Archives for: 2010


The Birdwatcher of Baghdad

Permalink 16:11:35, Categories: Iraq  

Dodging Bullets for the Sociable Lapwing

By Alexander Smoltczyk

SPIEGEL ONLINE International

well worth having a read -,1518,724511,00.html



Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

Permalink 05:21:48, Categories: Bahrain  

From The Gulf Daily News

Posted on » Monday, June 21, 2010

Bahrain to sign convention

BAHRAIN is all set to join the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it was declared yesterday.

All legal, operational and logistical issues have been completed and a resolution will be passed soon by the Cabinet, said Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife director-general Dr Adel Al Zayani.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a five-day training workshop held as part of Bahrain's responsibility towards CITES. Dr Al Zayani said after the move there would only be three other countries in the Middle East that would remain non-signatories - Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. "We should have signed much earlier, but there were several issues," he told the GDN. "It was not that we did not want to sign, it was because we needed time to get our act together by ensuring all internal issues had been sorted out and co-ordinated."

The event is organised by the commission, the United Nations Environment Programme's West Asia Regional Office (UNEP-ROWA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It is being held under the patronage of commission head Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa. "In Bahrain, we are already protecting our endangered species and have protected areas, but we will be able to better manage the import of all endangered species of animals," said Dr Al Zayani. He said there was no such thing as completely ending a trade in endangered animals. "However, we will try and maximise our reach and stamp out the practice from Bahrain," said Dr Al Zayani.

Laws, he added, were in force in Bahrain but needed to be further toughened. "Offenders get away far too easily because we do not have the tough laws and stringent punishment needed." Dr Al Zayani said in some cases, offenders might get away with a warning or a fine of around BD50. "We have to have stricter and tougher implementation if we want to make a mark," he said. One of the major challenges in Bahrain is that imported animals tend to reproduce and spread in the community, said Dr Al Zayani. "There is a real danger to the country's biodiversity if that happens. That is a concern we are discussing," he said.

Dr Al Zayani said several officials from the Interior Ministry's Customs Directorate were attending the workshop, where they will be made aware of the rules governing CITES. "Municipal and Industry and Commerce Ministry officials among others were also provided with detailed guidelines, names and pictures of endangered species," he said. He said teams of officials would also periodically conduct raids at the Isa Town market, where such animals were reportedly being sold. We have to try and link all authorities concerned and come up with a plan."

CITES is an international agreement between governments, drafted following a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It entered into force in 1975 with the aim to ensure international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The convention accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants.




Permalink 08:24:04 pm, Categories: Kuwait  

This article published with photographs in the Kuwait Bazaar Magazine (distributed for free through all Starbucks outlets). was written by a Kuwait based birder. I make no excuses for publishing it here even though I have receive emails telling me to mind my own business. In reply to these small minded people this is my business, environmental issues like this have no boundaries and besides many birds that overfly Bahrain where I am based will also pass through Kuwait. It is simple; what these people are doing is against the laws of Kuwait. worse still against the teachings of Islam - such behaviour threatens (not only there but through out the Levant) many highly endangered species. Many of those involved in this crime are affluent and well educated, all I can say is money spent on their education was wasted. The publication here of this article is supported by the entire both national and expatriate birding, environmental and conservation community in Kuwait.

Howard King


I am from South Africa, a world in one country because of the rich diversity it offers both its residents and visitors. Believe me, it has plenty to offer no matter what your interests, sports or hobbies are. We are blessed in South Africa with a truly magnificent and rich wildlife heritage with large areas of land set aside as game reserves which are conserved and protected so that all of its people and of course the many thousands of visitors who visit annually, can experience and enjoy the wildlife our country has to offer. A lot of effort has gone into conservation, protection and bio-diversity projects and as a result this is one of the major tourism income generators for our country. Our people care deeply and respect this wildlife treasure and do all they can to ensure it is protected and can be enjoyed for many generations to come.

South Africa has a rich diversity of birds, almost 950 species of which a big percentage is made up of migrants from the northern hemisphere. These migratory birds undertake epic journeys when they fly south at the end of their breeding season in September to spend time enjoying the southern hemisphere summer before returning north in April to again commence another breeding cycle in the northern hemisphere summer. In South Africa we have very strict firearm laws; who can own them and where they can be discharged as a result indiscriminate shooting of wildlife is just not heard of or even seen.

