Since the time of the pharaohs, Egyptians have raised nets every autumn along the Mediterranean, to capture golden orioles, nightingales and corncrakes as they wing their way south for the winter. It's an ancient tradition, but in recent years the custom has gotten out of hand.

A few scattered nets along the coast have metastasized into a nearly impenetrable wall of traps, stretching almost without break from the Gaza strip in the east to the Libyan border in the west. Conservative estimates set the annual death toll of migratory birds in this area at 10 million, but others say it is probably an order of magnitude more. 

In some areas, especially near Libya, the birds are caught for subsistence, by people who currently have no other way to feed themselves, but the vast majority, perhaps eighty percent of the birds trapped, are sold in markets as a pricey delicacy or hocked to high-end restaurants in Cairo for up to five euros for each slight songbird. 

"The nets started going up in unprecedented numbers in the early nineties," says Lars Lachmann, a bird conservation officer at the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) in Germany. "Then with the global paranoia around bird flu, the hunters weren't so keen—more likely to hide from the birds, than hunt them. But now that that scare appears to have passed, and given the recent and ongoing turmoil in Egypt, nets have been going up like never before." [continue]

Tags: Egypt, birds, conservation, hunting

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Replies to This Discussion

A sad story indeed. Human population just keeps growing and decimating our Earth. Today's population 7,117, 890, 250.

Thank you Dallas for making a discussion on this. This is an important issue.

After all of the bird documentaries I've enjoyed, this sounds like the end of the world for migrating populations in that part of the world. This is a sickening death blow.

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