Authorities in Erbil, Sulaimani crack down on illegal wildlife trade
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local authorities in the Kurdistan Region’s Erbil and Sulaimani provinces have recently stepped up efforts to end the trade of wildlife inside the cities in a bid to protect the region’s indigenous animal population.
The provinces’ authorities regularly confiscate wild birds and other animals from sellers and later free them in the wild. In each province, there is a special market for wildlife trading, in which vulnerable and protected species are displayed for sale.
The traded animals are typically bought to be kept as pets, for their fur, or to be eaten or bred.
Trade in wildlife is abundant in the Kurdistan Region and any number of wild or rare species are found for sale in dedicated markets, including native gazelle, black francolin, storks, rabbits, or exotic species such as flamingos.
Recently, authorities in the Kurdistan Region’s capital Erbil have detected a surge in animal trafficking in the province, which Erbil governor Omed Khoshnaw said threatens the local environment and biodiversity.
In Sulaimani city on Saturday, a committee including representatives from the mayor office, police, and animal rights groups visited a local market and confiscated wild birds and other animals whose hunting and trading is illegal.
“What belongs to nature has to stay there,” one member of the campaign told Kurdistan 24.
On Sunday, a similar committee in the capital confiscated more trafficked animals and freed them in Sami Abdul Rahman Park in the presence of environmental and local authorities, including Falah Mawlud, the head of Erbil Environment Directorate, the city’s mayor, Nabaz AbdulHameed, and Erbil Governor Omed Khoshnaw.
Wildlife Trafficking in Kurdistan
The Kurdistan Region does not have laws against trafficking of wild animals. The only legal means authorities have to act on is a regulation, Directive No. 1 of 2015, intended to control hunting, protect Kurdistan’s wildlife, and the natural environment.
The directive prohibits the hunting of 35 species, punishable by a fine of 100,000 Iraqi dinars ($68) to 10 million IQD (nearly $7,000). The fines are to be used to “repair and protect the environment,” the rule says.
Hunting leopards, for example, is punishable by a 10 million IQD fine. Due to deforestation, hunting and trafficking for its skin, the leopard has become rare in the mountainous areas of Kurdistan which used to host large numbers of them.
The directive permits limited hunting for “research purposes” by the tourism board and other directorates.
“Considering the Christian religious rituals, boar hunting is allowed on a limited basis annually,” the directive stipulates.
The directive is expected to be amended in coming months to offer more robust protections, Ahmed Mohammad, the KRG Board of Environment’s spokesperson, told Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly