Earth News Journal 2: Migrating Birds in the Mediterranean

In the July 2013 issue of the National Geographic Magazine, an article discussed the alarming issue of songbird poaching in the Mediterranean.

Across the countries of Egypt, Albania, and Italy, songbird populations are in rapid decline, due to an excessive amount of hunting and poaching. The slaughter of songbirds sounds incredibly horrifying to the American public, but to the people of such Mediterranean countries, songbird hunting is a way of life, a tradition.

The act of poaching has become a fashionable, sporting event for most of the hunters. According to the article, “hundreds of millions of songbirds and larger migrants are killed for food, profit, sport, and general amusement” every year.

Despite the European Union’s desire for nature-protection programs and conservation policies, the non-EU countries are the ones in which the poaching situation has not improved. Albania, specifically, underwent an economic revival in the late 1980s. With the transition to a market economy, the Albanian men expressed their new freedoms by purchasing guns. The guns represented an opportunity to kill birds – an activity previously reserved for the elite of society.

In the present age, with an increase in GPS-tracking technology and widespread guns across the Mediterranean, the skies remain sparse and the trees vacant of migratory birds. Golden Orioles, a highly desired Egyptian songbird, only provide a scant amount of meat for human consumption. Other birds, such as the Common Kestrel and various raptors, will be captured and used by the hunters in order to spot songbirds. The falcons are in short supply, in addition to songbird populations. Some falconers will pay up to $35,000 for a live falcon.

Environmental awareness and education about protecting bird species is slowly becoming a trend in these three affected countries. The problem remains, however, because the hunters depend on a bountiful harvest of songbirds to survive the winter months. An empty net is an empty stomach. By eliminating the excessive hunting of songbirds, environmental advocates hope to find employment in protecting the natural wildlife for these men who depend on the birds for prosperity.

Reflection

Reading this article broadened my opinion on the hunting of various species. When I speak of hunting, I refer to animals such as deer, foxes, and ducks – common hunted animals in the Mid-West of the United States. However, hunting encompasses a much wider range of species, depending on the location around the world. In some countries, it seems, bird hunting is the most accessible form of hunting, whereas in other countries it may be the hunting of fish that is most prevalent. At first, I was horrified at the thought of killing innocent songbirds in flight, for sport or leisure. As I continued reading, however, I realized that I sympathize with the men who absolutely depend upon the hunting and capturing of songbirds for a living. To think, that to have no other option but to resort to the desperate poaching of birds – that would be a rough life. Also, just because we Americans hold birds as a more sacred animal to save than deer, for instance, doesn’t mean that the songbird is more special than any other animal. Different cultures have different customs, and I believe the priority of bird preservation in America is one example of a cultural imbalance across the globe. Moderation with hunting, as in all aspects of life, is key.

Franzen, Jonathan. “Last Song for Migrating Birds.” National Geographic July 2013: n. pag. Print.

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