A Tragic End For The Syrian Bird Man

Article Summary
Last year, the story of a border-crossing Israeli barn owl captured in the Syrian city of Daraa grabbed headlines. Against all odds, the owl was set free after being identified by a Syrian bird-watcher. That same man, who kept his anonymity out of fear, was allegedly murdered recently by armed forces in Syria.  

About a year and a half ago, [the Israeli daily] Maariv published the border-crossing story of an Israeli barn owl captured in the Syrian city of Daraa. Against all odds, the owl was set free after being identified by a Syrian bird-watcher. The Daraa bird-watcher who, fearing for his life, kept his anonymity, was [allegedly] murdered a couple of days ago by Assad's armed forces.

The story of the interaction between nature-lovers from two enemy countries started in mid 2010, when Tel Aviv University ornithologist Dr. Motti Charter, an active member of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, ringed six barn owl nestlings, twisting a ring around their legs. After fledging and leaving the nest, one of the ringed barn owl fledglings found its way to the city of Daraa in southern Syria and was caught by an eight-year old Syrian boy, 56 kilometers away from the nest. Luckily for the barn owl fledgling, the boy was a nature lover. However, to the disadvantage of the run-away fledgling, besides its Israeli origin, was the popular belief prevailing among Muslems that owls are omens of bad luck and had better be killed when caught.

Anyway, having identified the ring on the owl's leg, the boy approached his uncle, a Daraa resident and a bird-watcher with a special interest in nocturnal birds of prey. The Syrian bird watcher publicized the story on the Internet site of the European forum on bird ringing, describing how he realized that the barn owl had been ringed in the neighboring enemy state — Israel. The bird-watcher reported to the forum that he had released the bird, asking to keep his anonymity, explaining that he feared revenge from the Syrian authorities over "his relations with an enemy state."

The Israeli bird watchers were moved by the gesture. However, given the political situation in the region, they have never been able to directly contact the Syrian bird-watcher. A couple of days ago, a senior member of the Raptor Research Foundation [an international scientific society which focuses on nocturnal birds of prey] received an e-mail from a credible source — as attested by the senior member — telling him that the Daraa bird-watcher had been murdered at home by the Syrian regime's armed forces.

Even now, following his death, his friends and associates prefer not to expose his name or picture — this time, due to fear for the lives of his family members."The Raptor Research Foundation sends its condolences to his family and friends," the organization says in its statement. "We will all miss him."

The story was originally published by Maariv on November 30, 2010.



Found in: syria, israel

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