Europe and Central Asia
12 Nov 2018

Shipment of illegally killed birds discovered in Slovenia

Goldfinch © David Dillon
By Tjaša Zagoršek

Our Slovenian partner DOPPS reports on the alarming discovery of a huge shipment of illegally killed birds discovered in Slovenia en route to Italy last month. Significant numbers of Red-thorated pipit, White wagtail and Meadow pipit were found amongst a haul of over a thousand individual birds.

Last month, custom officers in Slovenia inspecting a bus coming from Romania discovered a huge illegal shipment of dead birds – their biggest such finding this year.  Following a detailed inspection,  the 15 seized boxes were revealed to contain a staggering 1349 dead birds. Worse still, 13 separate protected species were identified including: 1028 Red-throated pipit, 209 White wagtail, 73 Meadow pipit, 16 Tree pipit and 10 Eurasian skylark. Several individuals from other species were also found, including: European goldfinch, Barn swallow, European greenfinch, Common quail, Willow warbler, Western Yellow Wagtail, Corn bunting and Common reed bunting. 

Red-throated pipit © Tjasa Zagorsek

Officials have assertained that these birds had been shot in Romania and were bound for Italy. There is a significant Italian black market for illegally killed birds to meet restaurant demand for 'luxury' – yet unlawful – bird dishes which can only be obtained for a short period each year, especially during the autumn migration.

Seized shipment  © Tjasa Zagorsek

DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia is working hard to combat the illegal trafficking of dead birds through Slovenia. Since July, DOPPS has been collaborating with the German-based nature foundation EuroNatur on a new project 'Safe Flyways – Stop Illegal Bird Killing in the Mediterranean'.  While the organisations have noted that the number of unconvered shipments has been decreasing since 2013, they warn that this should not be mistaken for good news. Indeed, this is more likely due to the fact that Slovenia has not been an external border of the European Union since December 2013. It is a simple equation: no custom controls = less seizures. Though the true extent of illegal trafficking through Slovenia in recent years in unknown, what data we have does not point to any kind of significant decrease. What is clear is that Slovenia remains a key transit country to Western Europe for birds caught in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

DOPPS will be keeping BirdLife Europe updated on further discoveries and activities to combat this black market industry as the project progresses.

Tjaša Zagoršek - DOPPS, BirdLife Slovenia

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