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Annual Report 2016

As 2016 has now drawn to a close it is time to look back. As this report shows, in 2016, we were able to save many thousands of birds from certain death and carry out hundreds of interventions against bird poachers across Europe. At the centre of the public interest were, above all, our bird protection camps in Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Spain and France, which were attended by some 140 volunteers from 11 nations this year. German and international media, including the BBC, the ARD, RTL, National Geographic and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, have been forming a queue to report on our actions against the poachers.

Especially important for us this year was the collaboration with the British media and the wildlife broadcaster Chris Packham, who presents the very popular BBC series "Springwatch". Together with our teams, Chris was on the road in Cyprus during September to witness firsthand the scale of songbird trapping occurring on the British military base in Dekelia. In order to increase the pressure, we launched the international protest campaign "In Your Honor" in August. The goal was simple, to persuade the leaders in London to finally stop turning a blind eye to the industrial scale songbird massacre occurring on British sovereign soil.

So you see, our work makes a difference. This is primarily due to the dedicated support of our members, supporters, volunteers and activists. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the entire management board.

January

  • Operation "Goldfinch": by conducting large-scale research on the internet, CABS officers filed criminal charges against numerous animal dealers who were offering illegally caught goldfinches and other songbirds on websites such as ‘Ebay-classified’ and ‘Quoka’. In the case of house raids conducted in NRW and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the authorities were able to seize and release more than 100 illegally held songbirds.
  • The WWF's hunting wardens in Pavia (northern Italy) caught two hunters in the northern Apennines for illegal hunting of protected songbirds. In the two men, two dozen dead chaffinches and brambling, several thrushes and robins as well as two forbidden electronic decoys were found and confiscated together with the shotguns.
  • After weeks of research, CABS succeeds in unveiling the trades of a criminal falconer from Hattersheim (near Frankfurt). On the 12th of January, our employees call the police following the discovery of a cage trap installation used to target raptors in the district of Okriftel. In an aviary, eight wild-caught live birds of prey (five sparrowhawks and three buzzards) were discovered and released.

February

  • During the inspection of a notorious ‘problem hotspot’ in the district of Uckermark, a CABS team discovered an illegal cage trap set for birds of prey along with two freshly killed sparrowhawks. The incident marks the culmination of a series of persecutions of protected species in recent years, which has seen nearly 100 animals, including 26 sea eagles, fall victim.
  • Positive results from our two-week mission against wintering songbird trapping in Cyprus: In all, our teams were able to identify 63 active trapping sites with a total of 163 nets, 308 limesticks and 44 electronic decoys. Together with the police, we ensured all trapping paraphernalia was seized and criminal proceedings were initiated against three poachers. Approximately 250 birds were carefully freed from the traps and released.
  • With financial support from the Federal Ministry of the Environment, the homepage of our data collection and documentation centre for birds of prey persecution and wildlife crime (E.D.G.A.R.) goes online. Under the address www.greifvogelverfolgung.de, and containing a wide range of information on the subject of birds of prey protection.

March

  • Finch trapping in Malta: During a three-week mission, our volunteers found a total of 41 illegal trapping sites for finches and waders. Police seized 34 live decoy birds and trapping equipment worth more than 10,000 Euros. Five trappers were later sentenced to fines and had their hunting licenses are revoked.
  • In the case of a peregrine falcon poisoned in the German state of Thuringia, CABS filed an appeal for information leading to the killer. The Falcon was found by employees of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Wanderfalkenschutz (AGW) at the beginning of the month, dead under its roosting site in the district Eichsfeld. Laboratory investigations carried out on behalf of the CABS confirmed that both the falcon and a breeding dove, which was partially consumed by the falcon, both contained high doses of a prohibited insecticide.
  • A gang of poachers will be prosecuted before a court in southern Dax, France due to the attack on a CABS team in autumn 2014. Five accused, all of whom are members of the Cage Bird Association, were sentenced to two months and four months on probation, plus several thousand euros fine for aggravated assault and material damage.