Migration occurs in many different species from mammals and birds to insects and fish and it is one of the greatest and most remarkable spectacles on planet earth. Only 2-months ago, Kuwait experienced what must have been one of the biggest Painted Lady (these are medium sized brown butterflies that almost everyone must have noticed) migrations to have been seen in many years. Thousands of butterflies flying across Kuwait in a north westerly direction over at least 3 to 4 weeks was a spectacle to behold.

I am a birder and photographer and am astounded that our migratory birds choose to fly through Kuwait on their way to and from their breeding grounds in the north. Astounded in that they cover unimaginable distances across the most hostile habitats and environments in their quest to sustain and increase the species and humbled that I have the opportunity whilst living and working in Kuwait to be a witness to this migration. Most Kuwaiti’s are oblivious that this phenomenon occurs in their country twice a year. When we show locals and school children our pictures of birds taken in Kuwait, most do not believe that they have been taken in Kuwait, so already there is an opportunity to educate. We are a small and dedicated group of birders and photographers in Kuwait trying to spread the awareness about birding through the various local conservation organisations, our Blogs, talks at the Aware Center, articles in newspapers and magazines and our annual Kuwait Bird Report, but it is a long road and one that we will not give up on.

However, what tears me and my birding (both local, ex-pat and the many visiting international birders we have hosted each migration) colleagues apart the most; is that the wildlife (and especially birds) we protect so vigorously in South Africa as well as in Europe appears to be held in contempt by a minority who have absolutely no respect for others, their environment and the value of life of animals and birds that deservedly share this world with us.

The shooters of Kuwait are a minority group of people who are selfish and consider that migratory birds are just there for them to kill relentlessly and indiscriminately for no apparent reason other than boredom and target practice. Some birds admittedly are killed for the kitchen, but usually as many as possible. Self restraint and preservation is not a consideration and I have seen photographs of hunters standing proudly with their spoils all neatly lined up row after row, like the arrested drug smugglers in the Kuwait Times - what is the pride in that? Gone are the days when hunting was considered a regal sport and sport of kings with horses and falcons. Now it is 4 x 4’s with people and guns hanging out of the windows racing at speed across the desert often in competition with other shooters chasing and killing Turtle Dove, Bee-eaters, Sandgrouse, Bustards and when these can’t be found anything else that sadly comes across their path whether it has nutritional value or not. If not this method, then setting up huge rings of spotlights at night in the middle of the desert to create a false illusion of daylight and a safe landing place for sandgrouse and plovers, only to shoot every single one when they come in to land. Or camping outside a desert oasis, in comfortable chairs with umbrellas shooting anything that flies over and not even bothering to pick up or look at what they have killed.

However, it is not only 4 x 4’s but shooters head out to sea in boats with shotguns shooting terns that breed on the off-shore islands during the height of summer. If that isn’t enough then it is much more fun to go stomping across the breeding grounds to see how many eggs you can break – come on, what is going on here?

I ask myself is this behavior just isolated to Kuwait? I have travelled to Bahrain, UAE and Oman and have not witnessed such uncaring and lawless behavior. Is it the attitudes of those people that is different, is it because Conservation and Protection is enforced and taken seriously by the authorities and are the laws tougher regarding the ownership and use of firearms?

Whilst birding in Oman last year, I visited the Khawr Rawri Nature Reserve. A signpost at the entrance, that I wish we could see all over Kuwait, read:
Sultanate of Oman - Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs
Khawr Rawri Nature Reserve

Nature Reserve according to Royal Decree (49/97)
The almighty God said “There is not an animal
On the earth, nor a bird on the wing which is not
Part of your community” (The Holy Koran, Sura 6, Aya 38)
It is strictly prohibited to:
• Fish without obtaining a permit
• Cut or damage trees and plants
• Hunt, disturb or harm birds or collect their eggs
• Graze any animals within the Khawr boundaries
• Dump waste and drive off the roads
People contravening these regulations will be liable for
Prosecution in terms of the laws and regulation of the Sultanate of Oman
“Protection of the environment is the
Responsibility of us all”

Kuwait has the potential to have a rich avian biodiversity if we can nurture and protect rather than slaughter. This could become a fantastic revenue generator for birding related tourism that could be on par with or surpass Israel – normally considered as the Number 1 birding hotspot that international birders flock to each migration. However, but no-one wants to stand watching and photographing birds while shotgun pellets rain down on them as happened to our group last weekend. We should be doing all we can to protect species which generally have the odds stacked against them, together with a human population that is expanding exponentially and is taking more than it gives back to Planet Earth.

