Every year, millions of birds migrate over Lebanon using one of the three migratory paths that run through the country. According to a new report by Birdlife International, about 2.6 million of them are illegally hunted every year. The Killing, the name of the report, is the first comprehensive scientific study to quantify illegal bird hunting in the Mediterranean. Prior to this study, the Lebanon Eco Movement and Committee against Bird Slaughter (CABS) reviewed trophy pictures of Lebanese hunters shared on Facebook between 2008 and 2013, and identified 11,213 birds.
The Killing reveals how serious this problem is, even though it is not unique to Lebanon. Throughout the Mediterranean region, an estimated 25 million birds are being illegally hunted every year. The table below contains the number of birds killed illegally in other Mediterranean countries:
|Country||Number of Birds Hunted (in Millions)|
With 2.6 million birds hunted every year, Lebanon ranks fourth in the Mediterranean. However, dividing the mean estimate of birds killed by square kilometer puts Lebanon in second place (tied with Cyprus) at 248 birds killed per km2. Malta ranked highest at 343 birds per km2. The most affected species in the region are listed in the table below:
The birds are mainly hunted in three ways: shooting, trapping, and poisoning. The study found that the majority of the hunters killed for food, followed by for sport and for caged birds.
Despite passing a hunting law in 2004 and application decrees in 2012, the Lebanese government has failed to contain this problem. Hunting is a widespread activity in Lebanon and the hunting law has never been enforced successfully. In Lebanon, birds also face other life threatening risks. The use of pesticide in agricultural areas and uncontrolled dumping of solid waste has also affected migratory birds.
There have been some efforts by the Lebanese government 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. A soaring bird atlas was also published identifying all the birds that fly over Lebanon.
There are 15 important bird areas (IBAs) designated by Birdlife International in Lebanon (see map below), and the Society of Protection of Nature in Lebanon and Birdlife Lebanon are in the process of selecting more areas.
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 promote internationally coordinated actions to achieve and maintain the favourable conservation status of migratory birds of prey throughout their range in the African-Eurasian region, and to reverse their decline when and where appropriate.” While this is a good step, it is not enough. The government needs to follow up and attempt to curb this phenomenon.
The legal framework is present and therefore more resources are needed to ensure proper enforcement. Projects, especially large infrastructure, that may disrupt the migratory paths need to be adequately assessed before implementation. The Ministry of Environment needs to make sure that the impact on migratory birds is included in the Environmental Impact Assessment of these projects.
A comprehensive study about hunting needs to be done in Lebanon in order to get a better understanding on the various dynamics involved. In Egypt, a study undertaken on hunting in the country included various socioeconomic findings on hunters and their families. Information such as the amount of money made from hunting, families that rely on this practice and other important factors was researched. Such information will be helpful to understand the motives of the hunters and would be invaluable while planning for an intervention to reduce the number of birds hunted illegally. Lebanon needs to follow suit and prepare a similar research project.
Lebanon is faced with more pressing concerns; however, this is part of the larger problem of failing to enforce the rule of law. Laws and standards on noise limits, air emissions from generators, pollution, worker safety, amongst other laws exist but are not enforced. This repetitive and widespread problem not only diminishes the role of the state, but also has deteriorating state of the environment.