SEEN - SE European Bird Migration Network
Avian migrant mitigation: conservation, education, science AND eco-tourism. An all-in-one deal*
Reuven Yosef, Lynette Mitchell
International Birding & Research Centre in Eilat, Israel
* a project supported by ICA in Israel

Eilat is situated at the northern edge of over 2000 km of continuous Sahel, Sahara and Sinai deserts and is an important staging area for millions of migratory birds of over 230 species. Establishment of agricultural communities in the Arava Valley in the past 5 decades has resulted in a conflict between local farmers and migratory bird populations. An example of such a conflict is that of the migratory European (Merops apiaster) and Blue Cheeked (M. persicus) bee-eaters and the agricultural community. The peak flowering and pollination periods of sunflower, onion seeds, melons and watermelons coincide with the peak migration period of the bee-eaters. During this period apiarists are hired to put out beehives near the flowering crops in order to maximize the pollination. The bee-eaters feast on the bees reducing significantly the amount of pollination, and thus the total yield for the farmer and honey for the apiarists. Also Sylvia warblers feast on ripening grapes, reducing the quantity and quality of the grapes to be marketed, resulting in a significantly reduced profit margin for the farmers.
Since 1996 the IBRCE has proffered eco-friendly techniques to try and resolve these conflicts. The degree of efficacy was not always easy to evaluate until a comparative experiment was forced on us. For the past 6-years we have helped the owners of a local farm with their crops by removing bee-eaters from the watermelon fields and warblers from the vineyards. However, in autumn 2004 the owners chose not to hire our services (ca. 2500 Euro per season) out of financial considerations. For six autumn seasons (1998-2003) an average 8.5 tons of watermelons per ha were picked; 6 tons being of export quality. In autumn 2004 the net result was a 4-ton crop, with only 1 ton of export quality fruit. This translated into a financial loss of over 130,000 Euro. In addition, damage in the vineyards resulted in a loss of another 40,000 Euro. (I lack data of the losses to the apiarist.) I conclude that although our sample size is of one season only, this is a case in which it will not be economically sound to increase the sample size.  The above has allowed the IBRCE not only to have an income from ringing as a profession but also to promote active conservation and education of the farming community. Research analysis of the data collected enables us to better understand the migration strategies and foraging ecology of the species involved and to market our activities to eco-sensitive tourists.  This multi-purpose method of work can profit all involved – the farmers their crops, the birds their lives, we our science and the birdwatcher his list.
Created by Pronetix 2006