Kuwait finds itself on one of the major bird migration routes in the world and could lead the way with conservation and firearm policies that others would look up to and follow to ensure that migratory as well as resident birds are protected and given a safe passage when they stop over to rest and replenish in this marvel called migration. If the powers that be could take note, there is much to be done and so much opportunity to put Kuwait on the international birding map.

Perhaps Kuwait should be lumped with Malta and fall under the microscope of world’s environmental and conservation attention due to the indiscriminate and incessant killing of migratory birds? This could hopefully spur the authorities together with the dedicated public organisations (of which there are many) that are committed to bring change through consolidated action to halt the shooting, setting aside reserves to ensure protection and preservation of all species and embark on a national educational awareness program to promote eco-tourism in Kuwait with the objective of ensuring that Kuwait has a sustainable conservation heritage that all Kuwaitis could enjoy and be very proud of.

But until that happens, I feel completely helpless, outraged and get sick to my stomach when I see mine and my countries future generations wildlife heritage getting blown out of the sky by people who don’t know where these birds have come from or where they are going to and actually do not really care either way.

So,the killing fields in Kuwait will continue every Spring and Autumn of every year until something is done, or there are no longer anymore birds left to kill.

A Kuwait Birder



Illegal Bird markets in Kuwait

Permalink 10:42:53 am, Categories: Kuwait  

Illegal Bird markets in Kuwait

Abdulrahman Al-Sirhan and his team from OSK (Ornithological Society of Kuwait) have done some good documentary and ‘undercover’ work on illegal sale of birds at the local Friday market.

Too download the full PDF file please follow this


It was presented to a high level audience at a Biodiversity Conference last week and has hopefully been looked into by the authorities (we live in hope that some action will now be taken, but some things move too slowly).

Mike Pope



Letter to Local Paper

Permalink 09:21:09, Categories: Bahrain  

My letter to the local press

A wildlife wake-up call to authorities(link)

Posted on » Saturday, May 22, 2010

Every time I go out bird watching I am never certain that I will still find my intended destination intact. The rate of change and the sheer negligence of the so-called concerned authorities here constantly astonish me. Trees uprooted, natural vegetation cleared, ditches filled, green spaces bulldozed flat, let alone more garbage than one can imagine thrown in the sea. It is always a surprise to me that Bahrain has any wildlife left worthy of note but of that which does survive, I often wonder for just how much longer.

Every day we read of some so-called green programme; recycling a tin can is not green, it's common sense. May I suggest instead therefore, people should start to worry about just respecting and protecting the few natural green areas we have left and the wildlife that use them?

What sort of world are we leaving for future generations when as the current tenants of this planet, we are determined to destroy every vestige of our wonderful natural world?

In Bahrain being green is the wrong colour to illustrate one's affinity to nature. Take a closer look at a brown and twisted twig on a desert bush. It has probably survived longer than you so as you flatten it with your 4x4, think optimistically as you destroy a hundred years of plant growth.

It's a sad reflection on Bahrain, which as a signatory to many international treaties and agreements, allows or rather turns a blind eye to, for instance, the capture, sale and mistreatment of animals and birds classified as vulnerable or highly endangered globally.

To me all native Bahrain species should be on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List as well as those migratory ones. Bahrain is an island for those that hadn't noticed through a lack of access to the sea all the way around, but this does make the native species all the more important; it provides a unique gene pool.

Lesser Kestrel

This photograph is of a Lesser Kestrel, a migratory species, I found recently hanging dead on a fence not far from Al Areen Wildlife Park, that had been caught for sale in a local bird market for a few dinars. It had escaped but not before it had a fishing line attached as a tether to one leg which had then become entangled in the fence causing the bird to die a slow and lingering death.

To the so-called concerned authorities I say start getting off your backsides and get out there, apply the laws you have. Make a difference, the current generation might not thank you but future ones most definitely will.

Howard King


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