It started in September last year. Students at IC's Ain Aar campus were taught that every year, millions of birds are wiped out by human poachers when migrating through Lebanon, the route between Africa and Europe. Although there are laws against poaching, many bird species are now facing extinction because of Lebanese hunters.
To connect the students with Lebanon’s bird population, Rami Chahine and Kim Wright took four months of art sessions to guide the students into creating bird relief sculptures. The students worked in groups and chose a hunted bird to represent via a relief sculpture. Some of the birds chosen were the European Bee Eater, the Common Kestrel, Eleanora’s Falcon, the Eurasian Crane, and the Black Stork. Using recycled cardboard and scotch, students built their own canvases, which were approximately 80 x 100 cm. They drew their birds on the canvas and built them up with more recycled cardboard, rendering them 3D. Some birds even have a recovered bullet shell as an eye, representing their fate when crossing Lebanon. The students painted both the bird and the background to complete the project.
On Wednesday, March 20, the Association for Bird Conservation Lebanon (ABCL) held a 40-minute assembly for these students, requested by Rami Chahine. The students took time to display their bird canvases in the auditorium for the ABCL, which created a connected, thought-provoking environment for the presentation.
“Do you care about these birds?” the students were asked. Several snickers were heard; some even declared a ‘No’. Instead of being discouraged, the ABCL announced with enthusiasm that they were going to change the students’ mindsets. The students learned that Lebanon plays a huge role in the migration of birds between Europe and Africa. The birds don’t like crossing water; they need to cross over land because they rely on thermal air currents to gain height, and this does not happen over large bodies of water. Because so many birds funnel through this country, there is an abundance of bird hunters who are demolishing bird populations. The students still looked unimpressed.
Then it happened. The students learned that human survival is dependent on birds who reforest, eat pests and play a major role in our ecosystem food chain. Without birds, we would perish. The restless student crowd became attentive, asked questions, and began to understand the need for stricter laws regarding poaching in Lebanon. Since Lebanon is a main thoroughfare for birds, it is imperative that people here are aware of the importance of the problem in order to take action.
What can individuals do personally, asked the students? The ABCL encourages people to go bird watching, report illegal shooting, help raise awareness, volunteer for a conservation organisation and of course, don’t engage in illegal hunting. As a follow up, IC Ain Aar is working with the ABCL to take these same students to go bird watching and clean up some of the toxic (lead) cartridges left by the hunters.
The ABCL is available to talk with groups to help raise awareness regarding the importance of our bird population. If we educate our youth, perhaps their generation will make wiser choices to help preserve our global bird population and keep our ecosystems intact.