Iraq’s Unique Wildlife Pushed to Brink by War, Hunting

Even by the Islamic State’s brutal standards, the mess its fighters made of Kaldo Shoman’s farm had to be seen to be believed.

Over more than two decades, Shoman and his two brothers had labored to turn their land into an ad-hoc animal sanctuary. By planting trees, they hoped to attract migrating birds—and eventually tourists—to this largely barren swath of northwestern Iraq. In an area with scarce water, they carved out an artificial pond—and then watched as wild pigs and the occasional gazelle came calling.

But in one fell swoop, the Islamic State wiped their refuge off the map.

Blasting through the front gate in the summer of 2014, the men penned the Iraqi farmer’s horses into a paddock and used them for target practice, Shoman says. After shooting Shoman’s pet vulture and hogtying his favorite dog to a moving tractor, they carted off his extensive collection of songbirds. (See “Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed.”)

Keen to deprive would-be attackers of potential cover, the fighters then torched dozens of forested areas, including the Shomans’ roadside plantation. They laced the soil with mile after mile of landmines. When, in late 2015, Iraqi Kurdish troops closed in on their last holdings in northern Nineveh Province, the retreating jihadists deployed one last ecosystem-killing tactic: Dumping oil.

“Look what they did!” Kaldo Shoman says, pointing at the jet-black trails of diesel that still coat his pond 18 months later. “They are the animals!”

The past few decades have been intensely challenging for many Iraqis, who’ve lived through several conflicts, crippling economic sanctions, and now jihadi terror. But lost amid the understandable focus on the human toll is the impact this chaos has had on the country’s wildlife.

Before its 40 years of near-unbroken hostilities, Iraq teemed with life, including a half-dozen types of cat, an impressive array of falcons, and several hundred species of fish, including the plump river carp that gave rise to Iraq’s national dish: masgouf. So prolific was its snake population that the ancient Sumerians milked the serpents’ venom and used it for medication.

But in recent decades, wildlife sightings are becoming more and more rare, conservationists say. Due to the ongoing conflict, scientific data on species decline are scarce. At least 31 bird species are threatened or at the point of extinction, according to Nature Iraq, a local nonprofit. (Bigger beasts, including Asiatic lions and Caspian tigers, long ago disappeared from the landscape.)

“For thousands of years we had plenty of wildlife, from Zakho [in the north] to Faw [in the south],” says Adel Musa, director of Baghdad Zoo, where some of Iraq’s few remaining big cats now reside. (See National Geographic magazine’s pictures of Baghdad after the storm.)

“But after all this war, all of Iraq’s circumstances, I am sad to say they are gr


The Iran-Iraq war shoulders much of the blame for the wildlife decline.

Starting in 1980, two enormous armies battled one another back and forth across the border region for eight years, laying waste to the mountains in the process.

Entire populations of wild goat and wolves were whittled down to almost nothing by shellfire, forest rangers told National Geographic. The number of migrating Persian fallow deer dropped precipitously, in part due to extensive trench networks, and is now regionally extinct in Iraq, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

When former President Saddam Hussein chopped down most of Basra’s 12 million date palms in order to prevent sneak assaults on all-important oil facilities, he transformed this once lush environment into a sterile flatland from which neither it—nor its animal inhabitants—have ever recovered. (Also read about the struggle to save Baghdad Zoo animals in 2003.)

Several years later Hussein turned his fury on southern Iraq’s marshes, the region’s largest wetlands. Intent on flushing out defeated rebels, he ordered the landscape drained, its people dispersed. As the waters dried up, the area’s rich array of otters, pelicans, striped hyenas, and river dolphins vanished, in most instances never to return.

Poachers have also killed off the smooth-coated otter—which is considered vulnerable to extinction—throughout most of its range in Iraq.

“The fish, the birds, the bigger animals: It’s not like before,” says Ismail Khaled Dawoud, a buffalo breeder who moved back to the marshes after they were partially reflooded.

