Saturday, December 11, 2010

Middle East's Falcons Threatened by Poachers

The saker falcon

For centuries, the falcon has earned a reputation for endurance and self-reliance in the art of hunting in the Arab culture. However, due to the growing interest in these ancient hunting roots, the Middle East has experienced illegal poaching of threatened birds, which primarily include the houbara bustard which has been the chief target for Arab sheiks for generations. Also, some falcon species, particularly the saker falcon, is now an endangered species. Plus, the numbers of bustards have also been declining. According to experts, the extent of poaching has been taking place in Iran and Iraq but it was hard to pin-point where specifically the illegal activities are taking place. However, experts like Dr. Nigel Collar of BirdLife International say that it is extremely difficult to determine how big the problem is but the trade they think that it is a widespread problem. He further stated that there have been recent cases, in which hunters illegally enter Iran and Iraq to hunt the bustards.
Houbara bustard

One case was in December 1st when four Emirati hunters were arrested in Iran for hunting these birds without a permit in the Ilam Province. That same week, a second case occurred when three Emiratis, who were thought to be part of a hunting group in Iraq, were kidnapped while hunting in the Al Anbar province. They were released in four days after an intervention by Iraqi security forces and tribal leaders. Their captors were believed to have been the Sahwa militia, who had demanded ransom. According to Hamid al Heyes, chairman of the Anbar Salvation Council, the kidnappers saw an opportunity in hunting season to extort money. Furthermore, Mudhafar Salim of Nature Iraq stated that while the organization's teams have heard of poachers coming from the Persian Gulf but had not encountered any during field research.

This article, in my opinion, gives an idea of how a traditional recreation from the past has led to some significant problems regarding Middle East's wildlife. Not only have the quarry numbers decimated, but also the hunters. The houbara, though a highly endangered species, is being severely hunted in parts of Iran and Iraq. Its numbers have shrunk by a quarter in the past twenty years in both the Middle East and North Africa. I personally believe that the practice of falconry should no longer continue because it will have a further impact on the bustard population in the Middle East. The houbara bustard is an endangered species like its relative the great Indian bustard. If its hunting continues, its numbers will fluctuate drastically along with its Indian relative. Also, the saker falcon and other falcon species have been continuously trapped to be kept as pets and hunters for the Arabs. It is about time that the people of Middle East should understand the importance of these birds of prey, and what role they play in the region's ecosystems. Without the falcons, there would be a major ecological imbalance in the region.

View article here         

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