Hunting practices by falconers from the Arab world are threatening bird populations in southern Africa, including Botswana.
Falconry is a popular sport in the Middle East but as the Houbara Bustard population shrinks in this region ÔÇô the bird is now on the ‘vulnerable’ list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ÔÇô so Arabs are looking further afield for new hunting grounds.
According to Ian Michler, who has written about the hunting threat in Africa ÔÇô Birds & Birding magazine, “Ornithologists and conservationists in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe should be made aware of these developments. These countries also have bustard populations, wide open spaces and policies favourable to foreign investors.”
Bustards are under threat across their migratory range, with some of these birds captured and illegally transported to the Arabian Gulf to train falcons to hunt. And recent reports suggest that falconers are now buying land in South Africa ÔÇô in particular the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape ÔÇô with the express intention of hunting. This despite prohibitive local conservation laws.
The executive director of Birdlife Africa, Mark Anderson, said he is “worried” as “Arab falconers try to catch as many birds as possible”. The hunting practices in question are not sustainable, putting a great strain on southern African biodiversity.
Birdlife South Africa has said that it welcomes birding tourism in the country but would be prepared to tackle the issue head-on should it become necessary.