Where Eagle Feathers Fall Like Snow

Lebanon is a byway for migratory birds. To protect them from hunting, a conservationist turned to Islamic tradition.

Comments: 42

  1. highlights a laudable nature plus people model that should be adapted globally: when and where nature thrives, people do too. the opposite also holds true..

  2. Sometimes I feel that the future for birds is hopeless. Then, I see an article like this one that gives me hope. As a naturalist educator, I met children whose fathers were using songbirds like robins for target practice. Telling them that their dads could end up in jail for the practice, did nothings. Teaching them about nature and the beauty of birds and birdsong made a difference.

  3. Nothing should be shoted. Hunting is a practice against life, in this case wild life. No money saves that behavior.

  4. @Kathleen Yes, Education and Respect are key to understanding.

  5. Legal hunting overseen by honest game management won't endanger any species, but the craziness in Lebanon's history is inexcusable. I can't say I'm optimistic about hunting seasons being followed in the Muslim world, but it might at least help in mixed Lebanon, especially once the insurgents funded by Iran are eventually flushed out.

  6. Thanks for this interesting piece. I would like to know if people in Lebanon have to take a course in order to be licensed to legally hunt like they do here in the United States? The reason I ask is that time is spent in most of these courses teaching about hunting as a conservation tool. It sounds like this is not the case in Lebanon. Consumers of outdoor sports such as hunters, fishermen and trappers are taxed on various things with the money being set aside for various purposes among them the purchase of land to be set aside for wildlife. I understand the cultural implications of this not being a possibility in Lebanon but if you check history, the United States in the 1800s was much like what we are reading about here and a few brave people stepped up to pass legislation that taxed hunters, fisherman and trappers to make this happen. There was a back lash at first but over time people accepted this and today it has purchased millions of acres for wildlife that otherwise may not be open space.

  7. Bravo!

  8. Admirable. Now if we can only get Palestinians from torching Israel's nature preserves and killing wildlife. And from tying flaming twigs to the legs of birds and sending them over to Israeli territory. Someone will, of course, opine that that will happen when Israel gives back Palestinian land. It's hard to compromise with a people who can't see the beauty even of wildlife preserves, but must destroy everything.

  9. May be the same should apply to settlers who destroy the Palestinians olive trees

  10. What a wonderful idea. Thank you, Mr. Serha

  11. Please come here and educate AMERICANS. They are in such denial.

  12. @Calleendeoliveira American hunters are some of the best conservationists this country knows. It is through our taxes, land ethic, and connection with the outdoors that many species have been saved and / or rebounded. Show me a species that is widely hunted in America and I will show you a species that is doing well

  13. Killing for the sake of killing. These people are not eating these birds. Confiscate all shot guns.

  14. @Paulie Then Americans should also get started doing this at home. Children with guns, shooting birds in their backyards for target practice is depressingly common; the reply is "it's just a bird." Target their cats and dogs and it's a tragedy. (Not that I ever would as I have been raised to respect life).

  15. A much needed bit of news. Thank you.

  16. Now I look forward to a pro hunting NYT’s article, maybe about how Ducks Unlimited has done more for migratory bird populations then maybe any organization. I won’t hold my breath.

  17. That's like saying "we had to destroy the town in order to save it." Sorry - hunting doesn't save animals, hunting kills animals. Killing is killing, it isn't saving or preserving.

  18. @Jon F From their website, it does not appear that Ducks Unlimited is a "pro-hunting" organization, per se. Their website says: "Ducks Unlimited is the world's leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation. DU got its start in 1937 during the Dust Bowl when North America's drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows. Determined not to sit idly by as the continent's waterfowl dwindled beyond recovery, a small group of sportsmen joined together to form an organization that became known as Ducks Unlimited. Its mission: habitat conservation." Obviously not hunter-unfriendly, but their point seems to be HABITAT CONSERVATION (not hunting). Just saying.

  19. But why not just protect their habitat and flyways without killing them?

  20. This is honestly some amazing work! The ingenuity to use religion to protect instead of attack is refreshing and shows the power of religion if used properly.

  21. Great concept...why not use it in more communities around the world?

  22. The migratory paths of birds are imperiled because of human activity throughout the world. Flying from Africa through the Middle East to Eastern Europe must rank up there at the top of the most dangerous. Efforts such as Mr. Serhal's to modify protection schemes to fit with the cultures that are critical for safe passage need to be emulated far and wide.

  23. A beautiful story. It reminds me of the joy I experienced with my first view through binoculars. The quail parents are amazing up close.

  24. An interesting and somewhat informative article, but frustrating for what it omits--information on how Mr. Serhal accomplished what he did other than numerous vague verbs, such as "established" and "helped." Excerpt example: “In 1990, Mr. Serhal… returned home. In 1996, he helped establish... Lebanon’s first national park. “S.P.N.L. helped a community design a local hima...The first hima was established in southern Lebanon in 2004.” How'd he do it? Dunno. For readers who would like to replicate Mr. Serhal's success elsewhere, such as the comment from Chicagogirrl ("Great concept...why not use it in more communities around the world?"), such fuzzy descriptions do not give any guidance.

  25. News from the Middle East tends to be so one dimensional - understandably enough - that it's easy to forget that lots of other things are going on there, like in any other country. Whether it's hunting or bird watching, going to scout meetings, or just delivering the mail, life as we know it goes on for them, too.

