By Habib Toumi
Picture of men posing alongside illegal catch of ‘dhabi’ stacked on truck triggered outrage among Saudis
Manama: Saudi Arabia has sentenced five brothers to one month in jail each on charges of poaching and hunting ‘dhabi’, a spiny-tailed lizard found in the deserts of Gulf countries.
In an unprecedented ruling on Sunday, the court in the city of Taif in western Saudi Arabia also sentenced the defendants’ father to 10 months in prison for the illegal practice.
Several Saudis called for stringent action against anyone found to be hunting desert species in big numbers, calling on the authorities to act quickly and decisively to stem the threat to wildlife.
The calls were prompted by the wide online circulation in April of pictures of poachers proudly displaying a truckload of lizards in what some people called an ‘environmental disaster’.
Many people said that the authorities should act tough so that poachers do not feel they can operate with impunity.
“This is a crime against the environment and an outrageous violation of our Islamic values that reject such attitudes,” Prince Bandar Bin Saud, the chairman of the Saudi Wildlife Commission, said hours after social media sites circulated a picture of two men proudly standing near a truckload of dhabi.
“Poaching is also against all laws enacted by the kingdom to protect and preserve wildlife and natural assets. Attacking people is a form of terrorism and so is abusing animals,” he said in remarks.
Online comments on the case were overwhelmingly in support of action against the poachers, with some people presenting religious arguments to explain their views.
“Islam is against all forms of excess and abuses and that is exactly what these two men did,” a commenter writing under the moniker Frustrated said. “Hunting should be to eat according to the needs, not to show off. We are putting our trees, animals and natural resources at risk because of the reckless and anti-religious behaviour of some people.”
Magoor, in his online comments, said that he was a hunter who never exceeded his needs.
“We do go on hunting trips that usually last two or three days,” he said. “However, it is for fun and we hunt what we need for lunch and dinner. It is a hobby and a form of distraction. Action is needed against excesses,” he said.
The poachers were arrested after they were identified by the public and appeals by their families and lawyers not to put them on trial were ignored.