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Annals Of Humanity: The Albanian Bird Slaughter

November 4, 2014

The routes of many migratory birds, roughly depicted above, connect Europe and Africa. The blue arrow marks the Adriatic Flyway.

Though it is an endless process, it is always worth chronicling the myriad ways in which we inflict death and destruction on the natural world:

Each spring, hundreds of thousands of migrating waterbirds flock northward from Africa across the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. In search of food, they alight briefly on Albania’s Buna Delta — one of the largest remaining wetlands in all of the Balkan Peninsula.

The delta is also one of the most notorious killing grounds for migrating birds in all of Europe…

Environmental groups have estimated that more than two million ducks, geese, songbirds, and raptors are shot along the Adriatic’s eastern shores every year — part of what’s known as the Adriatic Flyway, a key migratory route for birds making their seasonal journeys between the European and African continents. A recent analysis by Wetlands International, a conservation group based in the Netherlands, concluded that as many as one-third of all birds using the Black Sea-Mediterranean Flyway — an area that includes the Adriatic Flyway — are now in decline, in large part due to illegal hunting.

Apart from the tragedy of it all, this turns out to be a cautionary lesson in the destructive nature of capitalism unleashed:

Albania was once a haven for wildlife. For decades the country’s communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, pursued extreme isolationist policies that stifled development and all but eliminated access to the country’s forested borders and coastal wetlands. When the country opened its doors to the outside world in 1991, rampant development and exploitation of natural resources followed, including unlimited hunting of birds — primarily for sport, but also for market.

When the communism of Enver Hoxha can be favorably compared to the status quo, you have a problem. And that problem is that wildlife, or at least living wildlife, is not valued and protected in the anti-regulatory, free-market fever of modern capitalism.

What would a world in which all those birds were valued, and given moral consideration, look like? Beautiful, diverse, and resilient. We just have to somehow figure out a way to get there.

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