April 28, 2011 01:53 AM (Last updated: April 28, 2011 09:28 AM)
By Maher Zeineddine

CHOUF: Environmental professionals and activists are outraged over photos showing dozens of dead storks, which were put on Facebook by an amateur hunter who killed the birds in north Lebanon.

Environmental organizations and institutions condemned the killing as a crime against the environment and biodiversity, and warned that the Facebook photos could damage the country’s reputation.
Mounir Abi Said, head of the wildlife education center The Animal Encounter, told The Daily Star that the photos showed “a real massacre against migratory storks and were a shock to us, by all moral, human and environmental standards.”

According to him, the photos represent a scandal that will affect the country’s reputation as well as the agreements it has with other states on the protection of wildlife. Some of the photos, which have been removed from the individual’s site, display piles of dead birds, with hunters posing in front of them.

“They are not aware that by displaying the photos and showing off, they are being condemned by the entire world,” Abi Said said.

Abi Said called on the agriculture and environment ministries to take strict deterrent measures to stop the killing of migratory birds, especially those that are integral to the environment’s biodiversity.

According to Abi Said, storks are important to European farmers because they help destroy agricultural pests.

“They [storks] are considered farmers’ friends in Europe because they kill agricultural pests and save millions of dollars worth of pesticides for the agriculture sector,” Abi Said said.

Abi Said also said that storks mate for life and hunting one stork amounts to losing two or more as the stork that loses its partner can no longer reproduce.

The director of the Chouf Cedar Reserve, Nizar Hani, said around half a million storks cross Lebanon when they migrate from Eastern Europe during the spring season. According to Hani, Lebanon is an important flyway for migratory birds between Europe and Africa as well as the second most important flyway for migratory birds in the world.

“There are over 370 kinds of birds in the country and most of them are migratory,” Hani said, citing a study by Ghassan Jaradi, a professor of ecology and taxonomy at Lebanese University.

The study revealed 246 of the 374 bird species in the country are migratory birds, and that of 24 species of bird in the Middle East threatened with extinction, 14 are found in Lebanon.

According to Hani, hunting in the country affects the movement and stability of migratory birds and although the country’s environmental reserves offer a haven for these birds, hunters continue to kill migratory birds, damaging the environment and its biodiversity. “We killed birds while the world celebrated year 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity,” Hani said.

Dr. Salim Hamade, the coordinator of the UNDP project on migratory birds, condemned the killing of the storks, describing it as a “flagrant and criminal violation of peaceful migratory birds crossing over the country.”

According to Hamade, the individual who shot the storks violated the country’s hunting law as the killing happened in a populated place. He also killed migratory birds, which are protected by the hunting law. Hunting is banned in villages, cities, public gardens, and natural reserves as well as at a distance less than 500 meters from residences.

Hamade said the perpetrator should be punished according to the law and praised Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal for his efforts in establishing the Higher Council for Hunting, which is supposed to issue hunting permits based on exams.

But Hamade said the council lacked the capacity to punish violators of the law and urged the Interior Ministry to fulfill its duty to provide necessary personnel to the Environment Ministry.

Hamade said the Environment Ministry was working on bringing the offender to justice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 28, 2011, on page 3.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Apr/28/Stork-hunter-outrages-environmentalists.ashx#ixzz1Kx3l6bmZ
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)