Millions of wild birds illegally killed or taken in the Middle East

A new study has estimated the scale of illegal killing and taking of wild birds in the area for the first time.

Common quail caught in a mist net. © Watter AlBahry

Conservationists from BirdLife and the Ornithological Society of the Middle East have estimated that at least 1.7–4.6 million birds from over 400 species are being illegally killed or taken each year in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Iran.

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The list of birds illegally killed or taken included a number of species listed on the IUCN Red List, such as European turtle dove (Vulnerable), marbled teal (Vulnerable), greater spotted eagle (Vulnerable), white-headed duck (Endangered) and sociable lapwing (Critically Endangered, below).

Sociable lapwing. © Adrian Drummondhill
Sociable lapwing. © Adrian Drummondhill

The report states that this is likely to be an underestimate as data were unavailable for parts of the region.

The dominant reason for killing or taking birds was for sport, followed by for food, and the two most prevalent methods were through illegal shooting or trapping.

Index of importance of the potential reasons for illegally killing/taking birds in the Arabian peninsula, Iran and Iraq. Solid bars indicate the primary reason, open bars indicate secondary reasons.
European turtle dove. © Birdlife Europe
European turtle dove. © Birdlife Europe

The report says: “the distinction between legal hunting and illegal killing was not always clear in the countries assessed owing to insufficiently detailed legislation. Even in Iran, where the legislation is sufficiently detailed, enforcement is limited, and poaching is widespread.”

Combined with data from a previous study for eastern Mediterranean countries, including Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt, they estimate that a mean of 17.5 million birds (8.0–27.1 million birds) are being killed each year in the Middle East region.

Marbled teal. © Daimiel

“We need to address this illegal killing at local, national and regional levels,” says Ibrahim Khader, regional director of BirdLife’sMiddle Eastern office. “We need to understand the socioeconomics of wild birds use by local communities for livelihood or for cultural drives.”


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Main image: Common quail caught in a mist net. © Watter AlBahry