Flawed Hunting Ban Puts Birds at Risk in Lebanon

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The killing of dozens of storks in Lebanon this past spring prompted outrage. Photo: Eran Finkle / Creative Commons.

Smaller than the state of Connecticut, Lebanon is nonetheless home to a rich variety of landscapes, from beaches and deserts to mountains and wetlands, that provide habitat for some 400 species of birds. At least 15, however, are threatened with extinction and many more are on the decline, thanks in part to a hunting ban that is so poorly enforced even environmentalists are working to overturn it."Hunting has been banned in Lebanon since the mid-1990s, but one would hardly know this by the amount of recreational hunting that takes place throughout the year, mainly in the Bekaa Valley and in the north. Throughout the year, hunters drive into the mountains with their 4-wheel drives, often shooting whatever they see," The Daily Star reported recently.

Education, Hunting Seasons Needed
Over-development and over-hunting are both damaging bird populations in Lebanon, according to the paper, which said environmentalists, hunters, and even gun sellers are all in favor of a law to regulate hunting rather than the current outright ban.

"They shouldn't legalize it arbitrarily. There should be hunting seasons, and people should learn about the different birds so they don't kill endangered birds -- like [laws] in other countries," Omar Baroudi, a professor at Lebanese University, told the paper.

Lebanon's Green Party is among the groups that support a reversal of the ban. "We want to bring back the old [pre-1996] hunting law so that it can be organized. This would control the quantity of birds hunted," said party member Hanady Assaf. "The current law has proved to be ineffective because hunting is an old and traditional hobby."

No More 'Bird Massacres'
Many experts believe the ban has distorted that tradition and led to reckless hunting, like a controversial incident this past spring when a man killed dozens of migratory storks in north Lebanon and posted pictures of himself with his dead prey on Facebook.

"The government should... allow regulated and controlled hunting seasons," said Ghassan Jaradi, an ornithology professor at Lebanese University. "If we continue giving wildlife the last priority at the political and legislative levels, Lebanon will then be considered a country of bird massacres."