Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Demoiselle Crane Shot Publicly in Broad Daylight

From our Kuwait correspondent Neil Tovey

The magnificent and statuesque Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo is a soaring migratory bird and is considered a vagrant in Kuwait, with only 8 confirmed records for this species. The first record was of 4 birds in 1954 and the last record was of 3 birds in 2012, so they are certainly not common nor annual visitors to Kuwait.

Demoiselle Cranes migrate in large flocks on a narrow front via specific routes and may travel vast distances without alighting to rest or feed. The autumn migration begins in late summer and generally they would only pass by on thermals high overhead, but occasionally bad weather or strong headwinds would force them to land to rest.

Like many other migratory birds, Demoiselle Cranes are under threat from habitat loss and degradation from agriculture across its range, as well as building of dams and drainage of wetlands, but also from shooters along their migration route and this was brought to light just this week, right here on our doorstep.

Picture the scene if you will.

A few days ago a single young (juvenile) Demoiselle Crane is observed walking along the pavement near TGIF on Gulf Road in Kuwait – it is probably exhausted and has been separated from the flock – but it appears to be walking and feeding oblivious to the cars rushing by on this very busy road.

Probably not many motorists even noticed this magnificent crane and what is (was) the 9th record of this species for Kuwait, but there were a few that did notice and admire a bird that they would probably never have seen before.

Two videos then surfaced on social media (unfortunately I can’t understand the narrative as it is in Arabic), the first video shows the bird walking and feeding along the grass verge next to TGIF, which is a fantastic sight. But, then the second video is made public presumably by the same person, or people as the first. In this one the bird is shown dying on the ground and the person filming laughs loudly as the bird exhales its last breath. All of this takes place in broad daylight.

There are three obvious questions that stand out immediately to concerned residents and avid conservationist.

Firstly, how can someone openly fire a shotgun to intentionally kill a big bird in a busy public area in broad daylight?

Secondly, is this a practice that we should all just accept because ‘This is Kuwait’ and there is no law against killing rare migratory birds? Is it acceptable to kill rare migratory birds intentionally?

Finally, what can be done to ensure that this doesn’t happen again?

What is, in a way even more distressing is that there are many caring people and NGO’s doing so much to make positive changes in Kuwait. Such a public display of wonton destruction and selfish cruelty seems as if it will undo everything that so many people are trying to achieve.

Neil Tovey

17th September 2014