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Azraq Wetland Reserve opens new trail in wild part of site

Two-kilometre -long trail will offer new bird watching hideouts

By Hana Namrouqa - Jun 14,2018 - Last updated at Jun 14,2018

The Azraq Wetland Reserve, an oasis in the middle of the desert, has been under rehabilitation (Photo courtesy of RSCN)

AMMAN — Visitors to Azraq Wetland Reserve, one of Jordan’s oldest natural sanctuaries, this summer will have the chance to explore the wild part of the reserve and observe its rehabilitation process, a conservationist said on Wednesday.

The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), which manages the Kingdom’s nature reserves, is now in the process of routing a new hiking trail in Azraq Wetland Reserve, which will take visitors to new parts of the site and allow them to observe migratory birds in their habitats.

“We are now in the process of setting up the reserve’s first long, guided trail. The track will take visitors to new parts of the reserve, while our guides will familiarise visitors with the different migrant bird species, their habitats and the rehabilitation process which the reserve underwent,” reserve manager Hazem Hreisha told The Jordan Times, noting that the reserve is also setting up new bird watching hideouts which will be accessible through the new long trail.

“The trail is two-kilometre-long and it takes up to three hours to finish it. It will allow visitors to spend a good time while also leaving the place knowing more about Azraq as an ecosystem, community and a success story of a rehabilitated oasis in the middle of the desert,” Hreisha highlighted.

Located 103km east of Amman, Azraq, ("blue" in Arabic), contains oases, and a seasonally flooded marshland, which the local community calls “Al Qa’a”.

A variety of birds flock to the Azraq Wetland Reserve each year, stopping for a short rest along their migration routes, staying for the winter, or breeding within the protected areas of the wetland, according to the RSCN.

Azraq used to attract up to half a million migrating birds at a time before water pumping began in the 1980s. By 1993, the extraction of water expanded to the point that no surface water remained, virtually destroying its ecological value, experts said.

But, with international support, a rescue effort started in 1994, helping restore a significant portion of the wetland, according to the RSCN. Many of the birds, for which made the oasis was renowned, are now coming back and special boardwalks and bird hides have been constructed to enable visitors to see and enjoy them.

“Visitors to the reserve should know about the indigenous Aphanius sirhani fish which only exists in Azraq, they should also know about the success in rehabilitating this oasis… that’s what our guides will do at the new trail…, after all, if visitors did not leave the reserve with a higher sense of awareness on its ecology, what is our added value?,” Hreisha stressed.

The trail is being set up under the “Improvement of the Green Infrastructure in Jordan through Labour-Intensive Measures” project; a partnership between the German International Cooperation, the RSCN and the Danish Refugee Council, and is financed by the government of Germany.

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