Balkan bird crime reinforcement seminar 2016


© Dimitar Gradinarov

On 27.05.16 at Nature Conservation Center "Poda”, Burgas, Bulgaria, was held Balkan bird crime reinforcement seminar with main goal - capacity building in efficiently collecting evidences and working with the relevant institutions. 27 people participated in the seminar. Representatives from the Ministry of Ministry of Interior – Burgas, MVR–Topolovgrad, Environment and Water, Regional Environmental Inspectorate - Burgas, Strandzha Nature Park Directorate, ASPBM, Regional Administration of Directorate-Albania,  0TV-Burgas, Custom Agency- Greece, HOS/BirdLife Greece, WWF – Greece and PPNEA.

Worldwide, direct persecution, including nest robbing and shooting for taxidermy purpose, ranks among the most serious threats for raptor species. Reported losses in raptor populations due to this threat are significant even in Western Europe, where there is good control on illegal activities. For instance, in UK only during 2014, there were reports for 179 cases of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, 27 cases of nest robbery, 17 cases of illegal taking, possession or sale of birds of prey and many other illegal activities (RSPB 2014).

Since 2007, the BSPB started to work intensively against wildlife crime in Bulgaria under the guidance of RSPB. Since the 1990s dozens of bird crimes (mostly shooting and nest robbery) have been registered in Bulgaria, some of which targeting globally threatened species such as the Egyptian Vulture and Eastern Imperial Eagle. In the last 10 years targeted shooting for taxidermy and nest robbing for collectors purposes has been recorded at four Egyptian vulture’s nests. There is also evidence for juveniles stolen from Egyptian Vulture’s and Imperial Eagle’s nests in Natura 2000 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in Bulgaria. For Egyptian Vulture, within the frame of the LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron” it was found that direct persecution is the second most frequent cause of mortality after illegal poisoning in Bulgarian and Greece (Saravia et al. 2016), and that illegal shooting and nest robbing are serious threats in respectively 8 SPAs (30%) and 6 SPAs (22%) out of the 27 key SPAs for the Egyptian Vulture in Bulgaria (Kret et al. 2016). Most probably this is just a small part of the illegal activities affecting this globally threatened species and many other birds of prey are sharing a similar fate.

In the last years, BSPB has received information that hunters from Malta have started to visit Bulgaria to obtain stuffed birds of prey and other protected species, as well as that two Bonelli’s Eagles have been accidentally discovered at the Bulgarian-Romanian border and a Long-legged Buzzard at Greek-Turkish border. Moreover, in one of the recent cases, two Egyptian vulture eggs stolen from a nest in Bulgaria were discovered in the UK. All this suggests a much higher level of illegal activities at Pan-Balkan scale.

To fight against this serious threat on birds of prey in the Balkans, trans-border cooperation and exchange of experience is critically needed. Still there is a limited capacity for the prevention and investigation of crime against wild nature within the institutions in Balkan countries. The level of knowledge, capacity and activity of the responsible institutions on the issue of bird crime is at the early stage, with neither sufficient technical knowledge to understand the EU Birds Directive and CITES convention nor sufficient expertise to gather pertinent evidence that could lead to the prevention or solving of bird related crime. In this line, good coordination between the relevant institutions (the Ministry of the Environment, Police and Customs) and environmental Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) is of high importance.

LIFE+ project The Return of the Neophron, BSPB, bird crime, seminar, NCC Poda, Burgas