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May 2018 REPORT Illegal hunting in Lebanon

Bird conservation is an important issue to many people around the world. The first weeks in May see two major global bird events; World Migratory Bird Day on the 12th May is celebrated in numerous countries and used to raise awareness around the multitude of problems faced by migratory birds, Global Big Day on the 5th May is a global challenge where birdwatchers in many countries compete to record the greatest number of species in a day. More regionally, just last month on the 26th April 2018, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, donated $1m to a $20m fund that will combat threats to migrating birds.

Sadly, Lebanon doesn't take these events that seriously, there remains the attitude that birds are there to be shot at and that their protection is not that important.

However, they are important. Birds provide essential services to humanity such as pest control, pollination and waste disposal that are worth several billion dollars in monetary terms. Even though they are persecuted by many they still perform vital services in Lebanon. This year it is likely to be dry, there having been insufficient precipitation in Winter and Spring. Dry years can cause an increase in the number of insects and rodents that can attack crops. Many of the birds illegally killed are the chief predators of these pests. Therefore, by killing their natural predators there is potential to aggravate this problem. Farmers may need to use more pesticides, that costs them money, can cause negative health effects to those spraying the chemicals and people may eat food containing excessive pesticide residues. Furthermore, the on-going survival of birds is an indicator of the health of the environment and it had been demonstrated in several studies that having birds close by and seeing them in the natural environment has a beneficial effect on mental health. Sadly, in the last few weeks (March, April, May) there have been several reports of illegal massacres of both migrating and locally breeding birds. Shooting incidents have been reported from across the whole of Lebanon. Further to the fact that the hunting season is closed, many of the species being killed are not legal game species. Many of them are protected by international commitments, that Lebanon is currently failing to meet. Numerous species killed are of global conservation concern. Specifically, there have been reports of: î„Ź


Migrating white storks have been killed in several spots (Ebel el Saqi & Marjayoun region – South Lebanon). Illegal hunting is taking place (nearby

officers) on a daily basis in Maghdouche with the use of calling machines to attract birds from neighboring villages. 

Raptors are regularly shot in the Donnieh region of North Lebanon (Beit aoukar, Terbol, Kfarhabou, Hilan)

Further to these significant incidents there are illegal shootings reported up and down the country on a daily basis. The so-called hunters target all types of bird, including; species breeding in Lebanon (Chukar, shrikes…) migrants to Eurasia (European Bee-eaters, Swallows, Blackcaps, Eurasian Golden Orioles…). Also, it should not be forgotten that the problem is not just shooting. Many birds are caught using traps and nets for sale to the pet trade (Goldfinches, Bulbuls, Chukar…) or for the meat trade (Quails, Blackcaps…). As with several cases in the past pictures of these massacres have been posted on social media for all to see. What some in Lebanon think is an unimportant problem is viewed by many people around the world as a disgrace and the damage to the country's reputation is immeasurably negative. The actions of these illegal shooters reflect terribly on many Lebanese who desperately want to change the way the country is viewed by the rest of the world.

It must be obvious to the Internal Security forces and other authorities that these violations are occurring; the gunshots and the sound of electronic and calling machines can be heard from considerable distances, some of the locations listed above are well known hunting black-spots that activists repeatedly report to the authorities, and the shooters themselves still post photos on social media of their crimes. However, even though problems are there for all to see and were reported to the authorities, activists working in the field did not see any significant anti-poaching patrols during the spring migration. It should be noted that there are many hunters that are following the law. Some legal hunting groups have demonstrated a commitment to ending the wholesale slaughter that we have seen in the last few years. Many responsible hunters also paid for a license for the past season as a demonstration of their willingness to adopt the new law. This is a very simplistic analysis, but, let us say that during the last hunting season the Ministry of Environment issued 17,000 licenses, this generated $1.7m, excluding the cost of insurance and other tests. Ultimately as more licenses are issued the funds generated could be used to assist in policing the law, conservation, or for vital infrastructure.


However, as with conservation activists, many hunters feel that the problem lies not in the law, but in enforcement. A very serious consequence of a failure to enforce the law, is that legal hunters are unlikely to pay for a license in future. They feel like the payment for a license has been worthless since they have seen no benefits of controlling illegal hunting. Activists have recently spoken to many responsible hunters. These responsible individuals feel let down that they have bought a license at great cost and that nothing has changed. They see many shooters killing illegal species, many hunters without the license, insurance and other documents and importantly they see that none of these illegal shooters are punished in any way. That leaves all hunters thinking that buying a license was a waste of money and that nothing has changed. It therefore seems unlikely then that they will renew their license knowing that so far it has been a waste of time and money. As far as they are concerned there is no problem, the on-going lack of enforcement means they can carry on hunting with little or no chance of ever being prosecuted. Since we have seen that license fees generate a significant revenue there are potential problems if hunters choose to ignore having them. If licenses are not renewed and their increased there could be a significant financial loss to the economy and this is simply through a lack of effort to enforce a very reasonable law. It will be interesting to see how applications for licenses for the 2018-2019 compare to this year, and even though we have our doubts, we hope that license numbers increase. We feel that the hunting law, the dates of the season and the license system are very clear, what has been almost totally absent is enforcement and prosecution. We feel the ISF and other appropriate authorities could be doing much more in a proactive way to prevent these massacres from taking place, they could be more determined in following up reports and in prosecuting illegal poachers. We don’t expect all illegal hunting to stop overnight but think that with a display of commitment from the authorities this problem could be brought under control. This could simply be through starting with regular patrols of the known hunting black-spots and knowing who the likely repeat offenders are. The ISF could do more to demonstrate how they are effectively catching and prosecuting these people, they could use the traditional and social medias to show that these offenders are being arrested, fined or prosecuted and that serious action is being taken. We feel that through some simple measures, carried out with dedication we can start to bring this problem under control. Unless this happens soon, it will be a sorely missed opportunity to bring this problem under control, we will have failed the birds, we will have lost potential revenue to the economy and we will have done little to repair the damage done to Lebanon's reputation by these crimes.


Lebanese Bird Conservation Coalition Report (May 2018)  

In the last few days, there have been several reports of illegal massacres of migrant and locally breeding birds. These shooting incidents h...

Lebanese Bird Conservation Coalition Report (May 2018)  

In the last few days, there have been several reports of illegal massacres of migrant and locally breeding birds. These shooting incidents h...