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Migratory Birds Attract Amateur Hunters in Droves

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  • Migratory Birds Attract Amateur Hunters in Droves

    Sunday, 16, September, 2007 (04, Ramadhan, 1428)

    Migratory Birds Attract Amateur Hunters in Droves

    Khaled Al-Awadh, Arab News

    Pigeons in large numbers stop over in the northeastern parts of the Kingdom on their way back from Asia to Africa. (AN photo by Khaled Al-Awadh)

    ASYAH, 16 September 2007 ? A large number of small migratory birds, especially pigeons, are being killed illegally by amateur hunters, according to the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD).

    Hundreds of hunters are currently traveling deep into the desert searching for migratory birds that stop over the Arabian Peninsula on their way back from Asia to Africa. Green farms and vast valleys in the central and northeastern parts of the Kingdom are full of campsites with hunters staying out in the open for days on end.

    ?Hunting these birds and pigeons is totally banned,? a NCWD source told Arab News. ?Even during the hunting season, the ban remains in place. Hunting these birds is banned throughout the year,? he added.

    The source added that the hunters might catch bird flu by eating migratory birds. ?Bird flu viruses can pose dangerous health problems to people,? he said.

    However, hunters criticized the weak role played by the NCWCD to protect the birds. ?We have not come across any NCWCD staff or read any warnings regarding this issue,? said one hunter, who asked not to be named.

    He added that there are around 200 birds killed on a daily basis. ?The number depends largely on how skillful in hunting you are and the number of hunters in every trip. We hunted around 1,000 birds over the weekend,? he said.

    Meanwhile, the NCWCD source said the body is only coordinating with administrative governorates around the country to watch and arrest those who are violating the regulations. ?Violators face severe punishments once they are caught,? the NCWCD source said.

    With the advent of Ramadan, hunters spend much time deep in the desert searching for birds. The road to Al-Asyah was extremely busy last weekend, as hunters traveled as far as Rafha and Arar. Calendars are produced by amateur astronomers detailing the migration of birds.

    The NCWCD was established by a royal decree in 1986 to ?develop and implement plans to preserve wildlife in its natural habitat and to propose the establishment of proper protected areas and reserves for wildlife in the Kingdom, and to manage such areas.?

    The commission has previously developed a successful captive breeding program for several rare and endangered species, including the Arabian Oryx, three gazelle species and the houbara bustard, a traditional game bird found across the entire Arabian Peninsula.