Europe and Central Asia
15 Dec 2015

How BirdLife uncovered the Mediterranean bird slaughter

A trapped Cyprus scops owl. Photo: BirdLife Cyprus
By Willem Van Den Bossche

27 BirdLife Partners in the Mediterranean region, plus Georgia, collected information on the species and numbers of birds illegally killed for a much needed scientific review (read the public report The Killing here). It was discovered that more than 25 million birds – including threatened or declining species like the European Turtle-dove, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Ferruginous Duck – are illegally killed and taken in the Mediterranean region each year.

All 27 countries assessed, except Libya, have hunting/taking regulations (some even have bans) in their national legislation, thus defining what is illegal at the national level. Between July 2014 and June 2015, BirdLife Partners, national experts and organisations assessed at the national level how many individual wild birds of all native species regularly present were known or likely to be illegally killed annually (intentionally and unintentionally).

We asked them to provide numbers, based on their own data, experience and/or knowledge, as well as any other available, relevant information (like from publications, grey literature, databases, animal rehabilitation centres, police reports, bird ringing schemes and government data). The datasets for each country were then made available for peer-review by external experts from conservation and ornithological organisations, hunting associations and international conventions.

From this data, BirdLife collected a minimum and maximum approximate estimate of the total number of individuals killed illegally per year in the country. The 10 worst locations were chosen from data on the approximate percentage of all birds killed illegally each year in the country that are killed at each of these locations.

The illegal killing of birds across the Mediterranean involves a wide range of crimes – killing and taking of birds in areas and/or during periods that are forbidden, use of illegal methods, voluntary poisoning of certain species, killing or taking of protected species – using a number of different methods such as illegal shooting, trapping, collection of eggs or chicks and poisoning, among other things.

We know that the drivers behind these crimes in different countries depend on national and local cultural, social, political and economic contexts. For example, some illegal activities are linked to financial profits and organised crime, others are linked to poor education and awareness, and in still other places these birds are eaten as a delicacy.

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BirdLife's pan-Mediterranean scientific study identifies the 10 worst countries in the region for illegal killing of birds. These include Italy, Cyprus, France, Greece, Croatia and Albania. For these countries, we have now vital information to enable us to set priorities for urgent conservation action.

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.