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Iraqi politicians have approved plans to create the country’s first ever national park, in the area widely held to be the setting for the biblical story of Adam and Eve.
The vast expanse of marshland in the south of the country is home to species such as water buffalo, the Basra reed warbler and the Iraq babbler.
Its wetland ecosystem, the largest in the Middle East, was thought to be lost forever after Saddam Hussein cut off the country's two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, in an attempt to expel the Ma’dan tribes following the first Gulf War in 1991. Ninety-three percent of the ecosystem was destroyed.
After Saddam’s downfall in 2003 the dams were destroyed and the water returned, restoring the reed beds and the wildlife.
To the surprise of conservationists, all 278 recorded bird species survived, reports the New Scientist. "It shows how resilient nature can be, and gives hope that other lost wetlands can be restored,” said Richard Porter of Birdlife International.
Azzam Alwash is the founder and president of Nature Iraq, the charity that campaigned for the park’s creation. “For Iraq, the fact that we are willing to dedicate a portion of our land to nature is a wonderful step,” he said.
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