As an ardent animal lover, I’ve been proud to note all the positive actions we have been taking on the animal welfare’s front. We opened our first cat cafe to promote faster adoption of rescued kitties, we are hosting our 3rd edition of Woof-Fest that raises funds for animal care, and a municipal federation just announced the launch of a grand dog shelter for a number of villages in Chouf.
However, a particular issue in that regard has been untackled till now: The hunting of migratory birds flying over Lebanon.
According to a report by Birdlife International, around 25 million are illegally hunted on their route each year, with 2.6 million of them over Lebanon. That number puts us high up on the list, tied at fourth place with Cyprus (due to surface area), and preceded only by Egypt, Italy, and Syria.
Despite the government passing a hunting law in 2004 and application decrees in 2012, hunting is still widespread in Lebanon. According to an online review by the Lebanon Eco Movement and Committee against Bird Slaughter (CABS), they have identified 11,213 birds from trophy pictures shared by Lebanese hunters on Facebook between 2008 and 2013.
There have been efforts by the Lebanese government and community NGOs to improve the situation. In 2012, the Ministry of Environment and UNDP published a hunting guide that contains information on legal ways to hunt and a list of species that are illegal to hunt.
In 2014, the Lebanese government signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU).
The aim of the MOU is “to achieve and maintain the favorable conservation status of migratory birds of prey throughout their range in the African-Eurasian region, and to reverse their decline when and where appropriate.”
In 2017, President Michel Aoun personally addressed the issue with a heartfelt promise to put the country’s nature first: “…There should be a peace treaty between Man and the tree as well as Man and birds because we continue to transgress upon them.”
This time, the outcry came from as far as Budapest where young environmental activists presented the Lebanese ambassador with a signed petition “begging their Lebanese friends not to kill the Stork birds, and to ensure their well-being as they pass through the skies of Lebanon to reach safely their countries in Europe.”
The plea didn’t fall on deaf ears. Actions are being prompted:
Environment Minister Fadi Jreyssati responded on Monday and promised stricter measures. For his part, Education Minister Akram Shehayeb chose to address the problem from its roots. He issued a memo obliging all schools to allocate hours for educating students on the importance of migratory birds and their conservation.
Fingers-crossed, and a prayer in our heart that Lebanon’s days as a high-flyer in the chart of bird slaughtering countries are coming to an end.
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