Morocco is also selling Houbaras to the Gulf…

Yesterday I posted a rather bitter comment on the ‘sale’ of licences to rich Arab leaders to hunt Houbara Bustards in Pakistan (‘Arabian money buying the extinction of the Houbara Bustard?). Putting feeble arguments about ‘traditional lifestyles’ to one side – since despite efforts to portray bustard hunting as something noble and fine, the truth is that the Houbara has been hunted to near extinction in the Gulf States hence the ‘need’ to export the slaughter into neighbouring countries – bustard hunting is now totally unsustainable, is done with the aid of 4x4s and every piece of technology an unimaginably wealthy hunter can obtain, and is pushing the once stable eastern populations of the Houbara to extinction across the entire region.

Soon after posting the comment I was mailed by a correspondent from Morocco (who understandably wishes to remain anonymous) who explained that it’s not just Pakistan where the super-rich are exterminating Houbara. He/she pointed me to an online article from a local newspaper, Demain Online, published on 30 November 2011, which says that the King of Morocco has just gifted a hunting reserve near Guelmim of 45 000 hectares to the Emir of Qatar during a recent visit to Morocco!


The area of course – up until now anyway – supports Houbara. Up until this generous gesture the land involved also supported local people, who were simply locked out so as not to disturb the Emir with their livestock and everyday activities. Killing protected birds of course overrules any concerns that the members of the cosy club of oil-rich leaders might have…the hunt is, of course, what matters.

 

The correspondent who contacted me also added the following information:

  • Two days later, this same news paper (Demainonline) discovered a paper that was written by Pr. Ali El Hili about the role of Tunisia’s ousted President Ben Ali in the extermination of Houbara Bustards in southern Tunisia (by giving illegal – even under the Tunisian law – hunting permits to Saudi emirs).

    This is the original article in the Tunisian website published on 14 April 2011: http://leaders.com.tn/article/l-outarde-houbara?id=4803

    …Professor Ali El Hili (the author of this article) is one of the founder of “Association les Amis des Oiseaux” (the Tunisian partner of Birdlife International) and professor emeritus at the Faculty of Tunis, Tunisia, and has first-hand experience on the subject.

    The Moroccan newspaper re-published the El Hili’s article on 2 November 2011 (at http://www.demainonline.com/?p=9408)in the context of the confiscation of land in Guelmim for the Emir of Qatar as noted above.


    It should be noted that this incident has no positive added value either to Houbara Bustard population in Morocco or to Moroccan human population who inhabit the area.”

 

I’ve run the demainonline article through Google Translate and corrected a few obvious errors, and have posted the original French article and the Google translation below.

  • http://www.demainonline.com/2011/11/30/les-autorites-marocaines-confisquent-des-terres-collectives-pour-les-offrir-a-lemir-de-qatar-2

     

    OPINION. Le site d’information arabophone lakome a publié le 29 novembre 2011 une information qui soulève de nombreuses questions à un moment où le paysage politique et institutionnel au Maroc est censé connaitre des changements profonds : premières élections législatives dans la cadre de la nouvelle constitution, victoire du Parti de la justice et du développement dont l’un des thèmes favoris est le « sérieux » et la lutte contre toutes les formes de corruption et d’abus de pouvoir, nomination du SG du PJD, M. Abdelilah Benkirane pour former le nouveau gouvernement, poursuite des manifestations du mouvement du 20 Février réclamant en particulier l’instauration d’une vraie démocratie et une vraie séparation des pouvoirs.

    Voici une traduction approximative de l’article :

    « Le Maroc offre à l’Emir du Qatar une réserve de chasse 45 000 hectares * »

    Les autorités marocaines ont offert à l’émir du Qatar, Cheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa Al Thani, une réserve de chasse s’étendant sur une superficie de 45 mille hectares. Lakome a appris que la réserve est située près de la ville de Guelmim, à environ 10 kilomètres du centre-ville en direction de l’ouest vers le site Plage Blanche, située dans une zone nommée « Sweihat » qui fait partie des plaines de la région dite « Rak Lakhal ».

    Lors de la visite du prince du Qatar du Maroc le jeudi 24 Novembre, l’aérodrome de Guelmim situé à seulement 15 km du site, a connu un mouvement d’engins et équipements vers la réserve. Selon des témoins de la région contactés par Lakome, l’endroit a été clôturé pour empêcher les populations locales, surtout les bergers, de s’en approcher. En effet, lorsque l’hiver est généreux en pluie, les plaines fertiles sont utilisées pour le pâturage au printemps.

    Durant la dernière visite du roi Mohammed VI dans cette région, il avait lancé un projet pour la plantation de cactus, qui convient à son climat aride.

    Les habitants disent que cette terre appartient aux tribus (statut de terre collective) et que les autorités l’ont confisqué sans compensation.

    Ce n’est pas la seule réserve de la région, à quelque 200 km à l’est de Guelmim, il y a une autre grande réserve utilisée par des princes Emiratis dans la zone s’étendant entre le village de Foum El Hisn et la ville de Tata. Cette zone pastorale a été également clôturée pour empêcher les éleveurs de chameaux d’y accéder. Les émiratis y ont construit des villas composant ainsi une petite ville avec les équipements nécessaires, y compris le petit aéroport a été construit à l’entrée du nord-ouest le long de la route nationale, la plus importante de la région.

    Les princes du Golfe ont l’habitude d’utiliser ces réserves – interdites à la population – pour pratiquer la chasse, surtout de l’outarde.

