Screen capture from a video showing hunters removing hundreds of dead birds from their car trunk.
Amateur bird hunting is a popular sport in Saudi Arabia, but lately more unscrupulous hunters have been resorting to new illegal techniques that result in veritable bird massacres.
Cutting edge technology has moved beyond the limited old-fashioned ‘duck whistle’ to enable hunters to imitate a myriad of bird songs and thereby kill many more birds with only minimal effort... and then boast about their haul on social networks.
“Bird caller”, a device that imitates bird songs, started gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia several years ago. However, videos recently uploaded by hunters have raised public awareness about the damage this technology can cause, especially because members of protected species are also being slaughtered. Online forums for amateur hunters are now calling for a ban on sales of these devices.
This recent video (from September 27) has angered many Saudi Internet users.

“There is a new trend that consists of posting photos and videos of your catch online, as a way of boasting about who has killed the most birds”

Daoud Suleiman is a fishmonger in the city of Safoua. He is also an amateur hunter.
The price of these devices ranges from 800 Saudi riyals (160 euros) to 3,000 Saudi riyals (590 euros), depending on its quality and the country where it was manufactured. They can reproduce roughly 50 seasonal songs from birds native to Saudi Arabia. Sometimes the hunters also places decoys shaped like birds right next to the devices. Birds are fooled into approaching the device, believing they are approaching other birds of their species. Once a number of birds are grouped together, it's very easy to catch them all in one fell swoop with a net.
Some of those who use this new technology do so because they are not good at hunting. For instance, hunting wild ducks is particularly difficult because they only come out at night, and only very experienced hunters can successfully hunt them. Others are just following this new Saudi trend of posting photos and videos of their catch online, and competing against one another to kill the most birds. This explains the sudden increase in photos of tons of dead birds, either spread out on the ground or in wheelbarrows.
"Hunting is a noble activity that has rules and must respect the natural equilibrium”
Formally, Saudi law forbids this type of hunting [in 1999, a royal decree created a legal framework regulating the hunting of wild birds]. In fact, the head of the government unit in charge of protecting wildlife is a member of the royal family, but all the unit really does is issue statements against illegal hunting; it does not actually enforce the laws. It's very rare to hear of sanctions imposed on illegal hunting. [Editor’s Note: Last July, Prince Bandar Ben Saoud issued a statement condemning illegal hunting and invited all Saudis to help authorities enforce the law. He also added that publishing images of illegal hunting online harmed Saudi Arabia's reputation].
As a hunter, I refuse to call these men hunters. Hunting is a noble activity that has rules and must respect a natural equilibrium. Real hunting has nothing to do with this utter massacre, which might push species to the brink of extinction and could cause migratory birds to avoid our country in the warm season. My father taught me to never hunt more than what you needed for dinner. This practice runs contrary both to religion and to common sense.