By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Authorities have seized scores of globally threatened animals and birds on Jordan’s borders with neighbouring countries since the start of the year, environmentalists said on Wednesday.

Last week, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) and the Jordan Customs Department seized one dozen falcons on the Kingdom’s borders with Saudi Arabia and Syria, adding to a list of seized animals that includes lion cubs, cheetahs and Bengali tigers, Mahdi Qatramiz, head of the RSCN conservation and hunting regulation section, said yesterday.

“Eight Peregrine falcons destined for a Gulf country were seized last week on the country’s border with Syria, while four Saker falcons were seized yesterday on the country’s border with Saudi Arabia,” Qatramiz told The Jordan Times over the phone on Wednesday.

The Peregrine falcon, called al shaheen in Arabic, is highly sought after by hunters for its reputation as one of the fastest birds in the world, according to Abdul Razzaq Hmoud, national component manager of a RSCN project for the conservation of migratory birds along the Rift Valley/Red Sea Flyway.

Saker falcons are considered vulnerable, while Peregrine falcons are a species of least concern according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, Hmoud told The Jordan Times.

Earlier this year, authorities seized four lion cubs and two Bengali tigers heading from Syria to Saudi Arabia as well as four cheetahs arriving from Saudi Arabia destined for Syria, in addition to several goldfinches and hyenas, Qatramiz noted.

The Bengali tigers are currently at an animal welfare centre, while the cheetahs were transferred to South Africa, he added.

The 2002 Agriculture Law prohibits trade in wild animals unless a permit is issued allowing the export or import of the animal through the Kingdom, according to the RSCN.

Cheetahs are listed under the first appendix of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and thus are not allowed to be hunted or traded for any commercial purposes, while lions are listed under the second appendix of CITES, which allows the trade of lions if a permit is obtained, humane travel conditions are ensured and a certificate indicating their origin and the final destination is provided, according to the RSCN.

The convention is an international agreement between governments which aims to ensure that the international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival, according to the CITES website.

Meanwhile, the RSCN announced yesterday the end of the hunting season for doves, chukar and partridges, while the hunting season will remain open for winter birds during their migration season from Europe to Africa, which started late last month.

Winter birds include ducks, starlings and sandgrouse, Qatramiz said, noting that hunting in areas east of the Hijaz Railway remain off-limits because animals and birds in the area are rare.

The RSCN official said inspection teams this year have seized several poached animals and birds, both dead and alive that are recognised locally and internationally as endangered species.

Under RSCN regulations, those who hunt outside the allotted period are fined JD100 and sentenced to one week in prison, while those who kill endangered species are fined JD2,000 and handed four-month prison terms.

Violators’ weapons are also seized, according to the RSCN.

There are around 4,000 hunters registered with the society, with an estimated 7,000 hunters in the Kingdom, the RSCN said.

The location of hunting activities changes according to the season, with hunters mainly active in the Jordan Valley, mountainous areas and the eastern desert, according to the society.