Lesser Spotted Eagle poaching in Lebanon
In Lebanon, thousands of endangered migratory bird species are illegally shot each year. Poaching is particularly dramatic for the lesser spotted eagle: with around 100 breeding pairs, it is the rarest bird of prey in Germany (and Eastern Europe for that matter). Its population in the north-east of the Republic is protected with great effort and considerable use of taxpayers' money. As migratory birds, they have to cross the "bottleneck" of Lebanon twice a year. And not only the breeding pairs from Germany are affected - practically the entire world population of the species passes through a small corridor in the Lebanese mountains. It is difficult to say how many lesser spotted eagles are shot every year. Based on the material gathered so far by CABS and our partners, we conclude that on average the annual number is in the mid-four-digit range - i.e. around 5% of all individuals of the species worldwide!
Due to their low reproduction rates, lesser spotted eagles are unable to compensate for such losses at short notice. In addition, the birds only become sexually mature in their fourth or fifth year, which means that they must have successfully crossed Lebanon and Turkey (where the shooting of lesser spotted eagles is also widespread) at least six times before the first egg lies in the eyrie. The crucial point here is that even with an assumed shooting of "only" five percent per year, many lesser spotted eagles do not live long enough to produce enough offspring to sustain the population.
How many birds will die in one season also depends on the course and timing of the migration. For example, eagles or honey buzzards that cross the bottlenecks during the week and in the afternoon have a much better chance of survival than birds that pass these places at the weekend or in the morning when most hunters are in-situ. If both factors - weekend and strong migration - come together, hundreds of eagles can be killed within a few hours on a single bottleneck. There can therefore be no doubt that poaching on these migration routes is one of the key factors endangering the conservation of these and other species in Europe and elsewhere.
At our bird protection camps, we place particular emphasis on the protection of the lesser spotted eagle. For us, it is a flagship species highlighting the impact of rampant poaching in Lebanon.