Eric Trump to Keynote Sportsmen’s Alliance 20th Annual “Save Our Heritage” Rally

In celebration of the 20th Annual Sportsmen’s Alliance “Save Our Heritage” Rally, Eric Trump, avid hunter and son of Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, will speak at the event on Sept. 10 in Columbus, Ohio.

The “Save Our Heritage” Rally is a one-day rally of all things outdoors, which raises awareness and funds for the Sportsmen’s Alliance to protect and advance hunting, fishing and trapping nationwide. The event runs from 3-9:30 p.m. at the Villa Milano Banquet & Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio, and features a catered dinner, raffles, auctions and games for great prizes ranging from elk, wolf and deer hunts to African safaris and dozens of firearms.

Seating is strictly limited, and only a handful of tickets for remain available. Tickets cost only $50 and include dinner and drink tickets. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Purchase Tickets or by calling 614-888-4868.

Appearances by political hopefuls is nothing new for the Sportsmen’s Alliance. In recent years, Sen. John McCain, Speaker Paul Ryan, Gov. John Kasich and others have addressed those attending the organization’s events.

Eric Trump, the middle son of Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, has been a lifelong hunter ever since his maternal grandfather introduced him and his older brother, Donald Trump, Jr., to it as children. The Trump brothers were attacked by the international animal-rights movement in 2012 when images of the two from an African safari circulated on social media.

Read more:

Man killed in hunting accident in Sussex County – $350,000 Verdict

Decedent, 61, and shooter, Dr. Correll, were both members of WAIDS Hunt Club in Sus­sex County. Both were experienced hunters. On Dec. 30, 2013, the hunt club organized a group deer hunt with the use of hunting dogs. Shooter had hunted the particu­lar tract of land numerous times prior to this hunt, thus was familiar with the topography. Decedent had never hunted that tract and was thus unfa­miliar with the area. Each hunter was assigned to a particular “stand” (loca­tion) strategically determined prior to the hunt. Decedent and shooter rode together to the area. Shooter instruct­ed decedent where his “stand” was located and advised decedent to walk into the woods, continue down the hill, cross the swamp and take his stand. Shooter watched decedent enter the woods. After walking approximate­ly 10 yards into the woods, decedent encountered a ground blind (tent) in his line of travel. Concerned about the ground blind, decedent via two-way radio questioned shooter as to wheth­er the ground blind would be occupied. Shooter walked in the field towards the wood-line and then advised dece­dent to continue walking past the ground blind down the slope, cross the swamp and take his stand. Decedent did as instructed.

Shooter took his stand in the cor­ner of the field. Shooter was standing in a relatively flat field and the field sloped gradually toward the woods line, where it then sloped precipitous­ly down to the swamp. The difference in elevation from the ground where shooter stood to the ground where decedent stood was 6.66 feet. Deer began running parallel to the swamp and towards decedent. Decedent took four shots at the deer. Shooter heard the four shots fired and acknowledged that he knew decedent had fired at the deer. Two doe broke out into the open field as a result of decedent’s firing at them. Once they entered the field in site of shooter, one turned to his left and ran parallel with the woods line and the other turned to his right and did the same. Shooter fired twice at the doe that turned to his left. This doe was, according to the shoot­er, about 8-10 feet from the woods line. The pellets from the first shot missed the doe and struck at several locations into the woods along a fair­ly tight and consistent pattern from the shooter to the decedent. Due to the slope, approximately four inches of the decedent’s head was just above the ground level of the field. One pel­let from the shot struck decedent in the left temple, entered his brain and did irreversible and permanent dam­age. Decedent died at MCV the follow­ing day. Shooters’ second shot killed the doe.

Based on his written admission to DGIF officers, after the shots were fired and decedent was not respond­ing to radio communications, shooter entered the woods in the location he saw decedent enter, walked by the same ground blind and within seconds located decedent on the ground. In re­sponse to further questions by DGIF officers as to where he observed dece­dent enter the woods, shooter pointed in the same direction of the shot path that ultimately killed decedent.