April

  • Strike against illegal turtle dove trapping in Malta: Following a large-scale monitoring operation, a CABS team on Malta's neighboring island of Gozo discovered a total of eight huge cage traps for capturing turtle doves. In a joint action with the police, all traps were shut down and 102 live turtle doves released.
  • During our six-week spring campaign against bird trapping in Cyprus, 22 CABS activists, together with the police, collected a total of 1,817 limesticks and 50 mist nets. 132 birds were liberated from the traps alive and released. 15 bird trappers are caught and prosecuted. Furthermore, a total of 1,258 frozen birds were found and confiscated during house searches.
  • On the tiny uninhabited island of Palmarola (Italy), a CABS team lay in wait for incoming poachers. From a covert hiding place, our team recorded an active bird hunters in the protected area on 22 April. Immediately alerting the Forest Police and in order not to lose any time, the authorities attended the island via helicopter, thus preventing an escape of the men. They found three unregistered shotguns, 71 rounds of ammunition, and 111 snap traps for singing birds.

May

  • In South Tyrol, (Italy) CABS members were eagerly on the lookout for professional nest robbers targeting song thrush nests. The stolen chicks are sold in Italy as live decoys to hunters. After several days our team was able to catch and convict a poacher with 28 fledgling birds freshly taken from nests. The man was arrested and the birds taken to a rescue centre.
  • After years of protest from CABS and our local partners Birdlife Malta, the government in Valletta has finally announced a moratorium on the spring hunting of turtle doves. The committee, which monitors the hunting season in Malta every year with more than 60 volunteers, welcomes the decision, but also notes that other endangered species, such as ruff, golden plover and skylark, may still be hunted in Malta.
  • In the Southern Italian region of Calabria, Cabs members spent three weeks watching the bird of prey migration through the area as well as checking local bird markets. Whilst there were no significant incidents involving bird of prey hunters, a total of three illegal bird traders were apprehended as a result of our findings. Subsequent inspections by the Forest Police found and seized 33 goldfinches, 15 turtle doves, three song thrushes, a starling and a serin.

June

  • Poison alert in Berlin: in the St. Elisabeth cemetery in Berlin, a sparrowhawk and two buzzards were found and linked to so-called tethered "kamikaze pigeons". The baited pigeons had evidently been left there intentionally. CABS staff led an investigation into the carcasses and confirmed the highly toxic insecticide methomyl present on the neck plumage of the pigeons and the dead birds of prey.
  • On June 14, a presidential member of the County Hunting Association in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, was sentenced by the District Court with a fine of 3,500 Euros for setting an illegal raptor trap. The authorities apprehended and identified the man after CABS members initially observed him in August 2015 at the trap with a dead bird in his hand and informed the police.
  • Strike against the wild bird trading Mafia: In a joint effort between CABS and the Italian forestry police, a total of 215 wild-caught goldfinches were confiscated on the notorious bird market in Palermo (Sicily) on 19 June. Criminal proceedings will be instituted against a total of nine street traders.

July

  • With the help of a light aircraft, CABS staff on Malta and Gozo identified six huge facilities for the capture of golden plover, sandpipers and other waders. The trappers used large folding nets up to 50m long, which they laid between artificially constructed ponds. Together with the police, all facilities were shut down.
  • 10 months imprisonment for bird thief: The District Court of Bottrop, Germany, once again condemns a previously convicted songbird trader to a prison sentence on probation and a fine of 3,500 euros. In court, the man confessed that he had continued to sell captive songbirds, despite an ongoing probation. The case file was put into motion by the CABS, who following renewed investigation, handed over our findings and reported the dealer to the authorities.
  • CABS in Cairo: The first meeting of a special international unit against the illegal bird hunting in the Mediterranean region took place in the Egyptian capital at the invitation of the Bonn Convention for the Protection of Migrant Animal Species (CMS) and the UNO. Representatives of the committee, who report on the extent of poaching in Cyprus and North Africa, were also present.

August

  • Launch of our protest campaign against the slaughter of millions of migratory birds on British territory in Cyprus. Accompanied by numerous media reports, thousands of bird friends write to the new British government within a few weeks and demanding harder action against the bird trappers.
  • Successful breeding season in our Black tern colonies in Saxony-Anhalt: This year, ornithologists can show a total of 45 breeding pairs of the Siberian tern on our nests in the Havelbucht and the Alte Elbe. By the end of August at least 60 birds will have fledged.
  • Special ops in Brescia: In Italy, we caught the first "autumn season" bird trapper: at Marone (province of Brescia / Lombardy), a CABS team found a large trapping site with snap traps set and informed officers of the local forest police. The officers snatched the poacher after a three-hour sit-down - 109 snap traps were seized.