    Le prince du Qatar et d’autres princes Émiratis ont assisté jeudi 24 novembre au Maroc à la signature d’un accord de financement du fonds des investissements touristiques au Maroc, dont le capital initial sera de 500 millions de dollars, et qui devra des investissements dépassant les deux milliards de dollars. Cependant la mise de départ ne dépasse pas 10 millions de dollars. »

    Si les données de cet article sont justes, il y a quelques questions en vrac qui méritent une réponse :

    Le terme « autorités » signifie quoi exactement ? La décision de mettre ces hectares à la disposition d’un chef d’Etat étranger ne peut logiquement être prise que par le chef d’Etat marocain. Dans ce cas, est ce que les prérogatives du roi, désormais limitées par la nouvelle constitution et en particulier son article 42, l’autorisent à disposer ainsi à sa guise d’un morceau du territoire national ?

    Quelles pourraient être les motivations d’une telle décision ?

    Quel est le fondement juridique de cet octroi de terrain ? Vente, location, don, prêt, échange, autre ?

    La commune rurale a-t-elle été consultée ?

    Quel est le statut foncier du terrain ?

    Ensuite, si «Les habitants disent que cette terre appartient aux tribus (statut de terre collective) et que les autorités l’ont confisqué sans compensation? », où est l’état de droit et des institutions ?

 

Which Google Translate renders as this:

OPINION. The Arabic-language news site lakome published November 29, 2011 information that raises many questions at a time when the political and institutional landscape in Morocco is expected to undergo major changes: in the first parliamentary elections under the new constitution, victory for the ruling Justice and Development, one of whose favorite themes is the “serious” and the fight against all forms of corruption and abuse of power, led to the appointment of SG PJD, Abdelilah Benkirane M. to form the new government demonstrations continued movement of the February 20 claiming in particular the establishment of true democracy and true separation of powers.

Here is a rough translation of the article:

“Morocco offers the Emir of Qatar a hunting reserve of * 45 000 hectares”

The Moroccan authorities have offered to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa Al Thani, a game reserve covering an area of ​​45,000 hectares. Lakome learned that the reserve is located near the city of Guelmim, about 10 km from the city center towards the west to White Beach site, located in an area called “Sweihat” part of the Plains region called “Rak Lakhal.”

During the visit of the Prince of Qatar in Morocco Thursday, November 24, Airfield Guelmim located only 15 km from the site saw a movement of vehicles and equipment to the reserve. Witnesses in the area contacted by Lakome, say the place was closed to prevent local people, especially shepherds, from approaching it – after good winter rains the fertile plains are used for grazing in the spring.

During the last visit of King Mohammed VI in the region, he launched a project to planting cactus, suited to its arid climate.

Residents say that this land belongs to the tribes (collective status of land) and that the authorities confiscated it without compensation.

This is not the only reserve in the region. Some 200 km east of Guelmim there is another large reserve used by princes of Emiratis in the area lying between the village of Foum El Hisn and the city Tata. This pastoral area was also closed to prevent camel herders accessing it. The UAE have built villas the size of a small town with the necessary equipment, including a small airport which was built at the entrance to the northwest along the road, the largest in the region.

Gulf princes are accustomed to use these reserves – closed to the public – for hunting, especially of the bustard.

The Prince of Qatar and other princes attended Emiratis Thursday, November 24 in Morocco signed a financing agreement of the fund investment in tourism in Morocco. including the initial capital will be 500 million, and investments will excess of two billion dollars. However, the initial bet does not exceed 10 million. ”

If the data in this article are correct, there are some questions that deserve a proper answer:

The term “authorities” means what exactly? The decision to put these acres available to a foreign head of state can not logically be taken by the head of the Moroccan state. In this case, what is the prerogative of the king, now limited by the new constitution and in particular Article 42, and allow it to dispose at will of a piece of national territory?

What could be the motivations of such a decision?

What is the legal basis for the granting of land? Sale, lease, gift, loan, exchange, other?

Has the rural community been consulted?

What is the ownership status of land?

Then, if “People say that this land belongs to the tribes (the status of collective land) and that the authorities confiscated without compensation” where is the rule of law and institutions?

 

What can be done to prevent the eradication of the Houbara by travelling Emirs? Shame them, publish articles on our blogs, ask them to be nice? As they have more money than most of the global population put together, and given that they live in a world where they simply can’t be touched by the outside and don’t really give a damn what most people think, short of local people overthrowing them I don’t personally think that that there’s very much that can be done at all. Which is frustrating beyond belief. Somewhat like the villagers ousted from their land we do seem to be staring in from behind the fence – and the biggest challenge in saving the Houbara is getting over that fence…

 

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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I birded the world for twenty years before quitting my airline job and am now freelance. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

2 Comments

  1. Mike Watson says:

    Much as I am against hunting and killing animals for fun generally I cannot help thinking that simply condemning this action will have no effect whatsoever. You cannot oppose this unimaginable wealth. You might as well try and stop it raining. It would be better to work with these people to promote sustainable hunting preserves. Trying to stop the Gulf arabs pursuing falconry would be like trying to stop the Briitsh following football.

  2. Laurie Allan says:

    How to win friends and influence people! Not a strong point of King Mohammed VI – Oh and alienate your own people at the same time. Despite recent elections Maroc is still a Monarchy backed by the Military with important Government officials appointed by the King and his mates. Despite a good number of birding trips to Maroc i still have not seen a Houbara and now that possiblility is further diminished by this act of unelected regal benevolence from one out of touch regime to another……………..

    Laurie -

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