A action plan promoting responsible hunting and tourism was announced Sunday by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), under the patronage of President Michel Aoun’s Special Assistant Claudine Aoun Roukoz. The project was launched at the BIOLAND Farm Restaurant in near Batroun. In attendance were experts from Europe, environmental associations and representatives of academic institutions.
Hunting season is near, which is a vulnerable time for animals, especially birds. For this reason, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), in partnership with President Michel Aoun’s special assistant Claudine Aoun Roukoz, launched a plan that aims at organizing and regulating hunting in Lebanon. SPNL uncovered a 5-year-plan that aims at promoting eco-tourism and responsible hunting in Lebanon in partnership with hunters. It is scheduled to be implemented in cooperation with the municipalities and other local administrative bodies over a period of five years.
The event was supported by many partners including Lush represented by Mrs. Lina Tannir. Lush is a campaigning organisation, that use its global reach to champion various ethical issues in support of human and animal rights and environmental protection.
“we are so incredibly happy to be supporting SPNL because migrating bird numbers are in serious decline. World ecological function is collapsing- and species movements is one aspect of that, caused by hunting and other human impacts”. Tannir concluded.
“We celebrate today the launch of a five-year plan,” Assad Serhal, Director General of SPNL, said Sunday. “As promised, we finalized a roadmap in cooperation with the hunters themselves, in order to organize hunting and guarantee the protection of birds and implement as well as promote responsible ecotourism.” The plan of action also details a strategy for the role of local administrative bodies in enforcing the law on the protection of birds.
“By preserving our home we are saving our world,” Claudine Aoun Roukoz, Special Assistant to the President, said at the launch. “The flora and the fauna make up the ecosystem and without them life would not be possible.”
Roukoz mentioned that laws are not enough to protect animals: it is necessary to raise awareness about the urgency of this issue. After all, the extinction of birds can create an imbalance in the ecosystem which can harm the environment and human beings. At the end of the conference, Roukoz released a woodpecker which is threatened with extinction in Lebanon.
SPNL – Birdlife International represented by Mr. Assaad Serhal gave Roukoz Birdlife’s certificate honoring the Lebanese Presidency and competent authorities for efforts exerted to protect biodiversity and making our country a safe haven for migrating birds. “We are honored to receive this international certificate and we shall continue our efforts to make Lebanon a getaway for wildlife and natural wealth”.Roukoz commented on her Facebook page.
The event witnessed the presence of a group of five activists representing The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), a Bonn based NGO whom deliver protection for migratory wild birds by conducting a variety of ‘Bird Protection Camps’ in and around the poaching hotspot areas of the Mediterranean such as Malta, Italy and Cyprus.(CABS) interventions including campaigns and lobbying focus on illegal trapping, hunting and trade of wild birds against current nature protection legislation.(CABS) always work in conjunction with the relevant authorities to improve both regulation and enforcement.(CABS) findings assist relevant statutory agencies in taking the lead on dozens of prosecutions each year. In addition, through initiatives at a parliamentary level,(CABS) attempt to achieve improvements in the legal guidelines for wildlife, nature and species protection.
The hunting season will begin in September and end in January. New regulations were announced by Environment Minister Tarek Khatib in April. These include hunters passing an exam on hunting laws and a physical and mental health exam.
On Monday CABS team caught the first poacher in Lebanon: a man was observed shooting at protected birds during the closed season, in the mountains east of the capital Beirut near Zaarour and was filmed by an overt team. The Internal Security Services (ISL) were immediately called and arrived on the scene within 15 minutes. The man was issued with a formal warning and his details were taken following the evidence provided by our team. Our team on the ground are also working in close cooperation with pro-regulation hunting groups and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL).
The planned CABS/SPNL joint mission, nicknamed ́Operation Safe Haven ́, is a response to the widespread illegal killing of migratory storks, flamingos and birds of prey in the Lebanon; an issue which has been gaining increasing media exposure and international attention; and is evidently becoming out of control. Recent studies have revealed that between two and three million birds are killed in the Lebanon each year with more than 290 species being affected. Most of the birds killed by Lebanese poachers belong to migratory species of international conservation concern and breed in Europe, where considerable resources and efforts are put into protecting the last remaining breeding pairs. These efforts are undermined, if the birds don’t come back because they get shot on their migration route.
Axel Hirschfeld (Biologist, CABS Operations Officer) said that the mission aims to help the Lebanese authorities to cope with the poaching problem. CABS and SPNL will be conducting a joint operation to monitor hunting violations against storks and other protected species during the peak autumn migration period of 1 – 11 September 2017. Our plan is to have two teams out in the field each day with one local and three international experts in each team. A list of known poaching areas and observation points where our teams will operate is currently being prepared by SPNL and will then be worked down by the teams in the course of the camp. The teams will be equipped with video cameras, binoculars and powerful spotting scopes. All incidents of shooting or trapping of protected bird species will be filmed.
The principal aims of the operation are the documentation of acts of illegal hunting as well as the deterrence of potential law-breakers by a regular presence of the teams in the main hunting ‘hotspots’ such as the coastal front of the Jbeil region and to a lesser extent the Beqaa area and along the mid-heights of the western slopes of Mount Lebanon. A detailed summary about the expedition ́s findings will be sent to all relevant Lebanese authorities, the office of the President as well as to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Offices of the Secretariat of the international Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).