The Ministry of Environment released a book on Qatar’s Irkaya region on 10 May 2015, celebrating the World Migratory Bird Day, which takes place every year on 9 and 10 May.

HE Minister of Environment Ahmed bin Mohammed Amer Al Humaidi signed the book. In a foreword published in the book, HE Al Humaidi said that the State of Qatar aims to have an advanced society that can sustain its development and provide a high standard of living of its citizens. HE added that Qatar National Vision 2030 was a working plan to achieve that goal. HE Al Humaidi stressed the need to achieve a balance between developmental needs and the importance of conserving the environment. He noted that the Qatari society must ensure its rapid economic growth does not increase the country’s carbon footprint. As a result, HE Al Humaidi stressed on the importance of enhancing the legal framework to act as a guardian of the environment.

Irkaya is an area of arable farmland in the centre of the Qatar. Irkaya Farm is located off the Abu Samra Road about 50 kilometers west of Doha in the south central plain of Qatar. Irkaya sits like a glowing emerald in the middle of the desert. It is home to many resident species and lies on the flight path of migratory birds and insects passing through Qatar. It can even be seen from space on satellite maps. On the farm, a ‘central-pivot’ system of irrigation is used on the fields where animal fodder is cultivated. The fields consist of sandy and loamy topsoil on a flat, sandy plain with water-worn pebbles.

This is not the first time a book on Irkaya has been published. In March 2014, the Ministry of Interior also released a book featuring the rich biodiversity of Irkaya. The purpose of the book is to create awareness among the people of Qatar of the remarkable fauna and flora to be found in just one small area in the heart of the country: Irkaya. At Irkaya, more species of birds have been recorded than anywhere else in Qatar: out of 315 species, 238 (76%) have been seen at Irkaya. Few areas on earth can claim to host such a high percentage of their country’s birds.

Out of the 59 species of birds that breed in Qatar, a large number breed at Irkaya. Some are year-round residents. Others arrive in spring, and then depart after nesting. The rest are passage migrants that ‘drop in’ while on their way to breeding grounds farther north or to wintering grounds farther south. Some choose to spend the winter in Irkaya.

Among the birds recorded at Irkhaya, 15 species are globally endangered. This includes the Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarious, one of the most endangered species in the world, and a winter visitor to the farm. Among  the other birds present are  the Saker Falcon, Egyptian Vulture, Eastern Imperial and Greater Spotted Eagles, European Roller, Pallid Harrier, Socotra Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Black-winged Pratincole, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Semi-collared Flycatcher and Eastern Cinereous Bunting.

The birds of Irkaya have been photographed and recorded over many years. However, work has only just begun on studying the flora and other fauna of this unique area. There are also reptiles, arachnids including species of spiders and scorpions, and hundreds of insects that will surely be found here in the course of future research.