* Ghassan Ramadan Jaradi
The Syrian Serin (Serinus syriacus) species is classified as Globally Vulnerable by IUCN because the small population (2500-10000 mature individuals over an area of about 7500 km2) which was once thought to be stable, appears to be declining since 1996. This species occurs in Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon with highest occurrence in the latter country.
The presence of Syrian Serin breeding pairs in Anjar (intensely breeding) and Kfar Zabad (occasionally breeding and in a post breeding dispersal) wetlands in 2004 – 2005 was the basis for its declaration by SPNL of Hima Anjar/Kfarzabad as an IBA and its adoption by BirdLife International. The preliminary field assessment study and the action plan for the Syrian Serin in Anjar Kfar Zabad IBA was the basis for further detailed studies at the site, and further developments towards a national action plan for the Syrian Serin bird. This action plan is crucial to direct the conservation efforts at the Anjar Kfar Zabad IBA based on scientific assessments for the bird that prompted its declaration.
When the Action Plan for the Syrian Serin was prepared in 2012, the total number of breeding pairs was about 30 at Anjar Hima. SPNL hoped at that time (2012) to increase the number of the Syrian Serin to 100 pairs by 2017 (end of the validity of the action plan). SPNL also hoped that the action plan would raise the value of the site by its local community and inspire prompt conservation action.
Serious, scheduled and intense monitoring activities in presence of a Homat AlHima leader at Anjar have been conducted at Anjar. These monitoring activities revealed that the Syrian serin became the iconic species or “national bird” for the local community of the Hima. The species is still breeding in evergreen trees with preference to Cypress trees, secondly to Pine trees and thirdly to evergreen Oak trees anywhere at Anjar with preference to the ruins, cemetery, town backyards and streets borders. The protection allocated to this species by the inhabitants under the guidance of SPNL helped in the increase of the population from less than 30 couples in 2012 (ref. Syrian Serin Species Action Plan for Hima Anjar (SSAP)) to more than 140 pairs in 2016. Part of this increase is due to the overlooked population of Syrian Serin (about 18 pairs) in the backyards of the Anjar town during the early monitoring by other birdwatchers. Despite the rarity of nesting of the Syrian Serin at Kfarzabad, the community of the latter is celebrating with the Anjar community every birds event with Syrian Serin lepel pins, drawings, photos, posters and precious information.
One year before the end of the SSAP, the conservation efforts by the locals under the guidance of SPNL have reached much greater results of success than the SSAP expectations.
* Professor Dr. in Ornithology