The shocking image of a dead Cinereous Vulture photographed in Lebanon and shared on social media suggests the indiscriminate killing of birds continues to be rampant across the country.
The shooting of vultures, a practice once common across Europe, that contributed to their widespread decline in the 19th and 20th centuries, is thankfully now a rare occurrence in Europe – although still happening here and there, as we saw with the killing of a Griffon Vulture in Montenegro recently.
The situation is sadly not the same across much of the Middle East where the intense killing of vultures, eagles and other birds for sport continues, as the killing of this visiting Cinereous Vulture illustrates.
Lebanon lies right at the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean Flyway, an important migratory route for birds migrating between Africa and Eurasia, which sees millions of endangered birds pass over the skies of the country, including Egyptian Vultures as well as other raptors such as buzzards, short-toed eagles, kites, honey buzzards and many falcons.
Widespread illegal killing of birds has always been a problem in Lebanon, so much so that a moratorium on hunting of birds was declared in 2004 – on paper, hunting was illegal since then, but the killing did not abate – on the contrary. A 2015 Birdlife International study estimated that 2.6 million birds were shot down in Lebanon each year, which per capita is the second most number of birds shot in the Mediterranean region, after Cyprus. Hunting is considered a tradition passed down the generations, smaller birds are usually cooked and eaten but vultures, raptors and other larger birds are shot just for sport.