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02 March 2024

MoCCAE warns against hunting stone-curlews to preserve ecological balance

By Wam

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MoCCAE, has issued a warning against using electronic devices that mimic bird calls to lure stone-curlews in the UAE. The move follows the increase in hunting of the rare bird species during its winter migration through the country that poses a threat to its reproduction. The UAE has adopted legislations and launched several initiatives for the conservation of rare and endangered bird species.

Sultan Alwan, Assistant Under-Secretary for the Regions Sector at MoCCAE, said, "The ministry has recently noticed that some people use electronic devices that imitate the voice of the stone-curlew to attract large numbers of these birds over long distances in order to catch them easily."  

Alwan pointed out that hunting stone-curlews is a violation of the Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment, amended as Federal Law No. 11 of 2006, punishable by imprisonment for a maximum period of six months and a fine of up to AED20,000.

The illegal act also affects the UAE’s high ranking on the Global Environmental Competitiveness Index. In 2017, the country placed 16th on the Environmental Legislation Implementation Index and the Index of Legislation Effectiveness and Strictness, as compared to the 19th and 18th ranks respectively on each index in 2014.

He added, "The UAE will not allow such random individual misdemeanors to affect the unified efforts of government agencies, private sector and other segments of society."

Commending the environmental protection efforts of local authorities, Alwan said, "In coordination with the UAE Cabinet, MOCCAE is currently preparing to meet with municipalities across the seven emirates to discuss raising awareness regarding this important issue by placing signboards in hunting areas and intensifying campaigns against such violations. Furthermore, the Ministry will review the regulations that control the import of bird song-replicating devices into the country."

Alwan explained that the ban on the hunting of threatened species is part of the Ministry’s sustained efforts to preserve the rich biodiversity of the country that comprises a range of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

He said, "In order to achieve the objectives of the National Biodiversity Strategy, MOCCAE has adopted a comprehensive set of legislation and strategies, and launched several initiatives. Among these, the Wildlife Sustainability Program that sums up the country's strategies to protect local wildlife and control trade in animal and plant species holds special importance. Within the framework of the program, we have initiated several significant steps including the National Red List of Threatened Species Project and the National Invasive Species Project."

The official added, "Article 12 of Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment, as amended by Federal Law No. 11 of 2006, prohibits hunting, killing or capturing of wild and marine birds and animals identified in Lists 1, 2 and 3 annexed to this law. It also bans the possession, transport or sale of live or dead birds and animals without obtaining permission from the concerned authorities."

Penalties for violating the provisions of this article are as follows:
Imprisonment for a maximum period of six months and a fine of up to AED20,000 in case of any of the species included on List 1.

Imprisonment for a maximum period of three months and a fine of up to AED10,000 in case of any of the species included on List 2.

Imprisonment for a maximum period of one month and a fine of up to AED5,000 in case of any of the species included on List 3.

The three lists divide the species according to the degree of importance and risk of extinction, and the stone-curlew features on List 1.

The stone-curlew (karawan in Arabic) is a desert bird and a winter migrant that appears in the UAE during March and October in semi-arid areas, on gravelly land and farms. Its greyish brown plumage provides effective camouflage, with distinctive white spots on the underside of the wings that are visible when flying. The 22-cm-long bird has a relatively large head with a pointed beak and round white-rimmed eyes, long legs with thick joints, and a short tail.

The stone-curlew is largely nocturnal and produces a characteristic wailing cry. During the day, it cannot be seen easily, as it sleeps in groups on the ground between shrubs and rocks, with legs folded under its body, and neck and head outstretched. It eats insects, worms and other invertebrates, and even small snakes. During breeding season, the female lays one or two brown-spotted eggs on bare ground without a nest.

The bird starts the migration journey from its home in Central Asia between late August and early November, and returns between early March and May. During this period, it often spends a few days in the UAE in search of the right climate, food and mating partners.