ZEISS is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2021. Within the framework of this anniversary, we would also like to highlight the extraordinary conservation work of the International Birding and Research Center in Eilat (IBRCE). Noam Weiss, the manager of the bird sanctuary, is part of the network of ZEISS friends worldwide.
Noam, the community-based flyway conservation by the IBRCE was chosen by COP 15 as an ‘outstanding’ example of global practice to protect bio-diversity. What does this mean to you?
Last month, I got a surprise Email from China, announcing our community-based conservation of the migratory flyway in Eilat as one of the best 100 global practices for biodiversity. The mail even stated our project to be one of the 19 ‘outstanding’ projects. The committee that chose our initiative was of the COP 15 United Nation’s summit in Kunming, China, for global biodiversity.
Our Community program is our ‘baby’. If our mission is to safeguard the migratory birds’ flyway in Eilat, our legacy of change goes through public opinion that can change the hearts of decision makers, who in turn can change the flyway’s reality. The Eilat Bird Sanctuary is built and maintained to encourage the hearts of people to love birds. It begins at the free entrance and always open gate, the smiley helpful staff, the beautiful art, made by local artists, decorating the entrance area, the washrooms wall, the ringing station front. The open window of the ringing station, accessible for children, who can see the scientific process and even touch and release a bird to its journey. Our fantastic ZEISS binoculars allow people to truly connect and feel close to the birds, and watch every detail of their plumage and behaviour.
The bird sanctuary becomes glorious at our communal events. Five times a year, we invite the community to experience guided birding, listen to a lecture, each time about a different topic, but always with an update of how they can help us. We do some guided birdwatching, using the great products ZEISS donated us, crafting with the kids, play games and dance with ear-phones (so as not to disturb the birds). Thousands come each time to the events, each with a different theme – celebrating migration, endangered species, plastic pollution, arts and birds, Lights on for birds in winter, and more.
The impact of our community work is clear. We have turned the hearts and minds of the public and decision makers to stop four different wind farm plans on the flyway; we’ve changed structures of pylons; changed construction orders of neighborhoods so the windows would be small and safe for birds; created buffer zones to mitigate disturbances; stopped hazardous touristic plans for a campsite at the Flamingo pools and a lot more; and we’ve been a major part of positive projects like creating better sewage reservoir for birds with the water company ‘En Netafim’, projects with ‘Salt of the Earth’ salt factory. and now we are in the process of the making of kibbutz Neot Smadar an awesome stopover site for birds. I feel I can safely say we have lost no campaigns in the last few years. The public is with us and so are the decision makers. We have changed reality for the sake of nature.
Besides this outstanding success, what else made 2021 so special for you?
A French TV crew came to Eilat in October to create material for a documentary about our community based conservation. Even Miss Universe 2020, Andrea Meza, accompanied by our supportive mayor Eli Lankry, came to show respect and congratulate us on our work. And yet a few days later, another first for Israel lands at the Eilat Bird Sanctuary – a Chestnut Bunting from Eastern Siberia!
Here you can read more about the global biodiversity prize: https://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/un-declares-eilats-birding-center-one-of-most-important-global-biodiversity-projects/2021/11/07/