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Trapping of millions of birds in Egypt threatens European bird populations

14/05/2013 14:50:48

The nets stretch approximately 700 kilometres from the Libyan border almost to Gaza. Photo courtesy of NABU

Migratory murder on Egypt's coast

May 2013. Disturbing evidence has emerged from the Mediterranean coast of Egypt: Bavarian Broadcasting have documented a total of 700 kilometres of nets set to catch birds. The birds are then offered as a delicacy in markets and restaurants across Egypt.

The nets are very difficult to avoid for many migratory birds as they form a barrier across their flight path either across the Mediterranean or the Sahara when they are looking for a place to rest. The exact number of birds caught in this way can only be estimated, but experts believe that tens of millions are killed each year.

That songbirds are on the menu (and targeted by many hunters) in many countries of southern Europe and North Africa is nothing new. The existence of fishing nets on the coast of Egypt has long been known, but what is new is the scale of netting, which now extends from Libya across almost the entire coastline of the Egypt to the Sinai - interrupted only in a few places by military installations or major cities.

The few birds that escape the nets are often caught by the gun. Photo courtesy of NABU.

The few birds that escape the nets are often caught by the gun. Photo courtesy of NABU.

Catching birds in Egypt threatens European populations
This form of bird trapping is mostly illegal in Egypt; there are statutory requirements for minimum distances between the nets and maximum stipulated heights but these are largely ignored. Egypt has also signed international agreements on the protection of birds, but the resulting rules are not enforced at all.

Lars Lachmann, bird expert of NABU (NATURE AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION UNION, one of the oldest and largest environment associations in Germany.) states that the implications of bird trapping in Egypt to the European breeding population are not good: "The majority of our species are suffering from habitat loss and climate change; species such as willow warbler, nightingale, wheatear and nightjar will be adversely affected by the massive catch in Egypt."

Most of the birds end up being sold on market stalls. Photo courtesy of NABU

Most of the birds end up being sold on market stalls. Photo courtesy of NABU

Help the fight against this trapping
Any donations will go to NABU's partner organization "Nature Conservation Egypt" to enable it to campaign locally, through regular monitoring of the extent of bird trapping and also to develop specific projects to prevent bird trapping.

Click here to donate

Sign a petition
Sign a petition, which NABU will pass to the Egyptian Embassy, the German federal government and to responsible authorities in Egypt to exercise to finally halt the illegal trapping of birds, and to stop illegal hunting.
Sign the petition against bird slaughter now

Shrike are among the most common birds that are captured in the nets at El Alamein. 


Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Victoria, re your attack on Margo's comment.

The article states that:
"The birds are then offered as a delicacy in markets and restaurants across Egypt."

So it doesn't sound to me like these birds are being killed for the starving people of Egypt at all, but rather for the wealthy folk who can actually afford to buy delicacies & eat in restaurants.

Our poor migratory songbirds face cowboy's guns as they fly across France, through Spain & as they try to get past Gibraltar, then after struggling across the Med., they arrive exhausted, only to be caught in these dastardly nets along most of the coastline, by greedy hunters!

Clearly something needs to be done!

Posted by: Dick Glasgow | 17 Jun 2013 19:05:06

Ignorant and inappropriate comments!

This is a clearly an avian tragedy and efforts must be made to engage with the Egyptian authorities to encourage them to implement and enforce their existing national bird protection legislation. For sure it won't be easy because the Government already has many other major topics on it's agenda but it must be pressed to act to reduce and ultimately end this unsustainable harvest of migrant wild birds.

Having said that I am incensed by the inappropriate and unacceptable comments by the likes of Margo van der Voort. I'll wager that she's an overweight, middle-class women who in her lifetime has consumed more of Mother Earth's natural resources that a whole village or community in Northern Egypt.

She clearly has no knowledge of the definitions of the English words which she uses inappropriately. And she's probably never been without food for 10 hours, let alone 10 days so she is completely and utterly ignorant of the situation experienced by those living in impoverished parts of the world.

For sure she doesn't care about the situation of starving people because she is totally ignorant of what that situation actually feels like. However, if her or her children were forced to go without food for just matter of a day or so, she'd be a the front of the queue to kill and eat anything she could get.

We need to work together with the Egyptian authorities to find alternative sources of income for the families and communities currently involved in this practice. Writing inaccurate, inflammatory and blatantly offensive comments is not the way to address these challenging socio-economic issues. This misguided, decadent and self-righteous b*tch should be ashamed of herself!

Posted by: Victoria | 11 Jun 2013 20:09:08


Oh no, not another holocaust against animals? Migrating birds this time! As if the slaughter of billions of cows, pigs, sheep, lambs, goats, camels, bulls, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, fish, whales, dolphins, turtles, elephants, rhinos etc etc etc is not enough. This whole planet seems to be in the business of mass murdering anything that can be (over)consumed in one way or the other. They say 'primitive' peoples were barbarians, well it seems we have never evolved and the human race has only gotten worse in mass murdering, each other as well as the animal and natural world, rainforests, ecosystems, mighty river systems, oceans, all for what? Are we any better? We are self destructing, that's for sure. This migrating birds mass murder is just plain stupidity. I don't care if it's done by starving people, or poor stall holders trying to make extra money. Birds are important in the natural cycle of life! And Europe has already gone down in nature and species. I hope the Germans will come down on these countries and rip out these horrible nets!

Posted by: Margo van der Voort | 31 May 2013 06:47:03

Karen Bradbury

This is utterly disgraceful, you are not only destroying your own natural heritage but ours also. The authorities should go along this area ripping up these nets, confiscating and destroying them. They should also target the market traders who are selling these birds in the market. If I was considering a holiday in Egypt it is images like these that would make me change my mind and boycott your country. I will not give my money to a country which shows such scant regard for its wildlife. You would not stand for this if people were destroying the pyramids why allow the destruction of your natural heritage.

Posted by: Karen Bradbury | 20 May 2013 09:31:59

Another disgraceful abuse of animal rights - these migratory birds have so much to contend with on their long journeys as it is - this horrific slaughter must be stopped.

Posted by: Rowena Ward | 19 May 2013 04:02:20

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