The laws regulating gazelle hunting were written back during the days of the kingdom of Libya (1951-1969). They’ve never been updated since – not even to change the amount of the fines, which are ridiculously low. [According to these laws, hunters need to obtain a special permit to kill gazelles, and are only allowed to kill two per year.] Moreover, the state is not strong enough today to enforce these laws.
In certain cases, killing gazelles can help ensure a balanced fauna, so we’re not categorically against it. However, in the current state of affairs, the practice needs to be banned for at least a decade in order to let the species reproduce.
We lack funding to carry out full-scale investigations, so we don’t have statistics on how many gazelles have been killed. However, from our observations, we believe three types of gazelles are particularly at risk of disappearing from Libya: the Oueddan gazelle, which lives chiefly in the Haruj
mountains [in central Libya], and the Rhim
gazelles that live in the south.
For the past few months, we’ve been travelling the country trying to convince people that poaching needs to be stopped urgently. We have tried to make contact with militias with the idea of educating them about this problem, but it’s very difficult to engage them in conversation. We recently met with militias in Zintan [200 kilometres south of Tripoli]. They were very welcoming, but we’re not certain that our message got through. [For security reasons, our Observer preferred not to name the militias in question]. We also met with tribes in the south, because hunting is an old tradition for them.
We’ve had several meetings with the Libyan assembly. We’re working with an environmental commission in the hope of introducing solid laws that will protect this species into the new constitution they’re working on. However, I get the feeling this is not one of the government’s priorities.