Shooter contested liability. Shooter contended that based on his proximity to the doe he fired upon, it appeared to be a safe shot and believed that the ground in the field was an adequate backstop for the buckshot. He further contended that because of his own knowledge that the swamp was more shallow to the right of the line that decedent walked down to the swamp, he assumed the decedent would have realized that, walked further to his right and crossed the swamp there, and further assumed that had he crossed the swamp at that location, he would have stayed in that location. Shooter also argued that decedent was contributorily negligent in not using his radio to advise shooter that he was not where shooter assumed he would have been.

Widow of decedent retired from her job of 28 years, effective Dec. 31, 2013, the very day her husband died.

Mediation was attempted twice with different mediators with no success.

Prior to the civil action, shooter had been charged criminally with man­slaughter and reckless handling of a firearm. Shooter pled guilty to reckless handling of a firearm and the man­slaughter charge was noll prossed.

Originally both the hunt club and the shooter were named defendants. Prior to trial, hunt club was nonsuit­ed. After two days of trial and after hearing from experts from both sides as well as the shooter, and the shoot­er’s criminal lawyer, the plaintiff, wid­ow of the decedent, made a motion for a directed verdict on the issue of liability, arguing negligence per se and no evidence of contributory negli­gence for a jury to consider. The court agreed and instructed the jury that the shooter was negligent as a mat­ter of law, that his negligence was the proximate cause of the injury, and that they should only consider the issue of damages. The jury returned a verdict of $350,000.


Type of action: Wrongful Death – Hunting Accident
Injuries alleged: Lethal wound by buckshot pellet in head and died next day
Name of case: Harris, Adm’r of Estate of Thomas Harris, deceased v. James Allen Correll and Waids Hunt Club
Court: Sussex Circuit Court
Case no.: CL15000063-00
Tried before: Jury with directed verdict
Name of judge: Hon. Robert G. O’Hara
Date resolved: May 4, 2016
Special damages: $87,959.50 medical bills; $1787.95 funeral expenses; decedent was unemployed receiving social security disability in amount of $ 1600.00 per month, after taking in account the widow’s benefit of $400.00 per month, the loss of income claimed was @ $ 1200.00 per month.
Verdict or settlement: Directed verdict on issue of liability; jury verdict on damages
Amount: $350,000.00
Attorneys for plaintiff: Steven Novey, Prince George

the Dangerous “Noble Savage” Myth

Dave Foreman, formerly of Earth First! and now The Rewilding Institute, wrote in the glossary of his timely over-population book, Man Swarm and the Killing of Wildlife, of the “Noble Savage Myth: Jean Jaques Rousseau is the best-known flag-waver for the myth of the noble savage, which holds that man in a natural state was noble, peaceful, and ecologically sweet before being besmirched by civilization. Anthropology, archaeology, paleontology, history, field biology, conservation, and so on have shown this belief to have no ground on which to stand.” Foreman recommends the book, Constant Battles, by archeologist Stephen A. LeBlanc as the current must read on the subject. Having been keenly interested in the subject since reading Jarred Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, Richard Wrangham’s Demonic Males, and even before, I of course ordered Constant Battles to fill in the blanks.

The book arrived in the mail yesterday and I couldn’t wait to get started. From that book’s prologue: “War today and in the last century seems unprecedented in intensity, ferocity, and number of lives claimed. With this ominous could hanging over our heads, it’s easy to believe that humans have somehow abandoned the benign behavior that characterized our earliest history. What happened to those ‘noble savages’ of old who were content to live in peace and harmony and were not out to colonize and exploit the undeveloped world? The ecological catastrophes occurring all around us present another modern maelstrom—and no ecosystem is immune, from the tropical rainforest, from the pristine arctic to the ozone layer. Humankind today seems to have abandoned a reverence for nature and lost long-held abilities to live in ecological balance. Has ‘progress’—that escalating desire to be bigger, better, faster, stronger—totally extinguished our ancestral instincts to grow everything we consume and hunt only what we need to sustain us? Many view the march of civilization not as a blessing but a curse, bringing with it escalating warfare and spiraling environmental destruction unlike anything in our human past.

