By Shaun Hurrell
Hunting has deep cultural roots in the Middle East, and Lebanon is no exception. Uncontrolled hunting is the largest threat to migratory birds in Lebanon and is undermining all conservation efforts for many globally threatened and vulnerable species. Awareness needs to be improved, collectively, as hunting is a shared responsibility of the country. In this latest update from a large project led by the Lebanese Environment Forum (LEF) and supported by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL; BirdLife Partner) and funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a big step forward has been made that has gotten everyone on board with a potential new solution: Responsible Hunting Areas.
Despite its small geographical area, 399 species of bird have been recorded in Lebanon: its situation along the Red Sea/Rift Valley Flyway means it is globally important for migratory soaring birds. Yet many shooters are not aware of the details of the law, safety measures or the wider conservation implications of their decision to aim at a bird, any bird, and pull the trigger. With an estimated 500,000 hunters in the small country, migratory birds are shot out of the sky on private and public lands and even in buffer zones of protected areas.
Despite strict new hunting laws and application decrees issued officially in December 2012, awareness of them is still limited, and practicality for their implementation notoriously difficult to agree on.
It is with this in mind that CEPF funded a large grant to promote sustainable hunting practices in Lebanon, using a community-based approach. LEF, brought together over 100 people from civil society, hunting organisations, national government and media to discuss the concept of Responsible Hunting Areas and put it into action.
“The LEF is a forum of a large number of the conservation NGOs in Lebanon, and so are best-placed to ensure everyone has discussed the plan and is on board with the decisions made,” said Sharif Jbour, Programme Officer for the Middle East, CEPF Mediterranean Regional Implementation Team.
“We are very pleased everyone collectively came to a consensus.”
Importantly, there is now national agreement and endorsement for Responsible Hunting Areas, which will permit properly-regulated hunting, whilst a strict ban will be enforced elsewhere in Lebanon.
With hunting so deeply rooted in Lebanese society, this news is a great step forward that balances the need to protect migratory birds and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) with the culture of the Lebanese people.
Originally called Public Hunting Areas, the name was changed to Responsible Hunting Areas to reflect their intended use. But where to locate an area for responsible hunting? The first pilot sites are now being tested on municipal land, subject to monitoring, strict Environmental Impact Assessments and management plans. If all goes well, this model can be rolled out to other sites in the country and create a better future for migratory birds in the Mediterranean.
Responsibility is key
This project is complimented by another project coordinated by SPNL and funded by the MAVA foundation, in which SPNL have recently developed and implemented the first training course for responsible hunters in Lebanon that prepares all hunters for a mandated national hunting license exam.
“The training programme aims to turn indiscriminate, unprofessional ‘shooters’ into responsible, sustainable hunters”,
said Bassima Khatib, Assistant Director General for SPNL.
BirdLife International – including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, BirdLife in France) – is providing the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (CEPF Med).
Find out more at www.birdlife.org/cepf-med.
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. Additional support in the Mediterranean Basin is provided by the MAVA Foundation. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at www.cepf.net.