The route for mi­grat­ing birds

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

As an es­sen­tial stop on the route of mi­grat­ing birds, Le­banon has an im­por­tant role in their con­ser­va­tion. En­vi­ron­men­tal Aware­ness Co­or­di­na­tor at the Shouf Bio­sphere Re­serve, Mirna Ri­man ex­plores

Through­out the year Le­banon has a di­verse pop­u­la­tion of vis­it­ing and en­demic birds. The coun­try lies on one of the high­est di­ver­sity zones in the world, mean­ing its im­por­tance can’t be un­der­es­ti­mated. It is a huge bot­tle­neck for mi­gra­tory birds be­tween Europe and Africa and clas­si­fied as the sec­ond most im­por­tant mi­gra­tory cor­ri­dor af­ter Cuba, the ma­jor path be­tween Latin and North Amer­ica. Knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion gleaned from neigh­bor­ing coun­tries also stresses the im­por­tance of this coun­try in the soar­ing birds’ migration sys­tems.

The Al Shouf Cedar Na­ture Re­serve was des­ig­nated as an Im­por­tant Bird Area (IBA), by Birdlife In­ter­na­tional in 1994, among the world’s key sites for the con­ser­va­tion of bio­di­ver­sity. It’s con­sid­ered a ma­jor fly­way route for thou­sands of birds twice a year, where migration takes place be­tween Europe and Asia to Africa in au­tumn and the re­verse route for breed­ing dur­ing the spring sea­son. Birds de­pend on rest­ing, feed­ing and roost­ing hotspots dur­ing their migration in or­der to se­cure food, wa­ter and habi­tat. This is why pro­tect­ing th­ese im­por­tant habi­tats and con­serv­ing them is so im­por­tant.

Although soar­ing birds may seem large in num­ber when pass­ing along bot­tle­necks, th­ese might ac­tu­ally be the only group of th­ese birds world­wide, so hunt­ing them might cause their ex­tinc­tion, as Bas­sima Khatib, as­sis­tant manager in the So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Na­ture in Le­banon (SPNL), states.

The Re­serve hosts 290 species of birds, 32 species of wild mam­mals and 532

species of plants. 19 out of the 290 bird species are con­sid­ered rare at na­tional level and more than 22 species have been con­firmed as res­i­dent; the re­main­ing are mi­gra­tory or rare vis­i­tors, which des­ig­nate it as a sig­nif­i­cant stag­ing, rest­ing or feed­ing post for mi­grat­ing birds. There are around six glob­ally threat­ened species recorded in the site.

Many species of birds have been doc­u­mented as breed­ing in Le­banon and some are high el­e­va­tion species such as the Chukar Partridge, Eurasian Jay, Coal Tit, Horned Lark and Rock Bunting. Other birds nest­ing might in­clude the Great Tit, Wood­lark, Eastern Or­phean War­bler and Eurasian Black­bird. The mi­gra­tory birds in the re­serve in­clude the Greater Spot­ted Ea­gle, Eastern Im­pe­rial Ea­gle, Saker Fal­con, Egyptian Vul­ture and Lesser Kestrel.

Al Shouf Cedar Na­ture Re­serve is lo­cated in one of the world’s most im­por­tant cor­ri­dors for bird migration, yet ev­ery year recre­ational hun­ters, who are ei­ther un­aware of or in­dif­fer­ent to the coun­try’s poorly en­forced hunt­ing ban, kill many birds along the route.

“Most of the hun­ters don’t know the species very well,” says Nizar Hani, manager of the Al Shouf Cedar Na­ture Re­serve. “And here in Le­banon there’s no mon­i­tor­ing, ex­cept at the re­serve, which is [only] five per­cent of the coun­try’s land­mass. It’s big, but it’s not big enough.”

He con­sid­ers that most peo­ple in Le­banon do be­lieve that wildlife should be pre­served, but with con­tra­dic­tion as “they still hunt.”

Bird migration is glob­ally con­sid­ered as one of the won­ders of the nat­u­ral world in which over 600 mil­lion birds pass over Le­banon twice a year. “Hunt­ing in Le­banon is de­struc­tive, es­pe­cially un­der a long-term ban with no ap­pli­ca­tion of de­crees or en­force­ment of laws. Many birds are in decline in Le­banon. Th­ese are not limited to threat­ened species but also cover many com­mon bird species,” says Ghassan Jaradi, pro­fes­sor of or­nithol­ogy at the Le­banese Uni­ver­sity, who be­gan study­ing Le­banon’s bird pop­u­la­tions in the early 1990s. He adds that mi­gra­tory birds also ben­e­fit the coun­try as when the birds rest on land they eat ro­dents that feed on the lo­cal plants and seeds, act­ing as a nat­u­ral pes­ti­cide to pro­tect crops.

Al Shouf Cedar Na­ture Re­serve is lo­cated in one of the world’s most im­por­tant cor­ri­dors for bird migration,

yet ev­ery year recre­ational hun­ters kill many birds along the route

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, hun­ters and even gun sell­ers – who sell hunt­ing ri­fles legally de­spite the hunt­ing ban, are all in fa­vor of im­ple­ment­ing the law to reg­u­late hunt­ing. A 2004 law in­tro­duced hunt­ing reg­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing per­mit­ting the hunt­ing of game species, but was never ac­ti­vated af­ter be­ing rat­i­fied by Par­lia­ment.“we are priv­i­leged to be in Le­banon, [a coun­try] that is con­sid­ered to be a bot­tle­neck for mi­grat­ing birds that pass over it,” Dalia Jawhari says, a pas­sion­ate bird ex­pert and the pro­gram direc­tor in SPNL, “that’s why we should con­serve and pro­tect th­ese birds, not hunt them.”

The Al Shouf Cedar Na­ture Re­serve is work­ing on rais­ing aware­ness for hun­ters and the younger gen­er­a­tion, about the hunt­ing law (2004) to reg­u­late hunt­ing in close co­op­er­a­tion with the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment (MOE) and the Mi­gra­tory Soar­ing Birds Project (MSB). In ad­di­tion, the re­serve will soon launch a bird watch­ing pro­gram as an eco­tourism ac­tiv­ity with guided bird tours to gen­er­ate busi­ness . In the USA, the an­nual eco­nomic value gen­er­ated by bird watch­ers is about USD32 bil­lion per year and around USD5.45 mil­lion in Jor­dan and Le­banon; though it has the po­ten­tial to yield USD 14.3 mil­lion per year for bird watch­ing of mi­gra­tory soar­ing birds.

In 2014, “HAPPY BIRDAY” or­ga­nized by JA­BALNA As­so­ci­a­tion in co­op­er­a­tion with the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and the Shouf Cedar Na­ture Re­serve trav­eled all around Le­banon to var­i­ous tra­di­tional fes­ti­vals to pro­mote aware­ness for the wild birds of Le­banon and cre­ate a friendly in­ter­ac­tion be­tween birds and vis­i­tors.

An­nu­ally, the World Mi­gra­tory Bird Day is held on 9 May, high­light­ing the need to pro­tect mi­gra­tory birds and their habi­tats. It is a global aware­ness-rais­ing cam­paign high­light­ing the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing mi­gra­tory birds and their habi­tats. In Le­banon SPNL will cel­e­brate the day in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Shouf Cedar Re­serve

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