independent

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Shocking numbers of birds killed illegally worldwide

Two White-tailed Sea Eagles illegally poisoned in Ireland.
Two White-tailed Sea Eagles illegally poisoned in Ireland.

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

'The Killing 2.0' is the title of a report published by BirdLife International setting out the results of its investigations into the illegal killing of wild birds. The 20-page report updates the organisation's earlier report published in August 2015 that painted a stark picture of the international slaughter of feathered wildlife.

Wildlife crime, alongside trafficking in drugs, arms, and human beings, has become one of the top four largest transnational organised illicit activities. The earlier report found that up to five million birds per year were being killed in some Mediterranean countries.

The Killing 2.0 turns its attention to Northern and Central Europe and the Caucasus region. The northern problem is not as bad as that found in the Mediterranean region. While data were often difficult to access making it impossible to come up with accurate numbers, the research team estimated that 0.4 to 2.1 million individual birds per year may be killed illegally mainly for sport or 'pest' control.

The problem was not found to be severe in Ireland. The 20 worst locations reported for the illegal killing of individual birds in Northern Europe, Central Europe and the Caucasus were found in six 'hotspot' countries: (alphabetically) Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany and the Netherlands.

While the problem was not found to be severe in Ireland, the report highlights that a more robust system of monitoring is required in Ireland to accurately tackle illegal killing of birds here.

Failure to enforce the laws that exist is an issue; 28 of the countries recently assessed by Bird.

Life are parties to the legally binding Bern Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats, and 19 are also Member States of the European Union, obliged to implement its benchmark nature laws, the Birds and Habitats Directives.

The bird groups most affected in terms of absolute numbers are waterbirds followed by songbirds. In Azerbaijan alone between 160,000 and 900,000 waterbirds are estimated to be killed illegally per year. Birds of prey, as well as pigeons and doves, are also badly affected. Indeed, the bird group with the highest percentage of species affected are birds of prey.

In both Central Europe and the Caucasus, the lead driver behind illegal bird killing is sport. In Northern Europe the main motivation behind illegal bird killing is predator and so-called 'pest' control.

The full Killing 2.0 report is available to read online at www.birdlife.org

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