Government extends ban on hunting of migratory birds

Migratory birds arrive in Tabuk with the onset of winter. (SPA)

Migratory birds arrive in Tabuk with the onset of winter. (SPA)

With the coming of winter, local authorities have reiterated the ban on hunting migratory birds that are passing through the Kingdom in their thousands.

For the fifth year running, the Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) has banned hunting migratory birds passing through the Kingdom on their way to Africa.

Sources from the Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) told Arab News that although the Kingdom was free of any bird flu virus, it does not want to risk the reappearance of the disease which might arrive with migratory birds. The ban is a preventive action, considering the prevalence of the disease in other parts of the world.

The Kingdom plays host to several thousand migratory birds that pass through in early winter and then appear again as they make their way back north next spring.

“There are chances that some of these birds might bring the disease to places where they stop on their way and hunting them could make matters worse,” the sources said, pointing out that the ban could help to curb the spread of disease.

The majority of migratory birds come from eastern and northern Europe and western Asia. They include houbara bustards, passerines, flamingos, pelicans, cranes and turtle doves.

Among other places, the birds are found at Al-Hair in Riyadh, Al-Asfar Lake, Jubail Marine Protected Area, Domat Al-Jandal in Al-Jouf, the Farasan Islands and Wadi Al-Jazan.

The SWA has sent several teams to these areas in order to monitor any abnormalities among the birds.

Besides migratory birds, falcons and houbara bustards are also among hunted birds in the Kingdom. Falcons are mostly found in areas such as Al-Jouf, Tabuk, Ghuraiyath and along the Red Sea coast. Different species of falcons include Saker, Green and Lanner falcons, and their prices can range from SR10,000 to SR100,000.

The Ministry of Interior, in cooperation with the SWA, regulates the hunting season in the Kingdom. “The year is divided into eight hunting seasons, six of them for birds and two for dhab (desert lizard) and rabbits.”

The hunting season for rabbits begins from Dec. 22 and its duration will be announced shortly. The important feature in the hunting regulation is that the hunters can only hunt for a specified species during its season.

Hunters are not permitted to hunt in 16 protected areas, the Empty Quarter and in places close to urban settlements. In view of the Kingdom’s conservation efforts, hunters have been warned not to kill endangered species such as oryx, gazelle, ibex, Arabian leopard and ostrich.


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