RIYADH - With thousands of migratory birds flocking into the Kingdom from all parts of the globe during the winter, the Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) is enforcing its ban on the hunting of birds to help prevent avian influenza.
According to an official from the SWA, the birds come from western and eastern Europe, and West Asia. “They normally dwell in the Eastern Province, Red Sea coast and in the central part of the Kingdom where there is greenery during their stay,” he said.
The migratory birds include houbara bustards, passerines, flamingos, pelicans, cranes and turtle doves.
They stay temporarily, mainly in Al-Hair in Riyadh, Al-Asfar Lake, Jubail Marine Protected Area, Domat Al-Jandal in Al-Jouf, Farasan Islands and Wadi Aljizan. They will leave at the start of spring.
The official said that the Kingdom had lately identified sporadic incidents of avian flu and the government did not want to risk its recurrence through the hunting of migratory birds. The ban on hunting of birds was only a preventive measure, he said, pointing out that there was a possibility they could carry the virus and spread the disease in their temporary nests.
The hunting regulations are implemented by the SWA in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior. Hunters should also obtain their licenses to hunt and should tell the authorities about the areas of their hunting expedition.
Hunting is banned in protected areas of SWA, the Empty Quarter and in places close to urban settlements.
Hunters are also not allowed to use firearms but can lay traps to catch rabbits. They are also allowed to hunt with hounds and falcons.
According to the Kingdom’s conservation plans, hunters have been advised to refrain from killing endangered species such as the oryx, gazelle, ibex, the Arabian leopard, and the ostrich.
Last week, incidences of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) were reported in Riyadh, Dammam and Al-Ahsa.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Aseeri, assistant deputy minister of health for preventive medicine, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is a major route for bird migration and that the virus probably got into the country through migratory birds.
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