July 29, 2009, Updated September 14, 2012

Without one Israeli professor, half a billion of the world’s birds would be facing the threat of extinction. So why is his vital bird sanctuary under threat?


Israeli professor, Reuven Yosef manages a home for half a billion migrating birds. Without his vital sanctuary on the outskirts of Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, birds who naturally provide services estimated worth in the hundreds of billions of dollars to the European market, are under real threat of extinction.

Yosef, who founded the International Birding and Research Center on seven acres of city dump, offers food and shelter for the birds who often reach Eilat emaciated and at the end of their strength physiologically. They stop at his salt marsh for between four to six weeks, resting and refuelling, preparing themselves for the equally long journey ahead.

Without this tiny sanctuary, which has been recognized internationally, bird populations are likely to decline drastically, with a major knock on effect for the natural world.

In difficult economic times, however, private donations are drying up, and the Eilat Bird Sanctuary may have to close.

“Losing this project will have a big boomerang on humans,” says Yosef, the director of the sanctuary. “If this project is not allowed to go on the birds won’t make it. We take birds for granted. There are a lot of things that we humans simply do not appreciate enough – whether it is pollination of our crops or eliminating pests, there are whole crops that are dependent upon birds. If we destroy them it is going to destroy us.”


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