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.


Israeli leader heads to Chad to restore relations

Updated 13 min 21 sec ago
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Israeli leader heads to Chad to restore relations

  • Chad broke off relations with Israel in 1972
  • Chad plays a key role in combatting militant groups in the Sahara

JERUSALEM: Israel’s prime minister has departed for the central African nation of Chad to officially restore relations.
Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hailed what he called a “historic and important breakthrough” with the Muslim-majority country that borders Libya and Sudan. Chad’s President Idriss Deby visited Jerusalem in November.
Netanyahu has made great efforts to extend Israeli diplomacy to Africa and has visited the continent several times in recent years. It’s part of an overall policy of seeking allies among developing countries that have historically sided with the Palestinians at the UN and other international forums. Netanyahu says this outreach “causes outrage in Iran and among the Palestinians.”
Chad broke off relations with Israel in 1972. It plays a key role in combatting militant groups in the Sahara.