Hundreds of thousands of birds accidentally poisoned every year
Two thousand, three hundred and fifty five Red and Black kites, 2,146 Griffon Vultures, 638 Black Vultures, 348 Egyptian Vultures, 114 Spanish Imperial Eagles and 40 Bearded Vultures were found poisoned in Spain between 2000 and 2010, according to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. All these birds are threatened species and protected under EU law.
Every year around the world, hundreds of thousands of birds are the accidental victims of products used in common activities, including: agricultural pesticides, poison baits, the use of lead for hunting and fishing and veterinary treatments toxic to birds such as diclofenac.
When they do not kill them, these substances usually affect the reproductive success of the adults, which can threaten the survival of vulnerable bird populations and species.
Yet, experience shows that it is possible to minimize and prevent poisoning of birds without much effort and costs, by following experts’ recommendations. BirdLife Partners are very active on the issue, including SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).
In Spain, bird poisoning is mainly the result of poison baits used to kill predators and rodents. Many of these poisons are very strong, and are not only harmful to birds but to the wildlife in general, while more nature-friendly alternatives exist. After years of campaigning by SEO/BirdLife, the Spanish government has finally adopted, in 2004, a national strategy against illegal use of poison baits in the environment, aiming at developing dissuasion techniques and increasing crime prosecution, while raising people’s awareness. Conscious that the success of the strategy relies on civil society’s acceptance, SEO/BirdLife has been working since then in engaging with key stakeholders on the development, implementation and monitoring of the strategy.
The veterinary use of diclofenac is also an increasing issue in the country. This drug, used to cure cattle, is extremely toxic to certain bird species, notably Vultures and Eagles. Although it has caused the dramatic 99% decline of the Vulture population in South Asia, it is still being prescribed to pets and livestock in Spain, where an important fraction of the European Vulture and Eagle populations live. In order to stop an ecological catastrophe from happening in Spain and in Europe in general, SEO/BirdLife, together with the rest of the BirdLife Partnership, is currently campaigning for a ban of veterinary diclofenac at EU level.
As to the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), it has been collecting inputs from many experts worldwide within the last two years. This information has been used to produce recommendations, to prevent, minimise, and where feasible eliminate causes of bird poisoning. A series of guidelines, focusing on migratory birds, was presented to the Convention of Migratory Species on July 1st in Bonn. The Convention, constituted of experts from conservation organisations, including BirdLife, and national and local authorities, will discuss the document. If endorsed it will save many migratory birds from one of the various plagues they are confronted with they are confronted to.
For more information, please contact Willem Van Den Bossche, European Nature Conservation Officer at BirdLife Europe.
Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.