  26. Thank you for this article. Hopefully they can (or have) taken other steps like banning lead shot, since poisoning from same is a huge problem wherever it is used. Hunters can become an asset for sustaining wildlife when the need is explained convincingly. Here's a snip and link to an article about a similarly-old approach to caring for land while using it - from Hawaii and worth reading. Hawaii has a huge range of ecological zones from tropical ocean to frozen mountain peak, and they'd divide land use accordingly to allow each town access to the different resources in their share. "The Hawaiian socioecological system recognized biogeographic patterns, noting that different living elements are to be found from summit to coast and that they extend from nearshore to reef to the edge of the pelagic. Thus, land-sea geographic units called ahupuaʻa were delineated to include these zones" https://www.americanscientist.org/article/a-hawaiian-renaissance-that-could-save-the-world Here's another that's about the "sacred grove" concept as being re-attempted in India, but which was common in other places, too. Essentially, ban certain activities in some parts of a forest - the benefit being that becomes a refugia for plant, animal or other species which might also be useful to the locals - if not all used up. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sacred-groves-an-ancient-tradition-of-nature-conservation/

  27. Thank you for this inspiring article which provides a positive example of how the often-overlooked religious value upholding the goodness of God's creation, here in the Qur'an and throughout the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Gen 1:31, "very good": Psalms 8:5; 104 and 148 to cite a few) can be a source to support much-needed conservation efforts. The actions described here cohere well in an interfaith manner with Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. This provides a glimmer of hope and offers possibilities to restore our bird populations which have been in serious decline according to recent reports in the Times. Assad Serhal is a hero and inspiration. Involving the scouts helps young people appreciate the environment in ways that bode well for future, environmentally-conscious adults.

  28. Great job. Interesting what works in one country does not necessarily work in another. Ultimately it is about changing by influence.

  29. What a hopeful article this is. Wishing all the best in this project of teaching youth to preserve nature.

  30. Hopeful story considering the awful loss of wildlife in Australia. National Geographic Magazine did a piece several years ago about the killing of songbirds in Italy and Spain prominetly. Tiny songbirds are considered a delicacy. Oh god. Sonbirds and all birds are a delight to the eye not to the palate. Maybe Times could report on this subject also? And what a terrific photo of the migratory birds.

  31. Good example of using the deep psychology of a cultures religion to make sacred a prohibition to help restore or improve balance in nature.

  32. Lots of guns among the Lebanese citizenry, evidently. Really makes Lebanon a safe country (irony).

  33. @Pundit - - - - This is ALWAYS the rule among mankind. It is also THE recipe for throwing off a bunch of foreign-based soliers wearing red coats and expensive-looking hats. I recommend we provide this luxury for every family in, say, Iran.

  34. I have been a supporting member of CABS since the beginning of the 1980s and the reports about the massive slaughter of birds in middle-eastern countries are a horror trip. We try to protect them in Europe, but if they are shot during migration, our European work is more or less in vain. All holy books mention that nature and all the beings in her are at our disposal, as sustenance, but we are to act as stewards of Creation, that is, to preserve and protect, not to hunt species to extinction. I really hope that the tradition addressed in this report will make our work a little easier and preserve these beautiful lives.

  35. Great article! However, I don't understand something from the article. The article mentions 2.6 Billion birds/flights twice a year overflying Lebanon but then quotes 2.6 Million birds shot by hunters each year. Is my basic arithmetic wrong (very low % shot/killed) or are Lebanese hunters bad shots? Is the billion statistics wrong or the 2.6 million statistics wrong?

  36. What has been accomplished here is almost as amazing as global migration itself.

  37. Great article. The main perpetrators of bird death in the USA are outdoor cats. They kill millions of birds every year. The main problem, other than that they are a hostile alien species, is that cats have been bred to enjoy killing. They kill birds even when they aren’t hungry. Just for fun. We’ve made psychos out of many of them. Some cats are gentle, but don’t tempt fate by letting them roam free outdoors, either way.

  38. According to the article, the Society's top concerns is protecting the 2.5 billion migratory birds that past over the country twice a year. During those journeys, 2.6 million migratory birds are shot or trapped illegally. The number of birds that are shot or trapped is only slightly more that 1% of the total bird population Taking only about 1% sounds like sustainable like a sustainable harvest to me.

  39. @Samuel Taylor - That might be your conclusion - just as likely that there are certain times when groups or flocks coming through take a particularly devastating hit - these could be of one species and/or from a single country or region. Remember that safety can hardly be guaranteed on either side of that point of the migration routes. It's a single area, one of scores, perhaps hundreds, on the various routes where concentrated hunting takes place.

  40. This may seem to contradict my earlier reply, but since many Lebanese are at least nominally Christian: Why not teach that Jesus died for every living creature, to move His Spirit through every living creature, including through us as stewards of His Creation? "For God did not send His Son into the world to destroy it, but to save it." John 3:17. I am indebted to N.T. Wright for teaching that Jesus will not simply destroy the Earth, but will renew it and all creatures, by the power of His Resurrection. If only all Christians knew this truth. Obviously many don't.

  41. Never have and never will understand the “joy” of killing. Percentage of loss aside, If you don’t plan to use it for food don’t kill it. Get your jollies with target practice or clay pigeons.

  42. Good to read this, an encouraging note in otherwise discouraging news about birds in our world. May the Himas prosper!