Humat Dijlah in collaboration with Save the Tigris have produced an in-depth report on the issue of bird hunting in the Central Marshes of Iraq, a World Heritage Site and Iraq’s first national park. The social ecosystem of these wetlands depends on resources such as birds, fish, reeds and buffaloes. The Marshes are one of the largest wintering areas for ducks and coastal birds that migrate across West Asia to East Africa, contributing significantly to migration flyways between continents and to breeding of bird populations of migratory waterfowl. Increasing population growth and increased demand for water accompanied by climate changes, decreasing rainfall rates at the regional level, and the construction of dams at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, all have slowed the natural restoration of the Marshes and have increased the threats of water shortages and possibly droughts during certain periods. These factors played a role in droughts in the Central Marshes in 2008-2009, the summer 2015 and in 2017-2018, which greatly affected the wildlife and the inhabitants living there.
Despite Iraq being signatory to international treaties on wildlife trade and conservation of migratory animals, the Central Marshes still suffer from neglect. The absence interventions of authorities over hunting, especially hunting that affects wild bird species, has lead to overhunting. Excessive hunting practices are prevalent, and their negative impacts in the marshlands of Southern Iraq, particularly the Central Marshes, have caused a great reduction in the numbers of resident and migrant birds annually.
This report was developed to assess the status of bird hunting in the Central Marshes, to track illegal practices in hunting, identify their main causes, and develop possible suggestions to address these issues. Hunting practices in the Central Marshes National Park in this report have been evaluated as a reference for hunting in all of the Iraqi Marshes, using data survived from a number of bird hunters in the Central Marshes as well as field observations. The report estimates that more than 50,000 birds are hunted annually, targeting 22 species of water birds (both resident and migrating), including globally threatened bird species. This confirms that the Central Marshes within the designated National Park suffer from illegal and unsustainable hunting.
Bird hunting occurs mostly due to economic and social reasons. Birds are hunted mostly for the purpose of sale or as a source of food, and finding alternative economic opportunities could mitigate such unsustainable hunting activities. Hunting is also conducted as a sports practice. The report documents illegal hunting activities in the Central Marshes and the tools that are being used. This research could contribute to identifying
Finding alternative economic opportunities for hunters will mitigate and limit unsustainable hunting activities. Information from this study can contribute to identifying areas that should be protected from bird hunting and other unsustainable practices. This would be instrumental to protect the integrity of the the marshlands ecosystem and biodiversity values that are necessary to maintain their status as a World Heritage Site.