IUCN - A bird’s eye view of conservation

A bird’s eye view of conservation

01 July 2011 | News story

With a background in applied biology and rich experience in nature conservation, IUCN’s Khaldoun Al Omari now engages his passion for nature and knowledge about how to conserve it. He is making sure that the potential of protected areas in saving our natural environment not only looks great on paper but is also effectively translated into action on the ground.

Khaldoun Al Omari works within IUCN’s Protected Areas Programme in West Asia. He makes sure that IUCN’s work in this field has the highest standards possible and benefits both nature conservation and the lives of people that directly depend on it. Apart from giving the right direction to those efforts, he also oversees how they are put into practice and reviews their outcomes.

“Protected areas are considered one of the best ways to maintain biodiversity in all its elements, which is what makes this area of conservation so fascinating. They also play a significant role in social and economic development. Although countries in West Asia invest quite significantly in protected areas, the region’s trend is still based on the expansion of areas declared as ‘protected’ rather than effective measures to conserve them. There is little regional effort, with the exception of one or two countries, to address the challenge of managing these areas.”


Some of the main issues that need to be addressed include engaging local communities that live within protected areas in conservation efforts of these places. This is one of IUCN’s key priorities in the area.

“The participation level of local communities in the design and management of protected areas is very low. Several regional attempts exist, with some successes in sharing the benefits of ecotourism and other socio-economic projects with local communities, but these communities also need to be involved in the decisions about how their areas are governed. We also lack efforts to study and reintroduce their traditional knowledge about managing natural resources and the areas in which they live.”


More effective communication and cooperation across the different countries in the region is also urgently needed.

“We need to encourage better communication about protected areas in the region, which is one of its weakest points. There is a real lack of sharing experiences and knowledge and cooperation between countries.”


Planning, management and reviewing projects on the ground is another important part of Khaldoun Al Omari’s work. As a bird specialist with experience in bird migration, bird ringing and as a bird sound recordist, one project has been particularly dear to Khaldoun’s heart.

“During my work at IUCN, I have managed and overseen many projects, but the biggest challenge I faced was while working on managing efforts to protect the Northern Bald Ibis - a critically endangered species with only a few individuals still living in the wild. The Northern Bald Ibis is a migratory bird which crosses eight countries, twice a year, during its flight from the Syrian desert to the Ethiopian highlands, which makes its conservation very difficult. The project focuses on two main elements: the direct protection of the bird through field operations and the establishment of a protected area to protect the bird’s habitat and breeding sites. There is still much to be done to save this bird from extinction and I hope that through joint efforts with partners and donors the population of this unique species will be able to grow again.”


Khaldoun can be contacted at Khaldoun.Alomari@iucn.org