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Annual Report 2015

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) began with the formal registration of associations of the Amtsgericht Berlin-Charlottenburg on 2 July 1975. Thus marking the starting pistol of what has proven to be a 40 year success story during which time the organisation has achieved numerous important successes for wild bird protection across Europe. Furthermore, the Committee itself has changed and developed over the decades. What started as a small grassroots movement has become an international association, with numerous campaigns and successful bird protection camps at almost all of the key killing hotspots across the continent.

For example, in the Spanish region of Valencia, where the number of active limestick trapping installations has decreased from 2,500 to now around 50 per season; thanks to the field work we have undertaken in conjunction with environmental police. Also in Malta, whose government has recently increased the penalties for poaching by tenfold, the prosecutions and monitoring of roosting sites has become more and more effective. Perhaps one of the best examples of late is the prosecution of a bird trapper who was filmed by our volunteers on 23 March 2015 and subsequently sentenced by the District Court in Victoria (Gozo) with a record fine of €8,000 and lifelong ban of a hunting and trapping licences. The progress made in Northern Italy is also equally positive, where the number of trapping sites has been in decline now for many years.

These and other successes in Southern Europe will enable us to free up resource for use in other problematic areas around the Mediterranean, such as Lebanon or North Africa. In order for us to achieve a similar level of success as our camps in Southern Europe, we must retain patience and determination but above all the continued commitment from our dedicated members and volunteers. Fortunately the track record of the past 40 years stands testament to our continued growth and success.

January

  • The first result of the year came from France where a poacher who had attacked and injured a CABS volunteer with tear gas on 2 September 2014, in the department of Les Landes, was sentenced by the district court in Dax to 45 days of imprisonment and fined €400.
  • In Lebanon we saw the first success in the fight against migratory bird hunting: Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk signed an international agreement in which the country is committed for the first time to ensure the protection of a total of 37 migratory bird species including storks and numerous birds of prey. The signing comes mainly through the massive pressure built up via our Facebook page – STOP Hunting Crimes in Lebanon which has built up more than 20,000 supporters.
  • Big blow to the sparrow trade from Tunisia: The Italian Forest police seized more than 16,000 frozen birds in restaurants, butchers and meat traders. Eight people were arrested for suspected illegal importation and trade in protected species. The raids were assisted by intelligence provided by CABS.
  • Winter action against bird trapping in Cyprus: From 17 January to 1 February, CABS teams were active in the south of the island and assisted police to take out 27 trapping sites. Officers of both the Cypriot Anti-Poaching Squad and Eastern Sovereign Base Area were able to arrest 3 poachers and seize 51 large mist nets as a result of our field investigations.

February

  • Malta: The criminal court in Valletta sentences three bird traders from the town of Rabat with fines ranging between €800-€2,000 for the illegal trafficking of wild caught greenfinches. Three CABS members were also invited as witnesses, who, camouflaged as curious tourists, had watched the sale of the wild animals on a bird market, covertly filmed, and reported to the police.
  • Hawktrap in Hessen: In the municipality of Wohratal, on 11th February, following a tip off a sharp eyed CABS member photographed a clap net trap for birds of prey on a barn roof. The trap contained two live doves and was seized by the police. Just a few days later in Ahlen (NRW), CABS workers found several larson traps and a seriously injured buzzard.
  • Strike against illegal trade in goldfinch on Malta. Following a case report from CABS, a total of 6 men are being prosecuted in Malta because they had sold wild-caught goldfinch in spite of a strict ban on marketing. In a series of house searches police say several dozen birds were confiscated.

March

  • Malta: with the help of a chartered light aircraft, CABS staff undertook an aerial survey and confirmed 128 illegal trapping sites for finches and other migratory birds. Back on the ground together with police our teams then assisted the arrest of a total of 8 bird trappers and also helped seize trapping equipment to the value of tens of thousands of Euros.
  • Big success for our spring operations in Brescia (Northern Italy): Following our field investigations, the Forest Police were able to arrest 6 poachers and their trapping equipment amounting to 15 mist nets, 190 bow traps and 17 snare lines (for catching foxes). A total of 31 birds were released alive from the nets and decoy cages.
  • On the ground in Ponza: Whilst undertaking checks on the Italian island of Ponza, two employees of CABS and our partner association Lega Abolizione Caccia (LAC) were attacked by a bird hunter and slightly injured. Despite the incident, our team later discovered three active bird trapping installations with a total of 38 snap traps for Whinchat and Wheatear and a 20-metre mist net. When the forest police laid in wait, all three poachers were arrested.
  • Poison attacks on wildlife in NRW (Germany): In the district of Heinsberg CABS staff responded to a report of 7 dead buzzards and a dead marten. Studies later showed that the animals were poisoned with the prohibited insecticide carbofuran.

