The Forest Police versus Bird Trappers
Italy’s secret weapon against poaching
The Corpo Forestale dello Stato, the Italian State Forest Police, is the largest and most committed environmental police force in Europe. More than 20,000 forest police officers are based in more than 1,000 barracks throughout Italy. They monitor compliance with nature and environmental legislation, combat the illegal wildlife trade and oversee the Italian National Parks and nature reserves. A total of 18 special units are concerned with several specialist aspects of nature protection, including the Nucleo Operativo Antibracconaggio (NOA), whose task is to combat poaching.
The NOA is active in all hot spots of migrant bird trapping in Italy. In Calabria (Southern Italy) they monitor the ban on spring hunting, in the Po Delta (Central Italy) compliance with hunting restrictions are checked and in Brescia (Northern Italy) traps and nets are seized.
The annual forest police operations in the Brescia mountains are coordinated with the bird protection camps organised by CABS and its Italian partner organisations. The areas of responsibility of the different groups are agreed at a preparatory meeting in summer each year and the cooperation with the officers of the NOA and other responsible authorities is discussed. During the camps the plans and operational areas are coordinated so that the conservationists do not interfere with police actions.
When CABS teams locate large numbers of bird traps or extensive net trapping installations the police are guided to the locations and ambushes are set in order to catch the poachers red-handed. When hunters are observed breaking the law the police are alerted and their response is rapid. In 2009 alone our information led to the arrest of more than 40 hunters and bird trappers (2010 - 53). In addition these tactics resulted in the seizure of more than 2,000 traps, 30 mist nets and more than 200 live decoy birds.
Due mainly to our close cooperation with the forest police the number of bow traps (archetti) found during our Brescia operations has declined markedly over the past few years. You can read a report on this here.
You can find a great deal more information on the work of this very committed police unit on their homepage Corpo Forestale dello Stato