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Birds as peacemakers 

August 23, 2018 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
COST: Free to Congress Delegates | $25 per person [public]



Yossi Leshem

Yossi Leshem is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University. He has worked since 1971 at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), the leading NGO in Israel, and was the CEO from 1991-1995. The Founder and Director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration, he acts as the Secretary of the Hoopoe Foundation. He is involved in a variety of activities in bird migration research, in educational activities, and cooperation with the Palestinians and the Jordanians, titled "Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries". He leads a regional project using Barn Owls and Kestrels as biological pest control agents. Yossi's research for his doctorate resulted in a decrease of 76% in the number of collisions between aircraft and birds and has saved the national budget over one billion dollars, not to mention the lives of the aircrews.


Alexandre Roulin

Alexandre Roulin is a full professor of biology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. For two decades he has studied barn owls to answer evolutionary and ecological scientific questions. His main scientific interests are the adaptive function of melanin-based coloration and negotiation processes taking place in animal societies. Since 2009, he has actively participated in the project of promoting cooperation between the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian communities using nature conservation as a tool. His ambition is to reconcile human with nature and to use inter-disciplinary approaches to promote peace and respect to our environment.


Mansour Abu Rashid

Gen. (Ret.) Mansour Abu Rashid is the founder and chairman of the Amman Center for Peace and Development (ACPD), an NGO that was established in 2000 and to date works passionately to overcome regional divides and to seek collaborative solutions of common problems. ACPD has a unique fingerprint on facilitating dialogue between the peoples of the Middle East and improving understanding and tolerance. Through implementing tens of cross border projects, workshops and seminars, ACPD encourages people to engage in a meaningful dialogue based on mutual respect. ACPD continues to hold on to the conviction that only through dialogue and positive engagement it will be possible to overcome hostility and conflict. Before founding ACPD, Gen. (Ret.) Mansour Abu Rashid served in the Jordanian Army Forces for 35 years where he held many positions such as the leading of the negotiations that resulted in the 1994 Peace Treaty between Jordan and Israel.

During thousands of years of history, the Middle East, located at the junction of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – has been a focus for tension, conflicts and wars which continue to this day. On the other hand, the Middle East comprises a bottleneck of international importance for bird migration, one of the most important worldwide. Over 500 million birds migrate over the region twice a year. The diversity of species is also exceptional, and for example, in Israel with an area of 24,000 square kilometers, 540 species of birds can be observed with origins from Asia, Africa and Europe.

In the framework of the Vancouver International Bird Festival for the public, on the evening of Thursday, August 23rd 2018, three senior representatives from the Middle East: Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and a representative from Switzerland (University of Lausanne) will be giving a lecture at the Vancouver Convention Centre to an audience of 2,000. The lecture titled "Birds Know No Boundaries" will present their work during the last two decades, and their efforts to jointly advance projects for the conservation of bird species and their habitats, joint research and extensive educational activities. But of no less significance, they will present their projects to connect between nations, between Muslims and Jews with the birds constituting a tool for cooperation focusing on people-to-people activities at the levels of researchers, conservationists, farmers, schoolchildren, NGOs and politicians.

- As a special inclusion, the Tempest Flute Ensemble, comprised of some of Western Canada's most virtuosic flutists, will present the Canadian premiere of Emergent Behaviour, by JUNO award winning composer Jordan Nobles. Inspired by the self-organized swooping of starlings, Emergent Behaviour positions musicians above and around their audience, immersing the listener in a sound world that swirls and spins without any apparent central coordination. -


Besides the lecture, an exhibition "Artists for Nature – Saving the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth" will be exhibited during the entire festival. This exhibition is based on about 300 artworks prepared during a seminar in March 2017 by over 20 artists from around the world who came to the Middle East to paint in Jordan and Israel, and capture the uniqueness of the region and the importance of its conservation. The seminar was organized by the Artists for Nature Foundation (ANF) and the lecturers' organizations.

During the congress, a new album of artwork from the ANF seminar will be launched - "Bringing the Dead Sea to Life - Art and Nature at the Lowest Place on Earth", which will include about 200 selected artworks created around the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan during the 12-day seminar. The book will be available for purchase at the Expo so make sure to stop by our booth #609. For examples of the artwork, CLICK HERE



Topics that will be presented during the congress include:

  • The Barn Owl and Common Kestrel - biological pest control agents in agriculture

The project that began with 20 nesting boxes in 1983 with the number today standing at 4,500 nesting boxes in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The project, also being expanded to Cyprus, Morocco, Turkey and Greece – the entire Mediterranean basin – is aimed at significantly reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture in the Middle East. Click on the link below to see the movie!

  • The joint project with the German Max Planck Institute and USAID was expanded to joint educational activities with schools in Israel, in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, and includes online cameras in raptor nests.Tracking migrating birds using satellite transmitters

Route of the White Stork Princessa, from Germany via the Middle East to Cape Town, tracked using a satellite transmitter during 13 consecutive years
Muslim and Jewish schoolchildren watch wintering cranes together in the Middle East [Photo: Ephi Sharir]

  • Art and music for birding and nature

Activities with the American composer and musician Paul Winter who composed the work FLYWAYS on bird migration along the Great Rift Valley. Workshops were held with the artists and Jordanian, Palestinian, Bedouin and Jewish schoolchildren who also joined the project. Click on the link below to see the movie!


  • Swifts nesting in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem and Mosques in Amman - connecting the dots between religion, birds and urban nature

On March 2018 the 5th International Swift Conference was held in Israel jointly with the Palestinians, Jordanians and delegates from 20 countries to advance the unique and significant aspects of the initiative in regional cooperation and urban conservation, with the support of people from the three Abrahamic religions.

March 14th 2018: Swifts flying in front of and above the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. 89 pairs have been nesting in the Western Wall for 2,000 years. Thousands of video frames are combined with the help of a special algorithm to a single image. [Photo by: Lothar Schiffler]

Tree of Hope with swifts instead of leaves, in the Garden of Hope at St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem by British sculptor Mark Coreth [Photo: Baruch Gian]
  • Champions of the Flyway, Eilat

On March 26th 2018 for the fifth year in a row, 32 teams of birders from 14 nationalities took to the field for 24 hours of birding, tallying over 240 species of birds. The teams consisted of birders of varying levels, aged 6-83. The fundraising for Champions of the Flyway 2018 was the strongest and most productive ever. For the first time ever we decided to raise funds for a specific region and not a single country conservation cause. The 2018 funds will be aimed at tackling the illegal killing of birds along the Adriatic Flyway and will be evenly divided between two different Birdlife Partners; BIOM (Birdlife Croatia) and Bird Protection and Study Society Serbia (Birdlife Serbia). In the previous years, the funds were awarded to Cyprus, Georgia (Batumi), Greece, Turkey and Croatia. See the race below!