A UNIQUE tourist attraction is threatened by plans to build a Club Méditerranée holiday complex on Morocco's Atlantic coast. Tifnit village, near Agadir, attracts many international visitors keen to see the world's last colony of northern bald ibises, which nest in the area.
The birds, which have long curved bills
and red, featherless heads, are close to extinction: only 65 breeding pairs
are left. Now they face a further threat with proposals for a 7,000-bed
holiday centre on 240 acres of
the Souss-Massa National Park, which was set up 10 years ago to protect them.
The planned development has been made possible because 500 acres of the land had been allocated to Agadir's regional development body before the national park was created.
Chris Bowden, a BirdLife International
research biologist working to safeguard the colony, said: "Unfortunately,
this [the proposed site of the development] includes an area where a large
proportion of the total ibis
population feeds during many months of the year."
Mr Bowden said Morocco was looking to expand its tourist industry and that Club Med, which opened its first tourist village in the country in the 1950s, had been invited to build more complexes.
In January the company signed a contract with the Moroccan government, agreeing to a major investment to establish holiday villages in Al Hoceima, Tangiers, Marrakesh, Dahkla and Tifnit.
"BirdLife International is very concerned by the prospect of the loss of the last wild population of this species, which is already threatened," said Mr Bowden. The results of two separate environmental studies will be discussed at talks between BirdLife and Club Med at the end of this month.
Mr Bowden said: "While very worried about Club Med's plans, we are cautiously optimistic that a compromise can be found."
Meanwhile, GOMAC, a Moroccan ornithological organisation, supported by a Europe-based conservation campaign group, PROACT, has launched an internet petition to halt the development.
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