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Extent of illegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean revealed in BirdLife report

By Finlay Duncan, 21 Aug 2015
Caught in nets - one of the cruel ways birds are being killed illegally in the Mediterranean © BirdLife Cyprus

BirdLife International’s first review into the illegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean has been published – and it’s uncovered the shocking death toll suffered by a number of the region’s species.

Unlawfully shot, trapped or even glued: the review estimates 25 million birds are being killed illegally each year. With the help of BirdLife Partners, a list of the ten Mediterranean countries with the highest number of birds thought to be killed each year has been compiled. The review lays bare the areas where conservation efforts need to be stepped up.

Countries currently hit by conflict, such as Syria and Libya, do feature highly in the rankings, but so do some European nations too. Italy comes second only to Egypt for the estimated mean number of illegal killings each year. Meanwhile, the Famagusta area of Cyprus has the unenviable position of being the single worst location in the Mediterranean under the same criteria.

Other European countries featuring in the top 10 are Greece, France, Croatia and Albania. Despite not ranking in the top 10 overall, Malta sees the region’s highest estimated number of birds illegally killed per square kilometre.

Trapped Kingfisher © H. Yorganci

For BirdLife, the review further demonstrates why the Birds Directive, currently under examination by the European Commission, should be better implemented, rather than re-opened.

The review also exposes some of the common methods of killing in use across the Mediterranean; which include illegal shooting, capture in nets and recordings of bird sounds used to lure them to illegal trapping locations. Many of the cruel methods used, such as lime sticks that glue the birds to branches, cause considerable suffering before resulting in the bird’s death.

Figures suggest Eurasian Chaffinch comes top of the ‘kill list’ (an estimated 2.9 million are killed each year), with Eurasian Blackcap (1.8 million), Common Quail (1.6 million) and Song Thrush (1.2 million) making up the rest of the top four. A number of species already listed as ‘Near Threatened’ or ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List are also in danger, according to the review.



The review's publication comes as the British Birdwatching Fair gets underway today (Friday 21 August 2015) at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. It also marks the launch of BirdLife’s new Keeping the Flyway Safe fundraising campaign to help target resources for conservation in the worst affected locations.

Commenting on the publication, BirdLife International CEO, Patricia Zurita, said: “This review shows the gruesome extent to which birds are being killed illegally in the Mediterranean. Populations of some species that were once abundant in Europe are declining, with a number even in free-fall and disappearing altogether.”

“Our birds deserve safer flyways – concluded BirdLife’s CEO - and we want conservation efforts to be increased now, before it’s too late.”

The data in the review previews a scientific paper due to be published soon giving a full assessment of the situation in the Mediterranean.

For a full breakdown of the numbers for each country and species mentioned in this article, please see the review itself here or press release here.