April

  • Campaign for bird protection in Malta: Despite massive protests, the Maltese government once again allowed the spring hunt for turtle doves and quails. CABD deployed 8 teams across Malta and Gozo to document violations and hunting of protected species. Within just a few days, we recorded three incidents of shooting against Cuckoo, a Mediterranean Gull and a Marsh Harrier. The tipping point came when a shot kestrel fell into the playground of a primary school. A day later, the government breaks off the hunting season prematurely.
  • Cyprus: From the beginning of April to the middle of May, eleven CABS members from six different nations were on the island looking for trapping sites and assisting the police in arresting poachers. A total of 1,470 limestick and 25 mist nets were found and dismantled - a significant decrease compared to previous years. Despite the comparatively small amount of traps, 17 poachers were arrested.
  • Attacks on sea eagles in Schleswig-Holstein: In Barsbeck an unknown person was observed disturbing the trees of the pairs of sea eagles and thus preventing them to breed. A short time later, three sea poisoned with poisoned baits were discovered in the district of Dithmarschen. CABS launched an appeal together with a reward of 3,000 euros for information leading to an arrest.

May

  • Sardinia: Following a tip off from a member of the public, CABS staff and colleagues from the animal welfare association LAV conducted a large-scale search for illegal songbird trapping sites around the village of Domus de Maria. Within 48 hours, 11 large nets were discovered and seized by the authorities.
  • CABS on Ischia concludes: Together with our Italian colleagues from the WWF and the ENPA, CABS teams found a total of 8 active trapping sites with a total of 147 snap traps for songbirds. 2 bird trappers were later arrested by police and await prosecution. Two hunters were also apprehended for hunting during the closed season.
  • Cyprus: Following pressure from the bird-trapping and hunting associations, the Council of Ministers in Nicosia plans to allow the hunting of Europe protected Blackcaps. Together with our partners of Friends of the Earth Cyprus and Terra Cypria and the SPA, the Committee launched a protest action and turns to the European Commission to take action. With success - the Blackcap, should remain on the list of protected species in Cyprus.

June

  • Bonelli's eagle on the rise. Thanks to the round-the-clock monitoring of Bonelli's eagle nests in Sicily organised by CABS and our Italian partners, at least 15 birds have successfully fledged this summer. However, two nest sites in the centre of the island which were of sporadically monitored nests were once again plundered.
  • Illegal trapping sites in the Black Forest have been dismantled: after a tip off from a member of the public regarding a plot in Rheinhausen (district of Emmendingen), CABS members discovered three illegal traps including clap nets and two cage traps. The landowner admitted responsibility to the police.
  • CABS at the EXPO: In the Biodiversity Park of the World Exhibition in Milan, our Italian employee, Dr. Andrea Rutigliano, held a well-received presentation on the topic of ‘Poaching in Europe’ on 28.6.15. Our expert speakers have been sought after elsewhere this year. For example, in February we were at the Justice Academy of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia, in May at the German Judicial Academy, and in November at Interpol as speakers on the topics of poaching and environmental crime.

July

  • Together with journalists from the Research Office Correct! CABS conducted a covert operations in the German forest to unveil an illegal bird trapping location. With hidden cameras we succeeded in filming a man from Bottrop with previous convictions for illegal bird trapping and trafficking in the capture and sale of protected finches, bullfinches and goldfinch. The material was handed over to the police, who during a house search confiscated about 20 wild-caught songbirds and numerous traps.
  • Sting against wader trapping in Malta: within a few days, our Malta team succeeds in shutting down two huge illegal trapping sites targeting plovers, sandpipers and other waders. The operators of both sites were caught red-handed and equipment worth several thousand euros was seized.
  • Happy birthday to us: On July 2, 1975 - exactly forty years ago – Committee Against Bird Slaughter were registered as an not for profit organisation with the district court in Berlin-Charlottenburg. On the occasion of this anniversary, we will publish a comprehensive chronicle of our history and achievements which documents our development and milestones over the past four decades.

