By Assad Serhal – SPNL Director General
Twenty years have passed, since our first encounter with Luc, where my wife Zeina and I were invited to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and National Resources (IUCN) Anniversary, at the place where it got established since 50 years before, at Napoleon Bonaparte Palace, Fontainebleau forest, France.
I was asked to say a few words on behalf of the Middle East region, where little I knew, that the few words I mentioned about the important Birds areas (IBAs) in Lebanon and that the identified 4 IBAs (The endangered wetlands of Ammiq and the Shouf Cedar forests), were the magic words, that attracted Luc and his friend Jean to approach me after my talk and introduce himself, and ask me, if he should help serve Ammiq wetland in the west Beqaa valley.
To my surprise, Luc and his friend arrived to my office at Victoria (Al-Shouf Cedar reserve, Ain Zhalta, Lebanon, 1997) where we spent half a day together touring Lebanon’s first IUCN established protected areas project, where I proudly, explained to my quests the region’s name and history (Shouf region) while they were admiring the strategic location across Mount Hermon to the East and the Mediterranean sea to the west, and overlooking the Ammiq wetlands, Litani river and Qaraoun lake under us, among the lush green rift valley.
I explained, that “Shouf” means “look” in Arabic, and that is why this region and this cedar nature reserve, were named “Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve”!
That is when he asked me again, if he should help fund the Ammiq wetland, knowing that it was privately owned, and my answer was as fast and assuring as to his first question at the IUCN Ceremony, “yes” indeed for it is one of the most important priority wetlands not only for Lebanon biodiversity, but for the migrating birds between, Europe, Asian and Africa.
Luc not only helped A Rocha to save the Ammiq wetlands, for over 10 years and helped Lebanon, and SPNL and A Rocha through MAVA Foundation, Identify the additional 11 IBAs between 2005-2008 (a total of 15 IBAs in Lebanon), and help conserve the amazing wetlands of Hima Kfarzabad/Anjar at Central Beqaa valley (2010-2016), in addition to the Shouf Cedar Reserve/Ammiq and Jabal Moussa biosphere reserves and others.
SPNL is now a Founding member of the MAVA established & funded Mediterranean Consortium, and SPNL Hima programs are the world leaders in Hima revival, much thanks to Luc, and Andre Hoffmann and the MAVA family support. Very proud & honored to have meet you Luc and thankful for helping my country Lebanon. Nature and Biodiversity be a better place, through your generous support for over twenty years and still ongoing.
Your legacy shall prevail, as your vision, through the Hima/IBAs and Homat al-Hima you helped us identify, establish and manage.
In Your memory, SPNL published our work on the Homat Al-Hima guideline manual, August, 2016, and for our legacy together, we just established the Homat Al-Hima Center. You may rest in peace, knowing your soul is soaring high with the migrating birds, over the wetlands and IBAs/Himas you helped preserve from Europe to Africa, and in our beloved country Lebanon.