Saudi Wildlife Authority: Vulture population threatened by human impact

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Lappet-faced vulture
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Bearded vulture
Updated 19 January 2018
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Saudi Wildlife Authority: Vulture population threatened by human impact

RIYADH: Scientific studies by researchers from the Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) show that a huge number of vulture deaths are a result of poisoning, which will eventually threaten the wildlife ecological balance.
In a study on how vultures are facing threats, Dr. Mohammed Shobrak from the SWA in Taif said that vultures were one of the most threatened families of birds in the world and their decline had been shockingly rapid.
Some species in Africa and the Indian subcontinent have declined by more than 95 percent in the past few decades, a rate faster than that of the passenger pigeon or the dodo.
The biggest driver of these declines is human impact, either by poisoning (intentional or otherwise) or from maltreatment. As a result many Old World, vultures are now critically endangered, meaning they are at risk of becoming extinct in our lifetime.
Shobrak said vultures were efficient scavengers vital in preventing the spread of disease — locating and picking clean carcasses before disease spores could develop — and that their demise would lead to economic, social and environmental problems.
In Saudi Arabia, studies by SWA researchers indicate that many vulture deaths are a result of poisoning.
Another reason for the deterioration in vulture numbers in the Kingdom and other parts of the world is pesticide spraying.
Vultures, despite their stomach’s ability to digest the tissue of an animal that has died as a result of viral or bacterial diseases, are vulnerable to toxic chemicals used in insect eradication.
Shobrak said that deaths of Griffon vultures have been recorded in Saudi Arabia in regions where pesticides are used to control populations of the desert locust.
“Other causes of deterioration are disturbances to nesting sites, especially those that nest in trees, like the lappet-faced vulture,” he said.
Nesting disturbances can affect the reproduction of these birds and may lead to a decrease in their numbers.
Another threat is poorly planned powerlines, wind farms and roads, which result in the deaths of thousands of vultures across Europe and Asia every year.
An SWA official told Arab News that vultures played an important role in cleansing the forests of dead animals, and their absence could lead to other problems in the environment and difficulty in maintaining the ecological balance in the wild.
He said that the SWA had been taking preventive measures to fight the decline of the birds through awareness programs, and by providing protected areas where they would not face human impact.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 31 min 6 sec ago
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”