The Black Ibis

The stretch of Atlantic coast between mouth of the rivers Souss and Massa is since 1991 a National Park. It is an area of sand dunes, grazed steppes, sandy beaches, cliffs interspersed with wetlands. The steppes are now reserved for the gazelle and the Black Ibis. The Black Ibis used to be plentiful between Morocco and Turkey, but has become endangered due to urbanization and over grazing. The area is home to three of the four breeding grounds of the bird. It is now 95% of its population in the entire world. The Black Ibis breeds in the holes in the cliffs where they are safe from predators. Since the foundation of the National Park grazing on the lands behind the cliffs became prohibited for sheep and goats. This ensured that the population of the Black Ibis has now more or less stabilized. In the fall of 2014 when we were staying in Sidi Rabat Abdelrahman took us for a trip along the top of the cliffs between Sidi Rabat and Tifnit. There is no road but the ground is flat and firm. We could take the car. Driving slowly and carefully we came upon a flock of about twenty Black Ibises right at the edge of the cliffs. They were very close! We immediately stopped and I got my sketchbook out. We kept very quiet and I could make this drawing without disturbing them. It took about half an hour to get the birds on paper. All the while they acted as if we weren’t there at all. Later when I read up on the Black Ibis on the Internet I saw posts by ornithologists who were proud to have seen a couple of birds from afar. Then I realized how lucky I had been.

© Peti Buchel