First day of hunting season could mean massacre in Silves

OCTOBER 2 is the opening day of the hunting season and there are fears that this could lead to a massacre of game species dwelling in Silves’ mountains.

The land in question involves the intended concessionary zone designated ‘Zona de Caça Turística da Serra de Silves’, or tourist hunting zone of the Silves mountains, an area covering a massive 6,000 hectares around the Centro Cinegético (Parque Biológico). The concession, in the event, was never granted to anyone by Silves Câmara and the time within which the concession should have been granted ran out in July. The result is that the entire area is now a free-for-all hunting zone, with no restrictions. It is reported that a group of hunters from the north of the country are already planning a trip to Silves on October 2.

Under new hunting legislation, Câmaras do not have the authority to manage hunting areas, but are to grant out these reserves to private companies, who regulate them and only allow members to hunt on territory controlled by them.

Recently, it was reported in the Barlavento newspaper that there is at least one body interested in managing the zone. The owners of the lands, most who are members of ‘Viver Serra’, the association for the protection and development of the mountains of the Barlavento, have created the body XelbCaça and have presented a proposal and plan for managing the area. Presently, the proposition is being considered by the Secretary of State for Forests and Rural Development, Rui Nobre Gonçalves, but the concession will still take time to be granted.

The upshot is that there will be no regulation over the land by the beginning of the hunting season in a few days time. Many hunters already know of this legal loophole and are planning to descend on the area to prey on a variety of game such as partridges, wild boar and deer, many animals having fled to this zone to escape the forest fires. Despite the fires and the drought, the number of game animals has increased substantially and local hunters are said to be itching at their triggers.

Apart from over-hunting, there is also the obvious problem of too many hunters arriving in the same area and fears are that they will shoot others by mistake (as has happened before in the Algarve). These fears have led to calls for the Câmara to replace the hunting control signs designating the area as a tourist hunting zone, even though it is now a free zone, in the hope that some hunters will be put off going there.

In preparation for the opening day and aware of the dangers that this legal loophole has created, the Regional Department for Agriculture will be placing several forestry guards in the locale, who will be supported by specialist personnel from Silves Câmara.