The 15th of September will mark the official opening of the hunting season. For the Lebanese Bird Conservation Coalition (LBCC), this brings mixed emotions.
We have welcomed President Aoun’s statement calling for a Peace Accord with birds and nature and we sincerely hope that legal hunters will respect the new law and all its details. We welcomed the visit early September from the Germany based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), who through the support of Mrs Claudine Aoun Roukoz and the proper authorities have made a start in solving this problem. We recognise that there are legitimate responsible and legal hunters following the law, who are undertaking a hobby they are proud of. These legal hunters can help solve this problem.
On the other hand, we fear that the large-scale slaughter of over 200 bird species, many of which are globally at risk from extinction, will continue as in past years. The individuals or groups that commit these atrocities are not real hunters. These mass slaughters are committed by poachers, shooters and trappers that contribute virtually nothing to the conservation of the environment. Many of these people are unaware of the damage they are causing as levels of environmental awareness and knowledge of sustainable hunting are low. These people make the Lebanese countryside dangerous and unpleasant, with countless accidents every year and untold property damage. The poachers, shooters and trappers for many years have bought equipment such as nets and calling machines from the private sector, making hunting shops a part of this problem. Street vendors and pet shops sell wild caught birds, a trade that is devastating bird populations. Many restaurants, butchers and supermarkets sell birds, it is unknown what species these are, the majority of birds sold are not considered legal game, and in fact the sale of any species of wild bird is illegal, this trade too is destroying global bird populations.
These people and organisations are breaking the law and should be treated as such. To make matters worse, until recently the proper authorities have shown little interest and failed time and time again to secure arrests and prosecutions. Environmental groups and individuals have been reporting these crimes for years with few or no prosecutions, this must change.
This language may seem strong to some, but on top of the millions of birds illegally killed each year (2,6 million according to a recent Birdlife report1) there is huge damage to global biodiversity and the economy.
Birds provide humanity with many services including pest control, seed dispersal, and cultural inspiration. Studies have shown that birds are worth many billions to the global economy. For example, a single Barn Owl (a species regularly shot in Lebanon) will eat over 11,000 mice, unchecked these mice would consume 13 tonnes of crops. Eurasian Jays plant seeds that grow into trees, in Sweden studies have shown that this is more efficient than reforestation, with each birds being worth between $2,450 and $11,250.
Most upsetting for most Lebanese is the incredible damage done to Lebanon’s reputation and tourism industry. Environmental Groups are criticised for raising this issue, however it is the poachers, shooters and trappers who have killed the birds and posted 1000s of pictures on social media. It is them that have proudly displayed their crimes in public, it is them that have brought disgrace to the country.
It doesn’t have to be this way. President Aoun through his constructive leadership has started a process that will bring multiple benefits to the country and migratory birds. We hope that this hunting season is the start of a new chapter for bird conservation in Lebanon. Repairing the damage caused by the poachers and shooters will happen quicker than you think and is relatively straightforward. But it will take cooperation from many groups:
The hunters must obey the law in full. Legal hunters should join in the fight against poachers. shooters and trappers.
The private sector must commit to stop all sales of live or cooked wild birds, bird traps, bird nets, calling machines and other equipment used for illegal hunting.
The general public and outdoor users must report these crimes when they see them.
Community and religious leaders should set an example and use their religion’s teachings to combat these crimes against creation.
Most importantly the proper authorities must act on any reports that they receive.
To reinforce the commitments made by the president we call on the Lebanese Government to fast track the process to become a full signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
We believe through collaborative efforts involving all sectors of society that we can make a real change not only for birds but the reputation of the country we love.