As hunting season kicks off, activists plead to spare birds in extinction danger

September 1 marks the beginning of Israel’s five-month hunting season, and environmental and animal rights campaigners want to ensure that it is the country’s last.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel on Tuesday appealed to hunters’ organizations not to target three species of bird that are in danger of extinction, even though the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which is responsible for distributing around 2,000 hunting permits each year, has not taken them off the list of permitted game.

They are the common quail, the European turtledove and a duck called the common pochard.

The INPA has, however, accepted the SPNI’s call to extend for another year a ban on the use of special quail hunting equipment which makes loud noises that drive the birds out of the bushes and makes them much easier to shoot. The society wants this ban to become permanent.

Two months ago, the SPNI, together with the animals rights organizations Animals Now and Let the Animals Live, launched a campaign to ban hunting for sport and to increase fines for illegal hunting by amending the 1955 Wildlife Protection Law.

A letter they wrote asking Environmental Protection Minister, Gila Gamliel, to support the campaign has not yet yielded a response.

The move follows unsuccessful attempts to change the law by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the INPA and animal rights organizations between 2010 and 2014.

European turtledove. (Meidad Goren)

Two weeks ago, Knesset lawmakers Miki Haimovich (Blue and White) and Keti Shitrit (Likud) gathered 17 signatures to try once again to amend the legislation.

Tens of thousands of wild creatures are reportedly killed each year as the result of legal and illegal hunting in the country. This includes hundreds of deer, porcupines, rabbits, and many thousands of birds.

Over the past 30 years, European turtledove populations have dropped by half,  according to the SPNI.

“Continuing to hunt them is unacceptable. This is a species categorized by the United Nations as endangered worldwide.

“Hunting of turtle doves, quails and several other species is done for the sole purpose of the hunters’ enjoyment. These species do no harm and there is no justification for hunting them,” it said.

“The pressure on Israel’s wildlife is only increasing and there is no longer room for ‘sport’ hunting for leisure and enjoyment, especially where species in danger of extinction are concerned.”

A statement from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said, “The request of the Society for the Protection of Nature [to ban hunting for sport] was received by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority only recently, and was forwarded to the relevant authorities. This type of change is not within the INPA’s authority and it requires a complex and lengthy legislative process, which could not be carried out within the short schedule. Therefore, no change has been made to the list [of wildlife permitted for hunting] so far.”

Deer are among the victims of Israel’s annual five-month hunting season. (Dov Greenblatt, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel)

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