Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) is classified as Critically Endangered, the highest threat category according to IUCN criteria, with the only remaining wild colonies known in Morocco (100 pairs) and Syria (two pairs). The Morocco population is stable and under good conservation management although development pressures are a growing concern. The Eastern race, formerly found throughout the Middle-East and latterly only in south-east Turkey, was re-discovered in Syria only in 2002 having been believed to be extinct in the wild.
The discovery that at least one colony still persists in the Palmyra region, was therefore highly significant and arguably the most significant orthithological discovery in the last 30 years anywhere in the Middle East. The tiny colony consisted of three breeding pairs and have been quite successfully producing fledged young in several of the years since rediscovery.
The breeding area in Syria was declared a protected area in 2004 by Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. It was also declared as an IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area) by BirdLife in 2007.
As this bird is classified as Critically Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN, ensuring the survival of the last wild colony still breeding in Syria would make a contribution to conservation of biodiversity heritage not only on a national but also on a global scale. These few Bald Ibis survivors have become a symbol of the extreme degradation of the Syrian Al Badia (desertic steppe), a biodiversity rich landscape which is presently in an advanced stage of desertification, and there is a need for immediate action to address these wider ecosystem-scale land degradation problems if the Bald Ibis is to survive in the wild in the long-term.