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The CABS Spring Bird Protection Camps 2016.

From 24 February – 15 May 2016, a total of 88 CABS members and volunteers have convened to participate in a total of 11 spring bird protection camps across Italy, Malta and Cyprus. The fruits of our labor speaks for itself: in the 12 week period we have collected 1,817 limesticks, 66 mist nets, 151 snap traps. Thanks to our field investigations police caught 38 poachers red handed – along with 7 illegally held firearms, 2,572 rounds of ammunition and 1,100 frozen songbirds. Nearly 400 birds were freed from traps, nets and cages of illegal bird traders.

Cyprus 02.04. – 15.05.2016

A Garden Warbler being carefully liberated from a limestick (Cyprus, April 2016).A Garden Warbler being carefully liberated from a limestick (Cyprus, April 2016).In Cyprus, from 2 April – 15 May we conducted our longest ever spring bird protection camp in the history of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter. Across six weeks, a total of 22 CABS members working in close cooperation with the police, helped ensure a total of 1,817 limesticks and 50 mist nets were seized. These figures (record highs for our spring operations) reflect the severity of an alarmingly intense songbird poaching season – the worst seen in years. Perhaps integral to this is the upcoming general election to be held in late May. The conservative government which holds an empathetic stance towards the trapping fraternity, limited the enforcement resource, perhaps in a bid to secure votes. Despite this, the police did an excellent job and in response to our reports, arrested 15 poachers and confiscated 1,258 frozen birds discovered in house raids. 132 birds were set free unharmed from the illegal mist nets and limesticks which litter the Cypriot countryside.

South Tyrol (Italy) 08.05. – 15.05.2016

Thrush chick seized from a nest robber (South Tyrol, May 2016)Thrush chick seized from a nest robber (South Tyrol, May 2016)In South Tyrol (Italy) this spring we held a trial bird protection operation in the orchards around Bolzano. We have accumulated significant intelligence that bird traders in the area plunder thrush nests, fitting the chick with false bird rings to make them appear to be captive bred and sell them on to hunters who in turn use them as live decoys to lure others. In just one week, in cooperation with police we were able to seize 44 freshly stolen chicks and catch two chick thieves in the act. Two other nest robbers managed to escape the scene. However, it’s clear that we cannot get to grips with this problem with limited patrols alone. The orchards cover a staggering area of over 20,000 hectares and stumbling upon nest robbers is much like looking for a needle in a haystack! Going forward we will reflect on our lessons learnt and develop an improved methodology of working with local authorities to tackle the nest robbers.

Calabria, Southern Italy 30.04. – 15.05.2016

Goldfinches seized from a bird trapper in Calabria (April 2016)Goldfinches seized from a bird trapper in Calabria (April 2016)In the Southern Italian region of Calabria, CABS members spent last two and half weeks monitoring the passage of birds of prey and illegal bird trapping. Whilst there has been no significant incidents of raptor persecution, a total of three illegal bird traders were arrested to face prosecution. Forestry police seized a number of birds including a Serin, Starling, Mistle Thrush, Two Fieldfare, Eight Blackbirds, 15 Turtle Dove and 33 Goldfinches (including those in the photo). All the birds were released. As a result of our presence the situation in Calabria and in the Straits of Messina appears much calmer. Before the camp had even begun in the week commencing 27.04 five bird trappers were arrested as a result of tips offs to police from our members. In the area of Aspromonte Nature Reserve 95 Goldfinches were confiscated from offenders before we even arrived!

Ponza 23.04. – 08.05.2016

Always on the alert: Members of LAC on Ponza (April 2016)Always on the alert: Members of LAC on Ponza (April 2016)Together with our partner organisation LAC a number of teams were out on the ground to safeguard the most important roosting areas for migratory birds on Mediterranean island of Ponza, a significant passage point. Every day from dawn until well after dusk, the teams took position overtly in the known hunting areas and noted a complete black out of any incidents of illegal poaching. The trappers had no opportunity to prepare any trapping sites neither could they illegally stalk roosting birds. A few shot were recorded near our teams but these were perhaps simply an act of provocation.

Ischia – 28.04. – 06.05.2016

Working Together: CABS operations officer and Forestry Police together in the field on Ischia (May 2016)Working Together: CABS operations officer and Forestry Police together in the field on Ischia (May 2016)Rarely have we observed such a steep decline in illegal shooting and trapping as observed in recent years on the popular tourist destination of Ischia, Italy. Between mid-April and mid-May, 20 conservationist and supporters of CABS and our partner organisations (ENPA, WWF) came together to keep watch over the island. CABS carried out our own week long operation. With helpful deployment of covert cameras we filmed three poachers setting traps to target Whinchat. Thanks to the footage police were able to identify and arrest the men. Furthermore, thanks to a tip off of information as we left the island, WWF game wardens were able to apprehend a man in possession of 4 illegal firearms and 2,500 rounds of ammunition. From two aviaries, 10 Siskins and a Hawfinch were also set free by police.

