the centrepiece of the local economy. They draw tourists, which in turn drum up local business. Poachers are a threat to that and the locals know it.”

An Egyptian fisherman fishes with a net in Lake Qarun south of Fayoum, Egypt. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

Two of Fayoum’s most important bird-watching hotspots are the saline Lake Qarun, a prehistoric body of water that draws thousands of tourists each year, and Wadi Rayan, a national park which houses two other artificial lakes that are popular with bird-watchers.

Lake Qarun is an internationally designated Important Bird Area and Wadi El Rayan is a registered reserve in which up to 150 bird species flock during the winter and spring seasons, Mr Mansour said.

Both areas are managed by the country’s environment ministry.

To promote environmental tourism in the area, the ministry has banned the hunting of birds in Fayoum’s nature reserves, he said.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 7:46 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS