Nov 27, 2011
RIYADH: Local authorities announced on Saturday a ban on the hunting of migratory birds that are flocking to the Kingdom in their thousands.
Sources from the Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) told Arab News that although the Kingdom is free from any bird-related viruses such as bird flu, Saudi Arabia is keen to ensure such epidemics do not occur in the country.
The ban is being imposed for the third consecutive year considering the prevalence of such diseases in other parts of the world.
SWA Secretary-General Bander bin Saud bin Mohammad returned to the Kingdom after attending the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in Bergen, Norway, from Nov. 20 to 25.
More than 300 participants, including representatives of close to 100 governments and several key wildlife conservation organizations as well as scientists, assembled to discuss urgent conservation responses to address the rapid decline of migratory animal species around the globe.
Several thousand species of migratory birds come to the Kingdom during the winter and fly back home in February for their spring season.
There are chances that some of these birds can carry diseases to places where they temporary take shelter and hunting them would increase the chances of this happening, the sources said.
The migratory birds mostly come from eastern and northern Europe and West Asia.
Migratory birds are generally found in Al-Hair in Riyadh, Al-Asfar Lake, Jubail Marine Protected Area, Dawmat Al-Jandal in Al-Jouf, Farasan Islands and Wadi Aljizan.
The SWA has deployed several teams in these areas to track birds that may be carrying diseases.
Besides migratory birds, falcons and houbara bustards are also popular with hunters in the Kingdom.
Falcons are mostly found in areas such as Al-Jouf, Tabuk, Qurayat and along the Red Sea coast. Different species of falcons include the Saker, Green and Lanner breeds and their prices range from SR10,000 to SR100,000.
The hunted falcons are either sold in the open market or they are tamed to help the hunters track animals.
The Ministry of Interior in cooperation with the SWA regulates the hunting season in the Kingdom. The year is divided into eight hunting mini-seasons.
Although the hunting of birds is prohibited, the authority will allow the hunting of dub (a species of lizard) and rabbits based on its discretion.
The hunting season for rabbits will begin from Dec. 22 and its duration will be announced shortly. An important feature in hunting regulations in the Kingdom is that hunting is restricted to one specific animal during a season, he said, adding that the forthcoming season is for rabbits only.
The hunters are not allowed to use firearms and are only permitted to lay traps or hunt with hounds and falcons.
They are also not permitted to hunt in the 16 protected areas , the Empty Quarter and in places close to urban settlements. In view of the Kingdom's conservation plans, hunters have been warned not to kill endangered species such as oryx, gazelle, ibex, Arabian leopards and ostriches.