Hunting season begins in Lebanon ... and the result is 25 million empty cartridges in the mountains

A young boy collecting cartridges in Keserwan. (Photo: NNA)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Hunting season begins in Lebanon ... and the result is 25 million empty cartridges in the mountains

BEIRUT: No one in Lebanon can estimate the number of hunters who go to the high mountains during the migration season to kill birds, but every year, environmentalists collect around 25 million empty bullet cartridges dumped in the fields and mountains of Lebanon.
“Lebanon is the second largest natural migration route for birds traveling from Europe to Asia during September, November and December,” said Pierre Jalkh, head of the Lebanese Association for Shooting and Hunting.
“The most transient birds that do not settle in Lebanon are common ringed plovers and flying quails, in addition to sparrowhawks, which cross Lebanese airspace in September and are internationally protected, making it illegal to hunt this species,” he said.
The hunting season causes so much chaos, which the Ministry of Environment, municipalities and internal security forces try to control and organize every year.
Jalkh could not provide the exact number of hunters, but pointed out that “15,000 hunters underwent assessments at certified hunting clubs in Lebanon, and those are the only ones of which we know.”
Hunters boast about their achievements by posting their shocking photos on social media platforms, which depict hundreds of hunted birds spread on their cars’ fronts and roofs. These scenes have angered environmental activists and driven them to find ways to raise awareness about bird protection.
Rawad Rizk, project manager of “LIVE Lebanon,” a UN Development Programme project, does not have a close estimate of the number of hunters because thousands practice this hobby without a license, but he estimated that there were between 100,000 and 600,000 hunters.
“The idea of involving Lebanese expatriates in national and rural development in Lebanon was launched in 2009, and the LIVE Lebanon project was the link for securing funds from Lebanese communities abroad and from the private sector in Lebanon,” he said.
“The ‘Collecting Cartridges’ project is part of the Youth Volunteer Programme and was an idea proposed through one of the program’s websites, so we launched it this year under the auspices of the National Commission for Lebanese Women and in cooperation with LIVE Lebanon,” he said. “One hundred young men and women volunteered for this project.
“We took our mission in a mountainous area in the Keserwan district starting Sunday morning. We waited until all hunters were done and left the fields before we spent around five hours — perhaps less — collecting a quarter of a million cartridges in an area not larger than a football pitch,” he said.
Volunteers are preparing for a similar campaign for collecting cartridges in the Beqaa, where hunters practice their hobby in different open and vast areas.
People who pass by the hunting areas in Beqaa, especially in the town of Chtaura, can track the activity of shops selling hunting weapons and ammunition even to those who do not have a license for carrying arms.
Jalkh explained that “hunting is governed by rules and regulations, the first of which is that a hunter must be at least 18, must obtain a license for carrying weapons and another for hunting, and must have health insurance.
“Certified hunting clubs train hunters on using rifles and bullets,” he added, pointing out that “accidents caused by hunting mistakes, although declining in number, still exist and mostly include hunters hurting themselves or others because they do not know how to use rifles.”
He also stressed that “hunters without licenses are subject to legal prosecution.”
“The law requires hunters to be at least 500 meters away from any residence,” he added. “The law also states that a hunter is only allowed to hunt a maximum of 50 common ringed plovers and 25 flying quails, while hunting sparrowhawks is illegal because the species is internationally fully protected.”
When the volunteers embarked on collecting empty cartridges, some hunters joined in while others left the area, leaving behind thousands of cartridges and dead sparrowhawks dumped on the ground.
Rizk described the mission as a tough one, “especially because thousands of the cartridges were planted in the ground, which will pollute the soil and underground water.
“We are currently working with mechanical engineering students at several Lebanese universities to devise a machine that separates plastic from copper and iron, which are the materials of which bullet cartridges are made, in order to recycle the plastic,” he said. “And we will fund the best project submitted to us.”
Dozens of large bags filled with collected cartridges will be stored in a safe warehouse provided by the Federation of Keserwan Municipalities in Jounieh.
According to Rizk, the “Cartridge Collecting” project will continue for years to come, and its cost won’t be specified. “The more money we collect, the better we work until we reach a point where we force hunters to clean the areas of their cartridges, especially since hunters can reuse a cartridge by refilling it with gunpowder and small iron balls, which we highly encourage,” he said.
Around a month ago, the “LIVE Lebanon” project carried out a campaign for cleaning the sea. One hundred and seventeen Lebanese, American and Venezuelan divers volunteered to lift a ton of waste from an area stretching between the Tabarja beach to Enfeh in the north. It included plastic waste, glass, tires and bags.
Moreover, a project with the slogan “Forget the Hole” managed last year to fill 6,000 holes in the ground in 92 Lebanese districts within eight months. “There are still many holes in Lebanon waiting for funding to be filled,” Rizk said.


Syrian army pushes into Quneitra province: State TV, rebels

Updated 49 sec ago
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Syrian army pushes into Quneitra province: State TV, rebels

AMMAN: The Syrian army and its allies made advances in the southwest that bring it closer to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights border, state television and rebels said on Saturday.
The army, backed by a Russian air campaign, has been pushing into the edges of Quneitra province following an offensive last month that routed rebels in adjoining Daraa province who were once backed by Washington, Jordan and Gulf states.
The offensive has restored Syrian government control over a swathe of the southwest, strategic territory at the borders with Jordan and Israel.
The capture of a string of villages in a zone extending between the two southwestern provinces, announced by the army on Saturday, comes as a second group of rebels and their relatives are expected to evacuate to northern Syria later in the day.
A deal negotiated by Russian officers with rebels in the Quneitra area last week allows safe passage to rebels opposed to a return to state rule, while offering others who decide to stay Russian guarantees against army encroachments in their own localities, rebels say.
It also allows the return of Syrian army brigades that existed before the 2011 conflict back to where they were stationed near a 1974 demilitarized zone with Israel on the Golan frontier.
More than 2,500 people, among them fighters from Islamist groups who have rejected the deal, left on Friday headed to opposition areas in northern Syria.
Other phases of the agreement, which includes the handover of weapons and the entry of Russian military police in some villages, were expected to be implemented in coming days, a rebel source said
Tens of thousands of people have been sheltering at the frontier since the Russian and Syrian aerial bombing campaign that the opposition called a scorched earth policy began one month ago.
Russia has been exerting pressure on the Syrian army to facilitate the return of many of the displaced and has also lobbied the United Nations to send regular convoys of aid to ease the humanitarian crisis triggered by the offensive, UN officials said.
A senior Western diplomatic source said Moscow, which has reached understandings with Israel and Jordan that made it possible to move with the offensive, was keen to stabilize the border area to prove that its Syria intervention sought a political settlement to the seven-year-old conflict.