Every year, people illegally slaughter millions of migratory birds as they make nature’s most incredible journey. The illegal killing of birds for pleasure is a tragic manifestation of how we, humans, are capable of the most senseless destruction. Fortunately, however, humans are also capable of love, bravery and altruism: discover the story of a courageous Lebanese conservationist, as they go on their first mission to save defenceless blackcaps from illegal killing – a beautiful example of humanity at its best.
I had set my alarm for 5:00 AM – but I stayed awake in bed most of that night. I was so excited, I could barely sleep. I was going on my first field mission as a member of the Anti-Poaching unit of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), alongside the Committee Against Illegal Bird Slaughter (CABS).
There were seven of us on this mission. A German photographer-filmmaker, three people from CABS, and three from the Anti-Poaching unit – including myself.
We reached the village of Barja in Mount Lebanon at the crack of dawn. Almost every house in Barja is part of a farm. So we first split into two groups, and then explored the town in order to locate illegal mist nets and calling devices among the olive orchards and fruit tree groves.
After only two hours of patrolling, we uncovered six active trapping sites and calling devices that are used to lure birds into traps. We reported the findings to the Internal Security Forces, who immediately reacted and showed up on site. The support of the ISF was much needed, as we couldn’t dismantle any mist nests without them. An incredible number of animals were trapped in the nets – moths, butterflies, and birds. My heart ached.
I was deeply saddened by the cruelty of humans, humans of my own country!
While we were dismantling one of the nets, I spotted a struggling blackcap. I jumped out of excitement and fear! Without thinking, I held the trapped bird and stroked it gently so it could feel safe. That was the first time I ever touched a bird. I called out to the others, as the nets were severely tangled around the frail blackcap’s body. After half an hour or so, we were able to carefully remove the net, and then, we set our feathered friend free.
I spent the rest of the day – and week – thinking about this exceptional experience. I felt that I could really change the life of a helpless creature. I felt hope. Hope for birds in Lebanon, as fragile as that hope may be. One thing is certain: in Lebanon, the support offered by the presidential team, ISF and partners from around the world is surely but slowly resisting the illegal killing of birds.