“Contrary to exceedingly popular opinion, and as bad as our problems may be today, none of this is true. The common notion of humankind’s blissful past, populated with noble savages living in a pristine and peaceful world, is held by those who do not understand our past and who have failed to see the course of human history for what it is.

“…I have spent my entire career attempting to make sense of the past, and I find the world completely at odds with popular misconceptions. Not only is the past I observed not peaceful and pristine, but, cruel and ugly as it may be, it provides great insight into the present. The warfare and ecological destruction we find today fit into patterns of human behavior that have gone on for millions of years. Humans have been destroying their environment for a long time and continue to do so for the same reasons they did in the past… [P]roper grasp of the past has invaluable benefits for humankind today. We are far better off understanding the past than ignoring it, or believing a mythical version of history that bears little to resemblance to what actually took place.

“A myth, due to its very nature, is not grounded in any reality, so it is susceptible to total manipulation. Though we can manipulate reality, it is subject to objective questioning, because we presume there is an objective basis to it. Once we accept a myth as truth without any consideration of its reality, how do we question its implications or manipulations on objective grounds? Myths are dangerous, and we are better off without them…”


Wildlife Refuges, Not Hunters’ Playgrounds


October 16th, 2013 by Anja Heister

Once again, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wants to turn even more wildlife refuges into playgrounds for hunters and other “consumptive users” of wild animals.

The U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System includes 550 national wildlife refuges, thousands of waterfowl protection areas and four marine national monuments, totaling more than 150 million acres. Despite being called “refuges”, more than half of all national wildlife refuges are already open to hunters, trappers and anglers.

Consumptive users also have millions of acres of public and private lands outside the refuge system available to them to pursue their frivolous and violent activities of “recreational” trophy hunting and fishing, and trapping for fur. They should not be allowed in refuges, which often are the last remaining places for animal species already struggling for survival.

Furthermore, as the USFWS’s own 2011 survey has shown, wildlife watchers have already well outpaced and outspent wildlife killing interests. Wildlife watchers are a growing economic force, and their overwhelming preference to see living animals needs to be considered and respected.

Wildlife refuges, as the name indicates, should be true sanctuaries for wild animals where they are sheltered from the killing spree that surrounds them.

What You Can Do:

Please copy and paste the comment below to the USFWS and tell them that hunting, trapping and fishing should not be allowed in national wildlife refuges at all.

Please follow these steps to send your comment to the USFWS:

Conservation Groups Sue Over NC Coyote Hunting

RALEIGH, N.C. — Conservation groups are suing North Carolina wildlife regulators, saying a rule that allows coyote hunting endangers the world’s only wild population of about 100 red wolves because hunters easily confuse the two animals.

An attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court on behalf of three other groups.

The state Wildlife Resources Commission in July approved a permanent regulation allowing coyote hunting in the five-county area of eastern North Carolina that’s known as the Red Wolf Recovery Area. A state judge earlier blocked a temporary rule allowing the hunting in Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde, Washington and Beaufort counties.

The Southern Environmental Law Center says 20 red wolves have died from gunshots since 2008.

A wildlife commission spokesman declined comment until the agency receives the lawsuit.

Coyote photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Coyote photo Copyright Jim Robertson

US government shutdown runs afoul of hunters

Two deer graze in a Yosemite Valley field on August 28, 2013 in Yosemite National Park, California
October 7, 2013 6:01 PM                        
Chicago (AFP) – Hunters hoping to bag their limit on federal land joined a chorus of frustrated citizens urging a halt to the US government shutdown Monday.”People are traveling hundreds of miles this time of year and getting to their favorite hunting or fishing holes and finding they’ve closed,” said Miles Moretti, president of the Utah-based Mule Deer Foundation.

