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Safe Flight for Migratory Soaring Birds


World’s most important corridors

Lebanon is a small country, only 10.452 km2 in size, located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean basin. Lebanon lies on one of the world’s most important corridors for migratory birds as they travel between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. For iconic species such as storks, lesser spotted eagles and pelicans, Lebanon provides a resting hotspot to refuel on their long migration, twice each year.

Why protecting and conserving

Some species stop for hours, others weeks, until wind conditions and temperatures are optimal for them
to venture onward. This is why protecting and conserving their habitats is of the utmost concern.
In 2015, a Birdlife International study estimated that 2.6 million birds are shot down in Lebanon each year; ranking forth after Egypt, Italy and Cyprus.


Hunting Legislation was Finally Brought In

The hunting of our feathered friends was banned in Lebanon since the mid-1990s. Regrettably, the lack of sanctions and controls led to a sharp increase in poaching and illegal killing. In 2012, hunting legislation was finally brought in. But, it did not stop the shooting of migratory birds which, even developed into a widespread sport, to which countless storks, cranes, birds of prey and other endangered species fall victim every year. Since September 2017, the newly passed Law No. 580, which for the first time comprehensively regulates the shooting of birds and other wild animals, has been in force in the country. However, changes are gradual and for mentalities to evolve, it will necessarily take time, awareness and resources.

Anti-poaching Unit is working relentlessly

Just this 21st march 2021, Lebanon witnessed once again, a new bloodbath: dozens of storks were met with a hail of gun-fire from military grade weapons; while passing in the skies above this narrow strip of land where 1.7 million to 3.5 million birds are illegally killed every single year. (Brochet et al. (2016)) That’s up to 14% of all illegally killed birds in the Mediterranean basin in a country that is a quarter of the size of Switzerland. With the help of communities and pro-regulation hunters, SPNL’s anti-poaching unit has been working relentlessly on the ground to stop this crime and report all incidents to the Lebanese Internal Security Forces. As “we write, our team is chasing poachers, regardless of the dangers on site.

of all illegally killed birds in the Mediterranean basin in a country that is a quarter of the size of Switzerland.


A Dangerous Journey

For many Lebanese, hunting is a tradition passed down from father to son and an autumn ritual for men to pass weekend nights with friends before hunting at dawn. Smaller birds are usually cooked and eaten but the larger ones, including migratory birds, are shot just for sport and taxidermy. Some species suffer more than others. When the Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra), Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix), Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), or the Eurasian Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) fly through Lebanon, they may be taking the most dangerous journey of their lives. This makes Lebanon particularly dangerous to our feathered friends: A Birdlife International report indicates that about 248 birds are killed per square kilometre annually in Lebanon, and there are 291 resident and migratory bird species in Lebanon, 100% of these bird species being exposed to all kinds of poaching. The illegal killing crisis is widespread across the country; Akkar, Fakiha, Dalboun, Qaraoun and Roum-Aytouli are all large areas where illegal killing is rife. And because of the unique landscape of Lebanon, sites such as Eghbe, Mount Lebanon, act as a funnel for the thousands of migratory birds on the move each spring — and equally as remarkable — the fall, making them extremely vulnerable to poachers.


Ensuring safe passage during migration times

Things are beginning to change with the establishment of the Anti-Poaching Unit-APU at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon – SPNL, which is fighting illegal hunting, by teaming up with local authorities and responsible hunting associations, in collaboration with internal security forces; to educate hunters, to patrol the key sites and ensure these birds have safe passage during their annual migrations. This will be crucial for the success of shaping education and a sustainable hunting model. However, it is vital that more resources are made available to the police and APU to monitor compliance and improve enforcement in the future.

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