Illegal killing of birds still continues in Europe


BirdLife Partners from 38 European countries have gathered information about the illegal killing and trapping of birds that occur in their countries. The revealing results were presented at the European Conference on Illegal Killing of Birds in Larnaka, Cyprus. Illegal killing and trapping of birds is not restricted to the Mediterranean countries, contrary to what many people believed.

Disgraceful as it is, one of the main conclusions of this report is that illegal killing of birds is a widespread practice that very few countries have managed to stop. In many cases birds are killed for economic reasons: because they are perceived by land users as a competitor for resources, or as a source of income through illegal trade. In other cases birds are persecuted as trophies, due to ignorance of the law or just for 'fun'. Over 80 strictly protected bird species were reported as victims of deliberate wildlife crime.

Tree Sparrows confiscated in The Netherlands (Hans Peeters).

"Birds are shot, trapped, caught with nets, glued to lime-sticks or even soaked with lethal poisons to lure and kill other birds. The creativity of those who break the law to kill a bird is appalling!" says Boris Barov, European Conservation Manager at BirdLife Europe, who presented the report. "Deliberate killing of birds that are protected, at the wrong places or during the closed season is unacceptable to conservationists and to responsible hunters alike. We expect the authorities and citizens to apply 'zero tolerance' to the offenders."

The fact that Cyprus hosts this Conference is an extremely important opportunity for the authorities on the island to demonstrate their willingness to tackle the serious but yet unresolved problem of illegal trapping and shooting of migratory birds that spoils the reputation of the entire Mediterranean region.

Hoopoe caught by lime-stick (photo: Huseyin Yorganci).

More than 30 years since the adoption of European legislation aimed at eradicating persecution of wild birds, the situation is far from resolved. The report takes stock of a shocking variety of illegal means and motivations behind these offences. Poisoning is among the most worrying as it is indiscriminate, thus equally dangerous for wildlife and for people.

"The use of poison is on the increase in many countries with the explicit purpose to kill predators and 'protect' economic interests. It is strictly against the law to use poisons for this purpose. It is not only dangerous to humans but also jeopardizes the most successful conservation efforts," Boris Barov added.

During the Conference in Larnaka, BirdLife made specific recommendations for governments and civil society. Solutions often require cultural sensitivity and understanding of the human dimensions but the full implementation of the law is the indispensable first step of this process. In addition, governments need to set up effective institutions as well as to guarantee the adequate funds to enable the police, customs and courts to apply the law. Governments and NGOs should team up to improve information collection about wildlife crime to develop a common grasp of the issue. Finally, European Union countries and their neighbours should work together to prevent wildlife crime to be exported. Instead, joint efforts should focus on its eradication.

BirdLife expressed its willingness to work with all the relevant stakeholders to find the best solutions, and calls on the European hunting community (FACE) to commit seriously to resolving the problem of illegal killing.

Written by: BirdLife Europe