October marks the beginning of what is usually a brief hunting season for waterfowl and larger game like deer and elk.

But with Congress unable to reach a deal on the federal budget and only essential government work permitted, some 329 federal wildlife refuges have been closed to hunting.

That will increase pressure on already crowded state-run public hunting grounds, and could have a serious economic impact, sportsmen’s groups warned.

It could also dash the dreams of hunters who’ve finally snagged a rare permit.

“In Colorado, hunters who’ve waited 12 years to hunt elk are being forced to turn in their tags,” said Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Normally packed with tourists, the stairs leading from the Capitol Visitors Center up to the Capitol …

“The hardship isn’t only being felt by the hunters and anglers, but also by the locals and rural economies that depend on them,” he said in a conference call.

Hunting and fishing is an $86 billion industry while other forms of wildlife recreation, like birdwatching, bring the annual total up to $144 billion.

“It’s a big business,” said Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

“For commercial guides, this is Macy’s at Christmas.”

The shutdown also has halted critical habitat conservation efforts which need to be conducted in the fall ahead of the spring breeding season, she said.

Adding insult to injury, people can’t even call their congressmen to complain because the shutdown also affects constituent services.

“Our community is getting pretty frustrated,” said Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“We want the damn thing to be fixed and want the federal government open.”

Man killed in duck hunting accident in Hubbard County

Monday, October 07, 2013 10:39 a.m. CDT                                  by Bonnie Amistadi


Duck Hunting
NEVIS, MINN. (KFGO-AM) — A duck hunter died after being shot in the head by his hunting partner near Nevis.

The Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office says Adam Poole, 23, of Nevis, and his partner were in a boat on 4th Crow Wing Lake. They both stood up to shoot at a duck and the partner lost his balance, and the gun went off.

Poole died at the scene.

The Upside of Government Shutdown: Hunting Closures

From: Oklahoma Outdoor News

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

The government shutdown is causing headaches for Oklahoma outdoorsmen.In addition to campgrounds being closed on areas controlled by the US Army Corps of Engineers and popular destinations like the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, popular deer hunts are also being canceled.[!!]

This weekend’s youth deer hunts on the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge are canceled because of the shutdown. There were 24 youth hunts which has been scheduled this weekend and another 39 scheduled in two weeks.[How many deer does that equate to?]

Other youth deer hunts which scheduled in the upcoming weeks at federally controlled wildlife refuges are in jeopardy. Bow hunters are not allowed on the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which was open to buck hunting once again this year. (Boo fucking hoo!]

A spokesman for the Okla. Dept. of Wildlife Conservation said the agency has received numerous calls asking about the controlled hunts. Hunters will be notified if their hunts have been canceled.

The popular archery deer hunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, however, are expected to go on as planned. [That’s too bad.] The first of six weekend hunts are scheduled next weekend in McAlester.

The Dept. spokesman states “From what we’ve been told, everything here is in good shape. Now they could call us Monday and tell us to shut it down.”

Hunters, campers and anglers will feel the pain of a long shutdown. For Okla. trout fishermen, less rainbow trout will be swimming in the Lower Illinois River in the future if the shutdown continues.

State wildlife officials normally add hatchery-raised rainbow trout to the Lower Illinois River near Gore, Ok. once per week. However every week the agency had been getting those trout from a federal fish hatchery. That will now stop, and trout from the state’s commercial provider only will be added to the river every week until the federal furloughs end.

Ontario Adopts a Great American Tradition: Dove Killing

Ontario Opens Season on Mourning Doves, Quietly… Very, Very Quietly

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative


Rachel Carson, inspirational writer, biologist, and ecologist, said, “We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing, we set back the progress of humanity.” Agreed—but, such men tend to be disproportionately in charge of deciding such things, and therein lies a very big problem for wildlife.

