The Ministry of the Environment has today made a statement confirming the court summons of a citizen charged on two counts for infringements of the newly implemented Hunting Laws in Northern Lebanon: illegal killing of 217 nightjars (non-game birds) and proudly posted a video online showing the kill on the bonnet of his vehicle.
Following a detailed investigation, Minister of the Environment Tariq Al-Khatib, requested the Attorney-General of the North, Judge Ghassan Bassil, bring a case against Mohammed Arab; and anyone else who appears to be an accomplice, instigator or an accessory to the killing of protected species. After recording and uploading the video on 24th September 2017 and being tracked by security agencies, he will now face justice before the court. Thus, proving the power of social media in challenging the state and aiding the application of Environmental law.
It should be noted that, in accordance with article 15 of the Hunting Act, those who violate the law even during the open season (15 Sept – 31 Jan) shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine or by one of these two penalties, and in any case the permanent confiscation of the weapon used and destruction of other prohibited equipment used in the offence.
Lebanon’s 2017 hunting season began on Sept. 15 and will end in January based on new regulations for hunters that were announced by Environment Minister Tarek Khatib last April.
“We don’t want to create chaos; we want these new regulations to end the chaos,” Khatib said at the time. Violations of the law could result in penalties such as fines.
However, even before the hunting season began, the international anti-poaching NGO the Committee Against Bird Slaughter discovered flagrant breaches of the law.
“It was beyond all imagination,” Operations Officer for CABS in Lebanon Axel Hirchfeld said of a macabre scene they found in the mountains of Aghbeh in Mount Lebanon, where the ground was blanketed with feathers and carcasses. “We knew from all the pictures that it would be bad, but finding this graveyard with the feathers of at least … 100 honey buzzards [a species protected by the hunting law] in the same spot was shocking.”
CABS has been working on bird conservation in Lebanon from afar for around five years, sparked by widely shared pictures of protected species killed by Lebanese hunters. In September, the group embarked on its first local mission in Lebanon with a team of six and help from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon and responsible hunters.
Besides decimating global populations of birds, Lebanon’s hunting also has the knock-on effect of allowing numerous insect species to flourish in the absence of natural predators. The insect species have infested many of Lebanon’s stone pines – a feature of Lebanon’s landscape for generations – killing branches and leaving pine cones empty of their seeds.
Prospective hunters must now pass physical and mental health exams in addition to practical exams on hunting laws, which bird species are legal to hunt and their annual quotas before obtaining a license. However, one regular hunter said that he had no confidence either in the law’s enforcement or the integrity of those enforcing it.