Islamic Republic of Iran designates 22nd Ramsar site
Iran helps Siberian Cranes with new Ramsar site
The Ramsar Bureau is very pleased to announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran has designated its 22nd Wetland of International Importance, a BirdLife "Important Bird Area" and Wildlife Refuge near the southern Caspian seacoast. "Fereydoon Kenar, Ezbaran & Sorkh Ruds Ab-Bandans" (5,427 ha, 36°40'N, 52°33'E) in Mazandaran province is an artificially maintained wetland in the South Caspian lowlands.
As described by Ramsar's Liazzat Rabbiosi from the site's RIS, it comprises four "damgahs", i.e. shallow freshwater impoundments based on rice paddies developed as duck-trapping areas, surrounded by forest strips and reedbeds, and including a small Wildlife Refuge (48ha). The area is of outstanding importance as wintering grounds for the entire western population of the Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus), listed as 'critically endangered' in the IUCN Red Book. Having reappeared at the site in 1978 after 60 years' absence, the number of Siberian Cranes now fluctuates between 7-14. Other endangered species using the site include Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis, Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus, Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus and occasionally Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, and wintering raptors such as Falco sp. and Haliaeetus albicilla. The site's agricultural lands are flooded during summer, thus supporting groundwater recharge and water supply for irrigation during the dry months. Apart from rice farming the land is used for forestry and fishery.
An important traditional activity is duck trapping, originally a main source of income during the winter months but now done primarily for sport. ("During the trapping procedure, domestic ducks are thrown into the air in the direction of the pond. The heavy, poorly-flying ducks land noisily in the pond. The sight and sound of these flying and feeding ducks arouse the curiosity of wild ducks in the main flooded field. They swim up the narrow channel to the pond where they are netted by trappers. Because of the height of the brush surrounding the pond and the narrowness of the channel, the wild ducks are unable to take flight and quickly trapped.") In the past at the end of each trapping season the area was opened up for gun hunting in a massive "shoot-out", creating a potential threat for Siberian Cranes to be shot accidentally, but in 2001 the Department of Environment designated the whole site as a Non-Shooting Area.
Conservation measures include annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses and an MoU on Siberian Cranes with 9 'range states' of the Convention on Migratory Species. A GEF project, implemented through UNEP and coordinated by the International Crane Foundation and CMS, aims to conserve the critical sites used by Siberian Cranes for breeding, staging during migration, and the main wintering grounds.