The eastern population of the northern bald ibis Geronticus eremita had been presumed extinct following the loss of the colony in Birecik, Turkey, in 1989. However, occasional sightings of birds in Yemen, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Israel during the 1980s and 1990s suggested that there was still a colony somewhere in the Middle East. Intensive field surveys in spring 2002, based on the knowledge of Bedouin nomads and local hunters, revealed that the species has never become completely extinct on the Syrian desertic steppe. Following systematic searches 15 old nesting sites were found, one of them still hosting an active breeding colony of seven individuals. The species appears to have been relatively common in the area until 20 years ago, when a combination of overexploitation of rangelands and increasing hunting pressure initiated a dramatic decline.