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Authorities investigating 'illegal hunting' of Rhim gazelles

By Hana Namrouqa - Jan 20,2016 - Last updated at Jan 20,2016

A photo shared on social media purportedly shows hunters posing with dead gazelles they hunted in Rweished recently

AMMAN — Authorities are investigating a group of poachers who allegedly shot down about a dozen of the Rhim gazelle, an internationally endangered species, in the eastern desert on the Jordanian-Syrian border, according to authorities and conservationists.

"They [the suspects] were arrested, investigated with and referred for legal action," the director of the Environment Police (Rangers), Imad Shawawrah, told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

Public Security Department Spokesperson Lt. Col. Amer Sartawi said the authorities are questioning the suspects.

"We cannot unveil any more details until the investigation is over," Sartawi told The Jordan Times.

Photos of hunters from a Gulf country posing behind a line of at least a dozen killed Rhim gazelles and — in other photos —decorating their vehicles, which carried Qatari licence plates, with the bleeding shot animals were widely circulated on social media.

The photos sparked an outrage among the public and conservationists, who described the incident as "genocide".

In a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) said that based on the photos of the "crime", the gazelles were shot down near Hadalat Dam, which is close to the Jordanian-Syrian border, an off-limit border zone even to the RSCN's inspectors.

"The hunting of the gazelles is in breach of Jordanian laws," the RSCN said in the statement, calling on the government to investigate and punish those who allowed the hunters to go inside the area and hunt.

RSCN Director General Yehya Khalid said that a dozen Rhim gazelles were shot down, some of which were pregnant.

"Rhim gazelles exist in Jordan in the eastern desert in the buffer zone between the Jordan, Syria and Iraq borders. They used to be found in abundant numbers in the past, but with illegal hunting, the population dropped and they are now categorised as globally endangered," Khalid told The Jordan Times.

Under a 2008 by-law on wild birds and animals whose hunting is banned according to their protection status, the Rhim gazelle is listed under appendix one.

Meanwhile, appendix 56 of the Agriculture Law number 13 for the year 2015, which was issued in the Official Gazette in April last year, stipulates that it is illegal to hunt down wild birds and animals without obtaining a licence. 

It is also illegal to hunt in areas and times where and when hunting is not permitted. 

The same appendix also stipulates that it is illegal to kill, possess, transport, sell or display for selling wild birds and animals.

Those who violate the law and hunt animals and birds categorised under the first appendix of the 2008 by-law on wild birds and animals, including the Rhim gazelle, are jailed for four months and fined JD2,000 for every hunted wild animal or bird.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List indicates that the Rhim gazelle, also known as the slender-horned gazelle, is endangered, as the total population is estimated at 250 mature individuals, "although population data are very sparse".

 

The IUCN Red List indicates that the current population trend of the species is decreasing, noting that the main threat is hunting/poaching, while disturbance and degradation of natural habitats through desertification also have a negative impact.

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