'Slipgate': The Naked Truth
Yesterday morning, LPO/BirdLife France volunteers and journalists were physically assaulted by a man with a shovel after they attempted to remove illegal poaching traps in a village in south-east France. Each year, thousands of protected birds are illegally caught in France in the name of tradition. LPO was attempting to uncover this illegal practice, which is tolerated by authorities.
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The group of volunteers, accompanied by LPO's director Allain Bougrain Dubourg, arrived in the village of Audon with the intention of documenting the illegal killing of finches in the Landes region. Birds there are captured to attract other birds, illegally killed and served as ‘delicacies’ or sold to the black market.
The volunteers arrived in the field at dawn and began freeing Chaffinches and bramblings from their cages. Volunteers found that many of the birds were injured and they were taken to a nearby animal care centre. Unfortunately, some of the birds had already died from stress.
Volunteers reported that poachers had even killed Goldfinches that had come to feed and had fallen on the traps by mistake.
The LPO team on the ground, accompanied by the director Allain Bougrain Dubourg, released 20 captive chaffinches.
The use of cages is illegal and the decoy finch below is a protected species. Each year, the LPO files formal complaints, but the French government continues to cover-up these criminal activities.
Poachers then realised what was happening and started attacking the volunteers. Some journalists lost their cameras and LPO President Allain Bougrain-Dubourg was hit with a spade.
The police arrived on the scene to attempt to calm the situation.
The absurdity of the situation has sparked the creativity of supporters on social media with the hashtag #SlipGate.
The capture and manipulation of protected birds is illegal, but the ‘exception’ given by the French government to trap skylarks serves as an alibi to tolerate the capture of other small birds.