Homat Hima Ras ElMaten to Ottenby and Falsterbo: Bird protection cooperation between Sweden and Lebanon takes the next step

Four selected Lebanese youth from Homat ElHima in Ras El-Maten lived unforgettable experiences in Sweden.

Omar Selim Salha and Sama Choucair from Al Manar school. Rasha Hassan and Bahaa El-Mashtoub from The Nagib Bey Salha High School have been given reasons why they should be sent on “practice” to two of Europe’s most famous bird stations. These four are among those who were active at previous Bird Camps in Lebanon in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019. Arranging some kind of exchange and enabling a visit to Sweden has been in our minds for a while and it feels fantastic to finally see it happen.

Students from the environmental clubs of the MESD which are part of Najib Salha Public High School and the Al Manar Modern School both in Raselmaten spent 15 days training on how to protect migratory birds and other related topics.

Society for Protection of Nature in Lebanon ( SPNL), the country’s BirdLife partner, and  Swedish Ornithological Society (SOF), the country’s BirdLife partner, in collaboration with Ras ElMaten municipality and ElMaten Organization for Environment and Sustainable Development (MESD) have in the previous visits involved young people from two different schools in the municipality of Ras al-Matn, located in the Lebanese mountains an hour northeast of the capital Beirut. Here the bird migration flows low over the rooftops (and the hunters, legal and illegal) and from a bird protection point of view, the location is extremely critical. Tomas Axén Haraldsson, the initiator of the Bird Camp idea, for BirdLife Sweden along with a group of activist visited the classes and held seminars on migratory bird migration, met Homat ElHima in the field and showed ringing.

For the August visit to Sweden, it was decided that there would be a girl and a guy from the municipal high school and a girl and a guy from a private high school, for both good gender distribution and socio-economic opportunities.

The schools and the municipality are responsible for the students’ air tickets and train journeys from Kastrup to Malmö and Kalmar respectively. Ottenby and Falsterbo bird stations are generous for accommodation and guidance on site. BirdLife Sweden covers food and a local “pocket money”. As mentors on site, Racha and Omar at Ottenby met Anton Blanch and Sama and Bahaa at Falsterbo met Emil Lundahl and Harald Rice (who have both been in Lebanon before).

The ambition is for these four to return to their home context with good experiences and ideas that can promote the commitment and protection of migratory birds and the youth ornithology in the country.

On September 9-13, the next Swedish delegation then goes down to Ras ElMetn and will then initiate a stretch count of birds of prey and storks from a brand new observation platform in the neighboring village of Hammana.

On this occasion SPNL and MESD wish to thank the efforts and support of The honorable Mayor of Ras Al Metn, Mr. Marwan Salha, as well as Mr. Riad Kamil Makarem and our colleague Mr. Iyad Yousef Noueihed for the sponsoring of all travel expenses for this special training program that is very much needed to increase awareness and boost the eco-tourism.

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