Bird Protection Camp Activities: Mist nets confiscation in Barja, monitoring of plucking sites in Aghbe, and patrols around Batroun

On 26 September 2021, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL)  together with the Middle Eastern Sustainable Hunting Center (MESHC), the Anti-Poaching Unit conducted field investigations around the city of Barja, Shouf, Mount Lebanon, as part of the bird protection camp in partnership with Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS). The action was in response to recent intelligence received regarding industrial-scale trapping in seven areas in Barja to target and kill songbirds for illegal sale on the black market.

Together with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) many mist nets were confiscated. The materials found were handed to the police for investigation, as were the hunters found to be in violation of the anti-hunting law.

As part of the bird protection camp, the team has once again begun monitoring the autumn passage of lesser spotted eagles, honey buzzards, harriers and other birds of prey through the now notorious migration bottleneck of the Lebanese mountains. Although the prices of ammunition and petrol have risen sharply due to the current ongoing economic and political situation, there are still many hunters and poachers active in the mountains.

On a pass near the village of Aghbe on 22 September (where we have repeatedly documented raptor massacres each autumn since 2017), our teams found two plucking sites where poachers had evidently shot and butchered approximately 50 honey buzzards for consumption and/or sale within the last few days. A few kilometres further on, we discovered two freshly shot honey buzzards. One bird was still alive; but had to be euthanised due to its completely shattered wings and protruding bones. The region around Aghbe is of international importance for bird migration. In the coming days and weeks, our team – supported by the local police – will be present there every day to prevent further shooting and to ensure safe passage for protected migratory birds.

On 24 September, the bird guard teams patrolled around the mountains above Batroun, North Governorate. The team still observed dozens of poachers using decoy callers to lure and shoot hundreds of swallows and bee-eaters in just this area alone.

Furthermore, police resources are limited, but our teams are conducting covert surveillance to document and report any illegalities. We also approach the shooters to make them aware of our observations and the restrictions regarding huntable species; and that shooting of protected species will likely incur a hefty fine or potential jail time. As a result of our presence, many shooters packed up and left and we ensured the safe passage of hundreds of Lesser Spotted Eagles, Honey Buzzards, Short-toed eagles, Levant Sparrowhawks and Kestrels which were subsequently monitored passing overhead by another team stationed further south.

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