Israel's Parks Authority Moves to Save Endangered Quails From Hunters

Zafrir Rinat
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A quail in Israel
A quail in IsraelCredit: Noam Wiess, Hevra
Zafrir Rinat

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority announced a temporary ban Sunday on the use of audio equipment in hunting migrating quails. The equipment emits sounds that attract the quails, making it easier to trap them.

During the period of the ban, which will be in effect until 2019, the parks authority will conduct research to assess the status of the birds, and will then decide whether to ban hunting them altogether.

The population of migrating quails has significantly declined worldwide and in Israel the birds are close to extinction, among other reasons, due to hunting. “Without the equipment, there’s no quail hunting,” Israel Nature and Parks Authority director general Shaul Goldstein told Haaretz. “The hunters asked us to let them use the equipment at least for short periods but we didn’t do so because it will disrupt the scientific work to better understand the birds’ situation,” he said.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice in August to order a ban on quail hunting, but withdrew its petition following the announcement by the parks authority.

Israel’s wildlife protection law permits quail-hunting, but according to the SPNI, these birds were added to the list of species permitted to hunt 40 years ago, and since then their numbers have dwindled. The SPNI said chukar partridges and hystrix, a species of porcupine, were also once on the list, but they were removed when it became apparent that they were endangered.

In a letter Sunday to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the NGO Let the Animals Live and the hunters’ association, Goldstein wrote: “The status of the migrating quail in Israel has recently been determined by a group of Israeli experts to be critically endangered.” The experts believe that no more than 50 nesting individuals are left, Goldstein wrote, adding that this assessment was confirmed by parks authority scientists.

The research project to be conducted for the parks authority by ornithologists and other scientists will mainly follow the migrating population. The findings will be presented to nature protection groups and hunters so they can express their opinion before policy recommendations are made. The results of the study will determine whether the audio equipment can be used again, whether the ban should be extended, or whether to ask the environmental protection minister to remove quails from the list of species permitted to hunt.