|Poisoning in Spain and Life + Project VENENO
The illegal poisoning in Spain has its origins mainly in conflicts between predators and game species (rabbit and partridge), and in conflicts between predators (especially wolves) and livestock. Poisoned baits are a massive and non-selective method for killing predators in Spain, prohibited by national and regional law and punishable under the Spanish Penal Law, which imposes a prison sentence for this crime that can be up to two years.
Despite the ban, an increasing use of poison has been found in recent years. According to experts, the reason for this increase is the decline in game species populations (rabbit, partridge) and the recovery of wolf populations, which has led to increased persecution of predators. Also, poisoned baits used today are more lethal than those used in the past. The high degree of impunity, which is due to the lack on prevention, surveillance and investigation, is one of the main obstacles to ending with this illegal practice.
The National Strategy Against Illegal Use of Poison Baits in the Natural Environment in Spain was approved in 2004. This Strategy which contains some guidelines to solve this problem has to be developed by the Spanish Autonomous Communities. So far only three Regions have developed regional action plans to combat the illegal poisoning. However, in the framework of the Life + Project VENENO, 16 Regional Governments have given their commitment to the approval of action plans and protocols, produced by SEO/ BirdLife, to combat the use of poison.
Illegal Poisoning is undoubtedly one of the main threats to biodiversity in Spain. According to the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs, in the last 10 years, 2,355 red and black kites, 2,146 griffon vultures, 638 black vultures, 348 egyptian vultures, 114 spanish imperial eagles, 40 bearded vultures, 7 brown bears and 858 specimens of other species have been killed. Furthermore, it should be noted that the poison usually affects the adult reproductive fraction, which decreases productivity and reproductive success, negatively affecting the population dynamics of species. In the case of the red kite, the poison has been its first conservation problem in the last 20 years and remains so today, so that has it led to its listing as “Endangered”.
Based on mortality data of species, provided by the Spanish Autonomous Communities, regions in which most episodes of poison has been detected are Andalucia, Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha, followed by Cataluña and Aragon. Keep in mind that the efforts for prevention, surveillance and investigation are very different from place to place.
The situation described is based on data provided by the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs and by the Autonomous Communities on cases detected in their respective territories between 2005 and 2010 and on responses to questionnaires sent to those institutions by SEO/BirdLife in the framework of the Life + Project VENENO.
SEO/BirdLife (BirdLIfe partner in Spain)
David de la Bodega Zugasti & Beatriz Sánchez Cepeda Veneno(at)seo.org