Here in Ontario, there was an open hunting season for mourning doves in 1955. People were absolutely outraged, so it was closed, never to be considered again—until, quietly, with a minimum of public awareness, this year, the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper opened a hunting season in southwestern Ontario. It is the 99th anniversary since the only other native species of dove, the passenger pigeon, went extinct (notwithstanding it had been far more abundant than mourning doves).

Back in 1955, most mourning doves migrated out of Ontario each fall, where they were then shot, by the millions, in various U.S. states. Since there was “selection” against migrating birds, the few that wintered in Ontario may have had, on average, better survival potential. (Although, in those days, such birds often had toes frozen off.) Decade by decade, several factors undoubtedly contributed to changes in migratory behavior: non-migrant survival, warming winter temperatures, increased dependence on mechanical harvesting that left plenty of waste grain for the birds to eat, the shift to absentee farming for tax purposes while speculators waited for land values to ripen, plus the popularity of doves with people who increasingly put out winter bird feeders in their gardens. Now, the mourning dove is a common winter bird here in southern Ontario. Ontario’s hunters can’t stand that… Why should Americans (and a few hunters in British Columbia, the only other Canadian province where mourning doves are hunted) have all the fun of killing these small, gentle birds?

Why can’t Ontarians kill doves, too? Because most Ontarians would be appalled at the thought. No matter. As one proponent of the hunt put it, “Because we have so many [doves], it’s a good opportunity for [young hunters] to get out and shoot and practice their skills.” Right… We need more people shooting guns… This, in the same week as the mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., followed by the 3-year-old and a dozen others shot in Chicago (not counting twice as many shot the same weekend in separate “incidents”)… All as we move toward the first anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook. As I write, people are being shot in a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall for what, I can only assume, the shooters believe are good reasons. Society very rightly condemns such totally senseless acts of terror, or horror—and nothing, no cause, justifies any of it in any way. And, what of killing a dove? Is it really only justified because their fast flying makes them “sporting,” while they are tame and common enough to easily find?

Fellow bird artist and colleague, Julie Zickefoose, who lives in neighboring Ohio, wrote an excellent blog ( in which she made the point, “Since the dove’s drumstick is less than an inch long, the breast meat is all that’s used. Each breast fillet is about as long as my thumb, and weighs one ounce or less before cooking.” She compared it to half of a hot-dog wiener.

We Ontarians must use steel, not lead, bullets, which could enhance wounding, but reduce toxicity. Or, even better; not shooting at all would eliminate both concerns.

Hunters are in decline, and that means the funding for “wildlife managers” is imperiled—and, as I said, they are disproportionately found in government wildlife agencies. And so, the push is on to recruit more people to part company with the majority of us who enjoy shooting nothing more lethal than a camera. There has been a weak attempt to try a favored tactic of demonizing their victims: too many doves can result in disease, they say (though there is no proof that they do, of course, or that it justifies killing healthy animals, be they doves, robins, or cardinals) and they claim that doves may spread weed seeds around (as do sparrows and larks, buntings and bobolinks… Who is next?)—but , again, with no proof or even likelihood that this is really an issue. It’s all quite silly, but cruelly lethal to a species that the vast majority of us simply enjoy.

We Ontarians—now that we know—will fight back, but we can use the help of our American neighbors. A brief note to the Prime Minister of Canada couldn’t hurt, and might help: The Honorable Stephen Harper, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2, Phone: 1-800-622- 6232 , TTY: 1-800-465-7735, Fax: 613-941-6900, E-Mail: Tell him, politely and in your own words, not to kill the mourning doves. Let them continue to have Ontario as a place of refuge. Ontario has room for them and we want to welcome them with bird seed, not bird shot.

Band-tailed pigeon photo©Jim Robertson

Band-tailed pigeon photo©Jim Robertson