The illegal killing of birds in Europe must be tackled on several fronts

The magazine Science He published this week a letter signed by two researchers of the IREC (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM) in which highlights the problem of unlawful killing of birds in Europe.

The European Union has enacted various legislative directives (Habitats Directive, Natura 2000) in an effort to stop the illegal killing of wildlife. One of these is the directive on environmental crimes requiring the Member States of the EU to deal with the killing and trading of protected species and which put an end to the significant losses of habitats which form the Natura 2000 network. The Member countries of the European Union have also signed international conventions on crimes against wildlife (CMS, CITES). Despite these global efforts to protect biodiversity, the illegal killing and trade of birds in the European Union continues endlessly. The current EU legislation falls short in many aspects relating to the protection of birds. First, the ultimate goal of most environmental regulations is to protect and benefit to humans, not so much to preserve the middle room shared with wildlife. Secondly, Community rules don't get to apply in some cases, resulting in penalties to offending countries. Thirdly, systems decentralized in countries such as Spain present difficulties for the proper legislative compliance in a uniform way throughout the territory. In the case of the illegal use of poisoned baits, 10 of the 17 Spanish autonomous communities still lack of action plans and invest little in human and financial resources or conservation programs. The lack of commitment of Spain to finally tackle this problem is demonstrated by cases of illegal poisoning: in one of the laboratories of reference for toxicological analysis of the country (the hunting resources Research Institute), a total of 892 cases of poisoning illegal including endangered species such as imperial Eagles, black vultures, Egyptian vultures and red kites were diagnosed only between 2004 and 2018. Fourth, the legal loopholes allow countries not applying the EU entirely standard, as it is the case of the hunting of migratory birds in Mediterranean countries 26, having as a result the unlawful killing 11 to 36 million birds each year while they migrate to through the region.

To ensure that the reintroduction and conservation projects are effective, illegal activities that threaten the birds must be stopped. To do so, the first step should be the enforcement of hunting laws and environmental, accompanied by educational policies. Administrations could reduce illegal activities to strengthen sanctions, standardize the implementation and increase controls in the field. The mobilization of funds in the long term to deal with the crimes against wildlife is essential to conserve biodiversity while maintaining the legal hunting of game species in a sustainable way.


Photo: Pillar Oliva-Vidal

Margalida, a. & Matthew, r. 2019. Killing birds in Europe illegal continues. Science. 15 mar 2019: Issue 6432, Vol. 363, pp. 1161 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw7516