September

  • Cyprus: A total of 30 volunteers from 6 EU countries participate in our annual large-scale campaign for the protection of migratory birds in Cyprus. Together with the local police, 4,112 limesticks, 181 mist nets and 110 electronic decoys were found and dismantled within six weeks, 29 poachers face prosecution as a result of our findings, almost 700 songbirds and around a dozen owls, sparrows and cuckoos were freed.
  • Research in France: Together with a team of the German national television station NDR, CABS members in southern France document the illegal trapping of Ortolan bunting for the cooking pot. A biologist from the renowned Ortolan project in Wendland, Lower Saxony, was also involved.
  • In Malta, the Committee's "Bird Guards" were active between 9 September to mid-October to oversee the migration of thousands of harriers, eagles and other birds of prey. Thanks to the permanent presence of our team’s at the most important roosting places, most birds can leave the island unscathed. Nevertheless, numerous violations were also filmed this year, including the shooting of several honey buzzards and a short-toed eagle.
  • Together with members of our partner organization "Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia", a CABS team spent three weeks in Serbia undertaking field investigations against the illegal quail hunting with the help of electronic decoys. A total of 56 decoys were found across 41 sites and were later removed by the police. 21 hunters were reported.

October

  • From October 4 to 27, a total of 78 nature and animal friends from all over Europe were involved in CABS large Bird Protection Camp in Brescia (Northern Italy). 87 illegal sites with a total of 288 bow traps, 661 traps and 48 nets were found and removed with police. In the monitoring of the traps reported by us by the forest police, 55 poachers are caught and arrested.
  • On the southern Italian Strait of Messina (Calabria and Sicily) in October, together with the police, CABS members catch four hunters hunting for protected songbirds and two songbird traders. One merchant offered 90 goldfinches for sale, while the other wanted to smuggle almost 1,000 finches with a boat to Malta. In addition, four poachers, who had set up snares for wild boars, were filmed with hidden cameras and arrested as a result of the evidence.
  • "Birdrace" in favour of the Committee on Heligoland: on invitation of the Helgoland ornithological Association and of the Institute for bird research, 208 of the best ornithologists in Germany on the offshore island took part in a bird watching competition. The winner is the person who observed the most bird species within 24 hours. In total, 120 species are observed. CABS received over 2000 euros in donations come together by sponsors!

November

  • A small CABS team examines the incredible extent of natural disaster in Malta by constructing more than 3,000 trapping sites for finches and golden plover. At the same time, the Committee publishes evidence that police and nature conservation authorities are completely overburdened with the control of more than 4,500 licensed bird trappers.
  • Bird trapping in Spain is in steep decline: during this year's annual inspections in the province of Valencia, the CABS team found only 32 active songbird sites with a total of 2,100 limesticks. In the same area, more than 400 sites were counted five years ago. This is a great success, which is mainly due to our cooperation with the environmental police SEPRONA.
  • Once again Malta: On the Mediterranean island our observers witnessed one of the strongest passages of short –toed eagles of the autumn migration. More than 100 eagles will use the island as a resting place from 1 to 3 November. Unfortunately, there are also incidents with hunters shooting at least four of the majestic birds from the sky.

December

  • In Sardinia, our Italian members are now carrying out their thirteenth winter activities to tackle the trapping of thrushes and other wintering birds with nets and horsehair snares. The main focus of the inspections is on the high plateaus of poaching around the cities of Cagliari and Capoterra on the southern tip of the island. In November alone, CABS teams discovered and dismantled 780 snares.
  • Our survey site for birds of prey publishes first figures of nationwide monitoring: Between 2005 and 2015, 998 cases of illegal bird persecution were recorded in Germany with 1489 victims. All species native to Germany were affected. A total of 72 persons were identified as perpetrators, including 29 hunters and 32 pigeons or poultry holders. A comprehensive evaluation will be published in 2017.
  • Digital bird protection: The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) homepage as well as our social media pages on Facebook and YouTube are important campaigning tools with which we can reach many people and make malpractices quickly public. In 2016, we reached more than half a million people on Facebook with our German, Italian and English pages!