Malta – 15.04. – 01.05.2016

One of 8 large Turtle Dove trapping installations found by CABS team on Gozo, Malta (April 2016).One of 8 large Turtle Dove trapping installations found by CABS team on Gozo, Malta (April 2016).In Malta this spring our CABS teams experienced a real rollercoaster of emotions during the main spring bird protection camp: The joy of observing a considerable reduction in incidents of shooting against protected species was marred by the notable increase in illegal bird trapping. Whilst until recently we would regularly receive reports of shot protected species on a daily basis, in the two week period this spring we only recorded a Marsh Harrier and a Swift as confirmed shot. During a night survey on April 25/26, together with police support we identified 10 illegal electronic decoys for Quail which were seized by police. It appears the increased penalties together with the presence of many conservationists has helped steady the infamous situation on the islands. On the other hand, the illegal cage trapping of Turtle Dove is becoming an apparent problem. On Malta’s sister island of Gozo, in just 3 days a CABS team discovered 8 large cage traps set to lure Turtle Dove. Together with Gozo police and military we could free 109 freshly caught Turtle Doves. This is an issue we will keep close watch on in future.

Palmarola 18.04. – 01.05.2016

Castaways: One of the teams arriving at the uninhabited island of Palmarola via chartered boat (April, 2016).Castaways: One of the teams arriving at the uninhabited island of Palmarola via chartered boat (April, 2016).For a two week period during peak migration two CABS teams occupied the small uninhabited Mediterranean island of Palmarola, Italy. Poachers frequently set sail from the neighbouring island of Ponza to come and illegally target Turtle Dove, Quail and Thrushes and also set snap traps for Redstart, Wheatear and Whinchat all without fear of retribution. The presence of the two CABS teams brought poaching on the island to a complete standstill. Following a radio report to the mainland and specific GPS data police rallied a helicopter and apprehended a hunter on the island, along with his 3 illegal rifles, 71 rounds of ammunition and 111 snap traps! The Italian media widely reported on CABS “occupation” of the island.

Malta 12.03. – 03.04.2016

Maltese police seizing trapping equipment from a large installation (March, 2016)Maltese police seizing trapping equipment from a large installation (March, 2016)Early birds on Malta – our first deployment on Malta this year began mid-March with a three week camp to seek out illegal trapping of songbirds. As part of an extensive surveillance operation the CABS teams discovered a total of 41 illegal finch and wader trapping sites. On inspection of the sites more than 30 live decoys and trapping equipment worth more than 10,000 euros were seized by police.

The video on YouTube channel shows just part of our findings:

CABS video evidence for illegal bird trapping on Malta and Gozo - spring 2016

Ponza 24 – 27.02. & 01 – 03.04.2016

Robin killed in a snap trap on Ponza (March 2016)Robin killed in a snap trap on Ponza (March 2016)On the small Mediterranean island of Ponza (Italy) CABS staff undertook two short field exercises in February and April; 19 illegal traps and a mist net for catching small birds was seized with the forest police. Two Blackbirds which were illegally held as live decoys were also freed. Although bird trapping on the island has dramatically decreased since we began operations there, the remaining poachers – estimated to be approx 5 people, remains stubborn and without reprise could wreak great harm on passing birds.

Brescia, Italy 17.03. – 20.03.2016

Clap net used to catch Brambling in Val Trompia (February 2016).Clap net used to catch Brambling in Val Trompia (February 2016).During our small unannounced bird protection camp in Brescia, Northern Italy, the Forest police were able to nab two poachers thanks to our reports: One trapper had set a large net for catching thrushes whereas the other deployed small ground clap nets targeting Siskins and Brambling.

Both trapping sites were in the Val Trompia area (Southern Alps) and had been found and explored by CABS team.

Thanks and Acknowledgments:

We thank all participants in our operations for their great work, the police forces in Cyprus ( GSP + ESBA - Police) , Malta (ALE) and Italy (Corpo Forestale + Carabinieri), our partner organisations LAC, WWF, ENPA and LAV (Italy), BirdLife Malta and BirdLife Cyprus, the Foundation Pro biodiversity (financial and logistical support of our Cyprus and Malta operations), the Karl Kaus Foundation for animal and Nature (financial support of Southern Italy operations), Germanys federation for bird protection Bayern (LBV) (financial support of the Malta operations) and of course all our supporters and members, without whom we wouldn’t be able to deliver so much for the birds and for nature!