Over the last week the international team of ‘Bird Guards’ (1) from the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) witnessed the shooting down of over 70 protected birds of prey and discovered 25 dead protected birds on Mount Lebanon near Beirut. An injured Marsh Harrier shot on the wing was also found by the conservationists.
This is the first time an international team of bird conservationists together with local pro regulation hunters and birdwatchers are carrying out antipoaching operations in the Lebanon.
CABS and SPNL teams joined by responsible hunters from the Middle East Sustainable Hunting Centre were met by a barrage of shots by illegal shooters in Aghbeh near Beirut. They found 16 freshly killed Honey Buzzards, a dead Marsh Harrier as well as one an injured Marsh Harrier on Wednesday morning.
The Lebanese Internal Security Forces which were informed arrived at the scene within an hour and took details of the crime scene and evidence presented by CABS and SPNL team members. The injured Marsh Harrier was taken to a veterinary and was subsequently put down due to severe shotgun injuries.
When the team returned to the same area on Thursday morning which coincided with a strong raptor migration, they witnessed the shooting down of over 50 Honey Buzzards in just less than two hours early morning. Six freshly killed buzzards were also found in the area.
CABS Operations officer Axel Hirschfeld who was with the team that found the dead and injured birds said:
“These are migrating birds that were coming from Europe and Asia and flying to their wintering grounds in Africa but their journeys have unfortunately ended due to irresponsible Lebanese shooters. We witnessed such a massacre in just a small area over a few hours during the closed hunting season. We cannot imagine how many thousands if not millions of protected birds are killed each year in Lebanon.”
Marsh Harriers and Honey Buzzards are both species of international conservation concern whose populations have suffered severe declines over the last 20 years. Indiscriminate illegal killing and trapping is thought to be one of the main factors behind the decline of many migratory bird species in Lebanon. Shooting of any birds is not allowed at the moment and the official hunting season will open on the 15th of September.
“We are very grateful for the support of responsible hunters who are disturbed with the ongoing slaughter of migratory birds that damages Lebanon’s reputation. We are convinced that our joint efforts with the responsible hunters if supported by the law enforcement units can make Lebanon a safer flyway for the migratory birds in the future” concluded Mr. Hirschfeld.
The Lebanon lies on the main eastern flyway for the migratory birds between Europe and Africa. Recent studies show that between two and three million protected birds are shot or trapped each year in the Lebanon (2).
Concluding Comment from SPNL Director Assad Serhal
Since the arrival of CABS professional team to Lebanon, on the 2nd of September 2017, SPNL team and our partner Bioland , Middle East Centre for Responsible Hunting , and other responsible hunters from various municipalities and regions in Lebanon , have been visiting various agreed known shooters favorite sites and with the appreciated support from the concerned ministries of environment & ministry of Interior , security forces and police stoping and documenting the illegal acts of shooters encountered , which have decreased tremendously in comparison to the numbers of illegal acts encountered everywhere in the country for the last 20 years , and in much less variety of species and numbers.
Yet , the species filmed and presented here are legally protected soaring birds by the Lebanese hunting new law , and they are shot outside the legal open hunting season , and in some documented cases by minors not supposed to be carrying guns to start with , as in the hunting law .These illegal acts by the few poachers tarnishes the beautiful painting that was and still being displayed by the responsible hunters , that are in thousands now as we received the numbers of them taking the hunting tests at the registered clubs , and being followed up eagerly by the ministry of environment , to help them enter the 15 of September open hunting season with the needed legal permits , and inline with the new hunting law application degrees and decisions , approved by the ministry and the Lebanese higher hunting Council .
The Lebanese Presidency and the President Special Advisor , Mrs.Claudine Aoun Roukoz and the minister of environment , have been sending various strong statements at many venues and events , that the law will be properly enforced , and sure enough , violators are been stopped and sent to the proper judicial authorities , and we have just launched the Homat Al-hima , The way of Life , for sustainable development , with a wide media campaign , and the Internal Security forces are being trained for the last week on bird identification and the Lebanese hunting law , at All Muhafazat of Lebanon .
We and a growing number of Lebanese people and responsible hunters too , are frustrated by the few that insist on breaking the law , and displaying their photos and illegal acts on social media , with no fear or respect to the law and enforcement authorities , and the feelings and rights of most Lebanese people , and the global bird communities , that awaits and now in millions these migrating birds , twice a year to witness their majestic flights & epic journey between their breeding grounds in Europe & wintering grounds in Africa .
Injured eagles were taken by the team to vets . In hope to save them if possible , but chances are slim .
Our cry for stopping this illegal & irresponsible acts , comes at a very crucial times for our beloved Lebanon , where our heroes are dying to protect our borders from terrorists , and our Presidency & concerned ministries are calling for a peace between People & nature & birds , for the benefit of All , and a prosperous & healthy environment in Lebanon .
Still we are filled with hope and confidence , that the nature hers ( Homat Al-hima ) are on the rise as we have seen in last week SPNL two events , and the shooters are losing grounds to the responsible hunters .
Our thanks are extended to the Lebanese Internal Security forces that are doing their best on the ground to enforce the law , and responding swiftly to our ground team overtime help is needed , and to the kind support our teams have been receiving from ministry of environment & Mrs.Claudine Aoun Roukoz .Wishing our beloved Lebanon , All the success for the Peace treaty .
(1) Ornithologists and hunting experts from France, Turkey, Germany, Italy and the UK have joined Lebanese conservationists and responsible hunters to monitor bird migration and illegal hunting in the Lebanese countryside this September. Operation ‘Safe Haven’ is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, the Special Advisor to President Michel Aoun, Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz
(2) “The mean estimated number of illegally killed birds in Lebanon is more than 2,600,000 annually. The estimated mean number of individual birds killed illegally is 248 per square kilometer each year. There are 327 species of bird occurring regularly in Lebanon, with around 59% of these being killed illegally in significant numbers.” – ttp://www.spnl.org/new-scientific-report-reveals-2-6-million-birds-illegally-slaughtered-in-lebanon-every-year/