The Second European Workshop on Environmental Crime: Illegal Poisoning of Wildlife

19.12.2015

An Action Plan to prevent risk from poison-baits has been developed for adoption by the members of the ENEC during the II European Workshop on Environmental Crime, held in Barcelona on 6th November 2015.  The purpose of this action plan is to make recommendations on behalf of the European Network against Environmental Crime (ENEC) for the adoption of measures to eradicate the use of poisoned-baits in the countryside. These recommendations will contribute to implementing the CMS Guidelines to tackle wildlife poisoning, including recommendations at EU level to ensure a consistent and effective deterrent to poison-bait use in the EU.  

Use of poisoned-bait in the countryside is one of the most widely used predator eradication methods worldwide and is a threat to biodiversity in the European Union. Poison is used to kill wildlife which is considered to be harmful to certain activities, in particular, game management for hunting, livestock farming and other agriculture. Illegal use of poison, particularly targeting of birds of prey, is considered one of the most important issues regarding illegal killing of birds due to the serious conservation impacts and is confirmed to be among the most important direct threats in Europe to the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), red kite (Milvus milvus), or Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Poison-baits have been identified as the primary limiting factor in the expansion of reintroduced population of red kites in northern Scotland and of the UK golden eagle population. Indiscriminate use of poison baits also presents a risk to other wildlife, pets and human health, with potentially lethal consequences.

Very large numbers of birds are killed annually as a result of deliberate misuse or otherwise illegal use of poisons. This unnecessary mortality can severely affect the conservation status of vulnerable species, including species protected under national, EU and wider international law. A transboundary approach at EU level is needed to address this problem in the case of migratory species.

Use of poisoned-baits commonly involves lacing a food item in a toxic substance, normally phytosanitary products like insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides or molluscicides (snail and slug pellets). The prepared bait is left in a spot accessible to the target animals and often to other non-target species which may also be affected. Deliberate poisoning is therefore a large-scale, non-selective and destructive method of control that has a huge knock-on effect on non-target species; it may even pose risks to human health.

The most common substances used in poisoned-baits are insecticides and, to a lesser extent, rodenticides, usually those that are known as highly toxic by users. Carbamate insecticides, such as carbofuran and aldicarb, are often used in poison-baits for predator control in numerous areas around the world. For example, in Spain, between 2005 and 2010, 50% of cases of poisoning were caused by aldicarb and 22% of them were by carbofuran.

A lot of species like the Egyptian vulture for example, are direct victims of illegal use of poisoned bait. For such migratory birds, collaboration with interested NGOs and institutions, at both European and international level are of paramount importance for effective prevention of these threats. In Bulgaria, BSPB works hard in that direction in recent years and under different projects such as “The Return of the Neophron and “Preserve key forest habitats of the Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) in Bulgaria”. BSPB carried out various activities to support the fight against illegal use of poisons and prevention and detection of different crimes against protected species. BSPB actively support the work of key institutions as Police, MoEW, the Customs Agency and others by conducting specialized seminars, creating handbooks, providing expertise and signaling and information. In many of these activities experts are involved from various European and international partners, BSPB and key experts with experience from foreign ministries and agencies.

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