Gazelle poaching, which was relatively under control during former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s reign, is now reaching alarming proportions, according to environmental activists in Libya.
After Gaddafi was overthrown in October 2011, armed combatants were tasked with ensuring security in the country. Today, the government is having trouble controlling many of these militias. Libyan environmental organisations say that this climate of impunity has led to a surge in poaching in several regions of Libya, notably in the south.
According to our Observers, gazelle hunting was restricted during Gaddafi’s era – that is, for most people. The authorities regularly carried out campaigns to confiscate weapons from hunters in the south of the country, but Gaddafi would grant exemptions to visiting dignitaries from Gulf countries who liked to hunt in the region of Sabha, in the southwest of Libya.
Al Zidani (not his real name) lives in the region of Sabha, in the Libyan Sahara desert.
They hunt just for fun. I live in southern Libya, and I never see any gazelles being sold in the markets. I have heard that some hunters eat certain parts of the animal, but that’s not really the point. The point is the hunt itself.
I met poachers a couple months ago while driving in the desert. I noticed a 4x4 parked at the foot of a mountain, and stopped to see what was going on. It was a horrid scene: young men had spread out gazelle corpses on a boulder, and were boasting about their prowess. They didn’t seem to realise that they had in fact just carried out a massacre. My friend and I did not dare tell them this – we didn’t want to upset them, since they were all armed. More....