By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN — Plans are under way to announce Burqu in the eastern desert as a nature reserve to protect species endemic to the ancient and historical site, according to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).

Sustainable development projects and income generating ventures are being implemented in Burqu in Mafraq Governorate, over 80km northeast of Amman, to show the local community the positives of a nature reserve before announcing one, according to RSCN Director General Yehya Khaled.

“The approval and cooperation of the local community is a fundamental prerequisite before establishing a nature reserve in any part of the country,” Khaled told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

He noted that Burqu hosts unique plant and animal species, qualifying it to become a nature reserve.

Head of environmental studies at the RSCN, Nashat Hmeidan, said that the proposed nature reserve represents the basalt desert of Jordan, underscoring that species in Burqu have different and unique characteristics and endurance capacities, having adapted to the rough environment of the area.

“Burqu has several endemic species, such as the desert lark, the basalt desert agama and the black desert gecko,” Hmeidan told The Jordan Times.

In addition, caracals and wolves are found in Burqu as well as endemic plants, such as Diplotaxis harra and medicinal aromatic plants such as mugwort and achillea.

Another major importance of Burqu is the presence of the sand cat, according to Hmeidan, who noted that its recent sighting in Burqu is the fourth since the 1960s.

Burqu is situated some 28km off the main road to Rweished. It serves as a refuge for migratory birds and represents one of the Kingdom’s last oases, hosting a freshwater lake which serves animal life and nearby residents alike.

It also boasts Qasr Burqu, which is believed to have been built by the Romans in the 3rd century.

Inhabited continuously during the Byzantine period, Qasr Burqu was expanded and fortified by Emir Walid in the early 8th century, with inscriptions on the entrance praising his work.

Nearby the lake are Roman-era dams, believed to have been built at the same time as the fort and led to the creation of the lake, fed by subterranean waters and have stood for nearly 2,000 years.