Dana Biosphere Reserve

Dhana village, Jordan, Dana Biosphere Reserve. Photo: Fares Khoury

Does a copper mine have priority over nature and world heritage?

The Dana Nature Reserve is one of the most diverse and important bird areas in the Middle East with breeding populations of globally threatened species like Sooty Falcon and Syrian Serin.

Dana Biosphere Reserve, Red Sand Habitat, south Jordan. Photo: Fares Khoury
Red Sand Habitat, south Jordan. Photo: Fares Khoury

The habitats in the reserve have been suffering locally from droughts and local overgrazing by livestock and woodcutting. However this is nothing compared to the destruction expected from the copper mining being planned in the western side of the Reserve. We urge all who care and who are working in the fields of nature conservation, education and (eco-)tourism to raise awareness about this case.

Syrian serin, Dhana, Jordan. Photo: Fares Khoury
Syrian serin, Dhana, Jordan. Photo: Fares Khoury

The reserve is located along the southern rift margins of Jordan with an altitudinal range of 60 below sea level to around 1500 above sea level, and being at the crossroad of three continents, it is no wonder that this reserve holds so much diversity, ranging from deserts and arid acacia stands in the lowlands to mountain steppe and open juniper and evergreen oak woodlands.

Dhana village, Jordan, Dana Biosphere Reserve. Photo: Fares Khoury
Dhana village, Jordan, Dana Biosphere Reserve. Photo: Fares Khoury

We urge all who care and who are working in the fields of nature conservation, education and (eco-)tourism to raise awareness about this case.

Statement issued by Jordan BirdWatch, dated 08/19/2021

Subject: Decision to remove part of the Dana Nature Reserve for mining purposes

The Dana Biosphere Reserve is considered one of the most important areas for biodiversity in the Middle East due to its geographical location between three continents, and the great variation in terrain, climate and habitats within a relatively small area.

It is characterized by a heterogeneous landscape and a great diversity of plant species and resident and migratory birds. 

The area of ​​Dana and Feinan is also globally famous for its distinctive archeological sites and historical importance, displaying the development of human civilization that began in the Stone Ages. 

The area contains beautiful archaeological and natural sites visited by a large number of tourists. There is still great potential of developing Feinan and its surroundings in a sustainable manner as tourist destination, and to be a source of continuous income for local communities and for future generations. 
In fact, the reserve area including the village of Dana were almost deserted before the establishment of the reserve in 1994, but many of the original inhabitants came back, indicating the importance of this reserve from an economic point of view for the local communities.

All activities related to copper exploration and mining in the Dana Reserve will have devastating effects on the natural environment, heritage and the economy of local communities. The previous and current efforts to protect and sustainably develop the area will be totally lost. The decision of the government to change the borders of the reserve, and promises of the authorities to the public about great profits and new job opportunities in copper mines is currently based on assumptions, and not supported by published, professional assessments or scientific studies.

Assessments of the direct and accumulated negative effects on the environment and economic feasibility studies are not known to exist or to have been published. 

The decision contradicts the goals of sustainable development and principles of environmental protection, and it also violates some international treaties (Rio conventions) to which Jordan is a signatory. The Dana Nature Reserve will probably lose its title of “Biosphere Reserve” granted by UNESCO if the borders are significantly shifted and the area reduced by a quarter.

Jordan BirdWatch is a specialized environmental society which develops and implements its programs based on scientific knowledge. Accordingly, we would like to inform first and foremost the Ministry of Environment, of our position, refusing to exclude any part of the Dana Nature Reserve, due to the expected detrimental effects of mining activities. We also recommend to strengthen and improve the management system for all nature reserves in Jordan.

We all as members of the Jordanian society bear the responsibility of protecting and preserving the environment for future generations.

Further links:

  • Letter to the ministry of Antiquities, undersigned by members of the community of international and Jordanian archaeologists:

CONTACT JBW

Trapping of Falcons in Jordan

Falcon hunting in Jordan - JBW

As part of the “People and Birds of the Southern Levant” project, a study was carried out on illegal trapping of large falcons in eastern Jordan. The results were published in Sandgrouse (Khoury et al 2020). The report provides a much needed counterpoint to recent media outputs that glorify modern falconry in the region as a practice steeped in ancient desert tradition and a ‘heritage sport’.

In reality, modern falconry has evolved into a widespread sport in the Gulf region, stimulating the captive breeding and release programs of species targeted by falconers, such as Macqueen’s Bustard, establishing reserves for falconers, and other novel activities like falcon “beauty contests” and races.

The higher demand for wild falcons has elevated black market prices and thus trapping pressure on large falcons like the Saker and Lanner that are globally or regionally threatened. Illegal falcon trapping in eastern Jordan started in the 1950s and accelerated in the 1980s to meet rising demand for wild falcons due to the rise of modern falconry practices fuelled by growing wealth in the Gulf region.

Trafficking is apparently well organized in the Middle East region, with the help of social media outlets, and much of the falcon smuggling remains undetected at border crossings.

Fares Khoury, Cheryl Makarevicz, Abdel-Razzaq Al-Hmoud and Steve Mithen (2020): The illegal trapping of large falcons in Jordan. Sandgrouse 42, 239-247.

Birds of Faynan

Birds of Faynan

Birds of Faynan, Past and Present

A new book “Birds of Faynan – Past and Present” was published as part of the project “People and Birds of the Southern Levant“.

The authors have combined their expertise in ornithology, ecology, archaeology and cultural heritage to produce this guide of the birds of Faynan, SW Jordan, and some of the ways they have inspired artists, poets and story-tellers throughout the history of Jordan.

The book also presents the results of archaeological excavations at a 12,000–10,000 year old Neolithic settlement in Wadi Faynan, which have shown that there were once even more species of birds in Faynan than today. The climate was apparently more humid and much more trees were growing on the mountain slopes 10,000 years ago.

Mithen, S., Khoury, F., Greet, B., White, J. and Masalamani, N. 2019. The Birds of Faynan: Past & Present. Reading, UK: The University of Reading.

ISBN: 9780704915909

Copies can be obtained by contacting us.

Levant Birds

People and Birds in the southern Levant

JBW participated in June 2017 in a workshop and field trips to various areas in Jordan as part of the project “People and Birds in the southern Levant”.

In cooperation with the University of Reading, U.K. and the Faculty of Science, American University of Madaba.

Participants included (zoo-) archeologists, biologists and bird-watchers from the U.K., U.S.A. and Jordan who shared their knowledge about the importance of birds in the present and past.

For more information please see our projects page and visit the web site: People and Birds in the Southern Levant .