Eight years after the discovery of the last survivors of the eastern population of Northern Bald Ibis in Syria, their breeding grounds within the Palmyra steppe remain threatened by habitat degradation, human disturbance and uncontrolled infrastructural development whilst the ibis colony size has continued to decline. This study is aimed at assisting national and international stakeholders in strengthening the Ibis Protected Area, established in 2004 and still lacking a clear boundary and management zonation, by quantitatively establishing the range used by these birds through use of satellite tracking and field observations collected between 2006 and 2009. The core breeding range used by the ibises is 224–253 km2 while the full home range is c.1,500 km2, encompassing a mountainous area north of Palmyra, ranging from 400 to 1,000 m asl. Locations from satellite tracking also revealed an important unknown post-breeding site. The ibis breeding area is also home to a range of other rare and endangered fauna as well as significant landscape, cultural and recreational assets, establishing it as an area of international importance. The Syrian steppe is a crucial socio-economic asset for the country, not only for the indigenous pastoralist people, but also because Syria seeks to develop and promote ecotourism in the Palmyra region. The steppe is increasingly suffering from damaging desertification. The need for investment in protection and management of key biodiversity and landscape assets is a precondition that needs greater recognition by the authorities. Recommendations are provided for decision makers and conservationists aimed at mitigating threats and making the Ibis Protected Area fully functional.
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