Europe and Central Asia
24 Oct 2017

BirdLife presents 'The Killing 2.0'

By Patricia Zurita

Today in Manila, at CMS COP 12*, the BirdLife Partnership presented its latest publication on the illegal killing of birds in Europe – ‘The Killing 2.0 – A View to a Kill’. Read the introduction by BirdLife International’s CEO Patrizia Zurita right here.


The BirdLife Partnership presents THE KILLING 2.0 — the second instalment in our ongoing series of scientific reviews led by BirdLife exposing the scale and scope of the illegal killing of birds across critical regions. The first instalment, published in August 2015, shocked many by revealing the brutal extent of the bird crime taking place in the Mediterranean. To those results, we now also add the results compiled from Northern Europe, Central Europe and the Caucasus. Next year, we will be extending our eagle eye towards the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf.

Beyond the Mediterranean, birds are primarily killed illegally for sport in the Caucasus and for both sport and predator or ‘pest’ control in Northern Europe and Central Europe. In Azerbaijan alone, hundreds of thousands of waterbirds (between 160,000 and 900,000) are thought to perish each year. Illegal killing by ‘tourist-hunters’ is rampant across Central Europe. In Romania, for example, Eurasian Skylarks are not traditionally hunted and are protected by law, yet thousands of these delicate passerines are killed each year within its borders by foreign hunters.





The toll imposed by illegal killing in each country may for some species – like Little Bustard or White-headed Duck – be too great for the population to bear. For some migratory species, illegal killing in each country along their route, alongside mortality from legal hunting and more diffuse threats like habitat loss, may add up to a significant impact.

Predators have become the prey, with the review identifying raptors as the bird group with the highest percentage of species affected by illegal killing. Sadly, all but one of the 52 species present in the surveyed regions are being affected by this threat. The protection and provisions of the Birds Directive, CMS and Bern are not currently being implemented in many countries where the reality is un-checked persecution through poisoning, shooting and trapping at the hands of some land managers and those who target them for ‘sport’.

Like the piercing cry of the raven, our study issues an anxious warning call and establishes a baseline — going forward, there is an urgent and inescapable need for better monitoring of this scourge. We can clearly see that illegal killing is happening — and that it is happening on an epic flyway scale. We arrive, therefore, at a troubling conclusion: the scale of the killing may be massively underestimated.


Eurasian Skylark. Photo: Thomas McDonnell


Despite legal protections enshrined in the Council of Europe and European Union law, the illegal killing of birds continues largely unabated across the old continent, all the way from the Atlantic to the Caspian Sea.

There is hope — the governments of the Mediterranean and Europe are starting to work together in international forums to face this difficult issue head on and share information and ideas on how to tackle it. In some cases, as in Cyprus, action plans are drawing together all national stakeholders to help. Efforts to tackle illegal killing on the ground are starting to bear fruit when this happens.

Success will require much greater political commitment, much greater investment in enforcement, stronger penalties and better monitoring of the issue from governments, zero tolerance of illegal killing among hunting and the communities at large and greater awareness and a stronger voice from civil society. A cultural sea change is required if we want these protected birds to be seen as an incredible view to be marvelled at and not ‘a view to a kill’ down the barrel of a gun.


Little Bustard. Photo J.G. Gutierrez/Shutterstock


Better monitoring and increased surveillance of this issue is urgently needed in most countries to increase detection of crimes, help identify priorities for action and to measure progress.

BirdLife International is the global champion for safe flyways. We are committed to continue to use science to underpin conservation action and to work with all stakeholders to stop illegal killing.


Patricia Zurita is CEO of BirdLife International

*The Twelfth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, 23-28 October in Manila, The Philippines 

**This an extract from ‘The Killing 2.0 – A View to a Kill’. To read the publication in full – click here.




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.


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. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.