August

  • In the fight against the illegal persecution of birds of prey and other predators in Germany, CABS have received support from the Federal Government and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). The main focus of the cooperation is the establishment of a nationwide collection and documentation centre for wildlife crime against birds of prey and other apex species - abbreviated E.D.G.A.R. - which is to carry out nationwide monitoring as well as reconnaissance work.
  • Fight against the capture of Ortolans in France: Following on from an aerial survey, our team leaders discover a total of 47 trapping sites hidden in maize fields and woodland. All sites were photographed and mapped with GPS coordinates. The information was then handed to police. In the subsequent inspections, a total of 700 traps were seized by officials and 117 caged birds released. Criminal proceedings were initiated against 28 bird trappers.
  • Italy: Following a reference to the illegal capture of Pied Flycatchers with snap traps, the Committee conducted a large-scale search in the Val Sabbia area (Brescia province). A total of 41 active and baited traps were discovered around the village of Livemmo and reported to the forest police. A poacher was later identified and prosecuted.

September

  • Malta & Gozo: CABS conducted its 18th large bird protection camp across the Maltese archipelago to combat poaching and protect the roosting sites for our migratory birds. Thanks to the constant presence of the teams, thousands of honey buzzards, eagles, falcons and harriers can traverse the island unscathed. Together with the authorities, 16 illegal decoys for quail and 2 huge cages for turtle doves are closed down.
  • Illegal bird hunting in Serbia: On the invitation of the Serbian Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BSPSS), a CABS team supports local conservationists in the search for illegal decoys for quail and other migratory birds. With our experience from Malta, Italy and Cyprus, we manage to track down seven illegal hunting sites within just a few days.
  • During the large autumn bird protection campaign in Cyprus, thanks to our field investigations 33 bird trappers were arrested and a total of 2,500 limesticks, 153 mist nets, 44 electronic decoys and three unregistered hunting rifles were seized. 700 birds, among them numerous blackcap, red-backed shrike, orioles and even short-eared owls, were freed alive.

October

  • In our annual large-scale campaign against bird trapping in Northern Italy, our teams delivered some fantastic work. 51 bird trappers and 12 hunters were caught by the police to face justice in the courts. Together with police we assisted the seizure of 116 nets, 495 bow traps and 510 snap traps, as well as 12 unregistered hunting rifles, over 100 rounds of ammunition, around 400 frozen songbirds, and about 150 live decoy birds.
  • In the case of a ten-day operation in the Valencia region, a group of CABS members, together with the Seprona environmental police, decommissioned ten large parany plants – large bird trapping installations containing numerous limesticks. Criminal proceedings were filed against the owners and 2,650 limesticks and a large mist net were confiscated. In the meantime, our campaign has led to a significant decline in the number of trapping sites.
  • In the French Ardennes, a CABS team documents the tortuous practice of trapping thrushes, robins and other songbirds with horse-hair loops. Thanks to a special permit from Paris, bird trappers in this region are allowed to use several tens of thousands of these unselective traps which are prohibited by the Birds Directive. The results of the research will be made available to the European Commission.

November

  • In Calabria (Southern Italy), the CABS organised a major operation from October to mid-November against the shooting of protected birds of prey and songbird trapping. A total of 12 bird trappers (some repeat offenders) were arrested. In addition, 4 hunters who are filmed by us when shooting protected species and are later identified by the police thanks to the videos.
  • Despite an ongoing procedure before the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the trapping season for a total of 7 finch species is in full swing in Malta. Following an aerial survey, our Malta team documented the incredible extent of bird trapping and photographed more than 2,000 active sites from the air. The material will later be made available to the European Commission for proceedings before the ECJ.
  • On the small southern Italian island of Lampedusa, in the past few days, CABS members together with the forestry police, nabbed 9 poachers: four for violating the gun laws (two of which had no hunting licenses) and six for the use of electronic decoys for hunting. 4 guns and decoys were seized as well as all the birds shot by the hunters: 2 meadow-pipit, 2 redpoll, 55 skylark, 1 blackbird and 9 song thrush.

December

  • The "Il Pettirosso" wildlife conservation centre in Modena (Italy), which is financed by CABS, has received more than 4,100 injured or helpless animals in 2015. Among them were 1,450 songbirds, 320 birds of prey, 1,100 hoofed animals, 490 hedgehogs, 60 bats, 30 foxes, 2 lynxes, and 1 wolf, along with about 80 tortoises. In addition there are almost 100 parrots seized by the authorities.
  • On the Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia, the decline in poaching has becoming more and more apparent. Only three active trapping spots were found during the three-week CABS assignment. With a covert camera we succeeded in filming one of the perpetrators - the man was then arrested by the police. About 1,180 horse hair snares are secured.
  • In Malta, a CABS team filmed and photographed the legal mass capture of Europe-threatened golden plover for the cooking pot. In cooperation with the police ALE 8 illegal electronic decoys were seized during night patrols. Two trappers were filmed and arrested after they had their trapping sites in operation outside of the permitted times.