(photo credit: )
The second day of discussion during the fifth KKL-JNF World Leadership Conference in Eilat began with a humorous, eye-opening lecture delivered by Dr. Yossi Leshem, internationally renowned ornithologist.
"We live at the crossroads between three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. From a geographical standpoint this could be seen as a catastrophe... On the other hand, Israel is unique in that it hosts a large variety of plant and animal life. Each year 500 million birds fly over the country - a unique international phenomenon.
Dr. Leshem described the bird-watching stations established by KKL-JNF in Eilat, Kibbutz Loten, and in the Hulah Lake. "Israel is already an attractive focal point today in the field of ornithology, and I would like to propose an idea - that KKL-JNF will develop a national and international program that will bring students and ornithologists here from all over the world. KKL-JNF is presently performing a huge job, and I believe that this is the right direction and is important. We can also give tourists who visit - especially those from abroad - the opportunity to see a huge variety of birds in large numbers."
For example, he presented instances in which 100,000 storks landed in one site, and described the Hubbara - a large bird that is almost extinct because of excessive hunting in neighboring countries. Dr. Leshem also showed a film in which the audience was able to observe the strange mating ceremony of the Hubbara that was photographed in the Western Negev, where several dozen pairs still remain. In addition, he noted that Lake Hulah, the flagship of KKL-JNF in the north of the country, is a focal point that has a vast tourist potential.
Dr. Leshem talked about the multi-annual project in which extensive efforts have been made to decrease the injury to birds by air force planes. He noted that most of the collisions occur during the migration season, and that unfortunately three pilots have been killed and 20 planes crashed in events involving migrating birds. Research has been conducted to solve this problem that will document the migration routes and timing of bird migration that are characteristic of the various types of birds. Maps have been drawn and radar equipment erected that transmits information to the Air Force command. Supervisors have been trained to monitor the movements of birds. Air force flights are halted if there is a possibility that a collision might occur.
The observations and monitoring of birds and their migration routes are being conducted using state-of-the-art technology, including satellite broadcasts, online cameras, GPS, and the Internet, which is an excellent platform for transmitting and receiving information from locations all over the globe.
During his lecture Leshem reported. "This is a slide showing an article from Maariv. The pelican in the picture was hunted in Sudan, and you can see that it has a transmitter attached to it. When it became apparent to the Sudanese that it came from Israel with a transmitter, they immediately came to the conclusion that Israel was attempting to spy on them using birds. And that was how $10,000 went up in smokeâ€¦."
Dr. Leshem spoke about a program for establishing a bird-watching center in the Brigades Forest and noted that there is nothing more natural than cooperation with KKL-JNF for establishing such a center. Birds are studied in approximately 3000 schools in Israel. There is international cooperation in the area of monitoring birds, and the vision for the future is the establishment of a chain of schools in Jewish communities throughout the world to study ornithology. "Birds unite people. Birds know their routes and fly over borders. That's the way people should be, too!"
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