abunug, the oriental population of Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) -the indigenous ecological knowledge of the nomads of the Syrian steppe

abunug, a bird that has become functionally extinct around 2012, has had an important cultural relevance in the Near East region

The oriental population of the Northern Bald Ibis (abunug or abumingel) was declared extinct when the last survivors of the last known breeding colony in the region were put into captivity in 1989 in southern Anatolia (Turkey). Unexpectedly, in 2002 a relict breeding colony was discovered in the Syrian desert (Serra et al. 2002) reviving the hopes to rescue the population. But the population became probably functionally extinct in 2012 due to scarce support by the international conservation community.

The species is known as Abu Mingel in the classic Arabic, meaning the father of the scythe. The Bedouin nomads of the Syrian steppe called it Abu Nug (or abunug), meaning the father of the female camel (due to its way of moving the head back and forth while walking on the ground).

The ibis family (Threskiornitidae) was regarded as a symbol of wisdom by the Egyptian early dynasties (eg the ibis-headed Toth god). The N. Bald Ibis was the divinity known as Akh responsible for carrying the dead to the afterlife, as shown by a 4500-old hieroglyph from Edfu.

In 2005, while serving a biodiversity conservation project in the Syrian steppe, I met an elderly nomad who said that abunug was regarded as a symbol of wisdom by his tribe…


For more info: thelastflight.org

Location Description: 

Syrian steppe, known as al badia - the beginning of everything in the Bedouin nomad idiom

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