The magnificent and statuesque Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo) is a soaring migratory bird and is considered a vagrant in Kuwait, with only 8 confirmed records for this species. The first record was of 4 birds in 1954 and the last record was of 3 birds in 2012, so they are certainly not common nor annual visitors to Kuwait.
Demoiselle Cranes migrate in large flocks on a narrow front via specific routes and may travel vast distances without alighting to rest or feed. The autumn migration begins in late summer and generally they would only pass by on thermals high overhead, but occasionally bad weather or strong headwinds would force them to land to rest.
Like many other migratory birds, Demoiselle Cranes are under threat from habitat loss and degradation from agriculture across its range, as well as building of dams and drainage of wetlands, but also from shooters along their migration route and this was brought to light just this week, right here on our doorstep.
Picture the scene if you will.
About 10-days ago a single young (juvenile) Demoiselle Crane is observed walking along the pavement near TGIF on Gulf Road in Kuwait – it is probably exhausted and has been separated from the flock – but it appears to be walking and feeding oblivious to the cars rushing by on this very busy road.
Probably not many motorists even noticed this magnificent crane and what is (was) the 9th record of this species for Kuwait, but there were a few that did notice and admire a bird that they would probably never have seen before.
Two videos then surface on social media (unfortunately I can’t understand the narrative as it is in Arabic), the first video shows the bird walking and feeding along the grass verge next to TGIF which is just fantastic. But, then the second video is made public by I assume the same person(s) as the first where the bird is shown dying on the ground and the person filming laughs loudly as the bird exhales its last breath and all of this in broad daylight.
There are 3 things that stand out immediately for me a concerned resident and avid conservationist;
1. How is it possible that someone can fire a shotgun to intentionally kill a big bird in a busy public area on Gulf Road and in broad daylight?
2. Is this a practice that we should all just accept because ‘This is Kuwait’?
3. What can be done to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, or it is acceptable to kill rare migratory birds intentionally, since most people don’t know that it is rare or are just indifferent?
What is more distressing is that there are many caring people and NGO’s doing so much to make positive changes in Kuwait and then it all feels like it gets undone by this kind of appalling and despicable act.