During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the amazing marshes of southern Iraq surrounding the Euphrates and Tigris rivers were steadily drained as part of a plan to eradicate the local inhabitants. These marshes were wonderfully documented and portrayed by Wilfred Thesiger in ‘The Marsh Arabs’, and the drainage destroyed a great deal of the habitat and wildlife. Currently, the marshes are now being reflooded, with 50% plus now flooded compared with the 10% or less of Hussein’s, and are a conservation success story, largely a result of the amazing enthusiasm of local workers.
Richard Porter has, over the past six years had the privilege of working with young Iraqi conservationists from Nature Iraq to help them prepare for their wildlife surveys in a war-torn country. In attempt to raise public consciousness, Richard is presenting in July a celebration of their endeavours - and the wildlife of Iraq - at an exhibition kindly hosted by the Birdscapes Gallery, in Glandford, North Norfolk.
Presented by Nature Iraq and BirdLife International, the exhibition will show, through photographs, the wonderful scenery and wildlife of Iraq as well as tell the story of the work of Nature Iraq, the nature conservation NGO in Iraq, in a forgotten wildlife paradise. Over the last six years NI has made summer and winter surveys of the Mesopotamian Marshes, the western steppes and the woods and mountains of Kurdistan - to help identify the key biodiversity areas for conservation. Entitled The Nature of Iraq – from Marshes to Mountains, there will be also be a sale of prints, greeting cards and other items in support of Nature Iraq. There will also be a sale of specially donated paintings on the wildlife of Iraq, with all profits going to Nature Iraq.
In addition educational books on wildlife have been produced - including a field guide on birds in Arabic - and a programme started to tackle irresponsible hunting and persecution. Marbled Ducks have returned to the area in their 1000s, but have unfortunately become the victim of local hunters and are now on sale in local markets.
It is hoped that many visitors to Norfolk will be able to attend this exhibition and support the fabulous work of NI. The exhibition is from 4 - 25 July 2010 at the BIRDscapes Gallery, Glandford in North Norfolk, England.