Printer-friendly version

Anti-parany operations in Spain

Song Thrush on a limestick struggling to get free in a paranySong Thrush on a limestick struggling to get free in a paranyPoaching is a widespread phenomenon in Spain and large numbers of hunters lie in wait every autumn for the birds migrating from Northern Europe. The practice of luring birds (the target bird is the Song Thrush and its related species) into trapping installations stocked full with limesticks was declared illegal in a final judgment by the European Court of Justice in December 2004, a judgement endorsed by the Valencia regional courts and the Spanish Supreme Court. The thrushes are caught in the typical Valencia trapping installations - so-called paranys - a walled or fenced-in circular plantation, usually of carob trees. A wooden scaffolding links the trees so that the trappers can harvest the birds from the sticks, which are coated with glue. Once inside the installation a bird has no chance of escaping and, entangled in the traps, falls to the ground exhausted from its struggle to escape.

In November 2011 a small CABS team went to Spain to conduct research on the problem and to actively assist volunteers from a handful of local associations (GECEN, AE and EA-AGRO-GER) who have for years conducted a campaign against this form of trapping. To date some 900 of these illegal installations, clearly visible from the roads, have been located and mapped in the autonomous community of Valencia. There are an estimated 600 installations not yet found giving a grand total of 2,500 in the region! This year, 2012, the Committee returned with two teams of activists to rescue birds from these deadly traps.

It is not difficult to find the highly visible paranys in the Valencia RegionIt is not difficult to find the highly visible paranys in the Valencia RegionIn the words of one of the activists “We came to Spain with the aim of documenting what happens in paranys and demand police intervention. Sadly, as we expected, the situation is dramatic. Thousands of birds are caught every night in these installations. We made the video film to make a wide public aware of the suffering of so many illegally trapped birds. These include not only thrushes, but also warblers, robins, starlings and even owls, struggling to free themselves from the sticky traps. In the footage we recorded one can hear the heart-rending screech of trapped birds. I will never forget the night when, as we monitored a parany, we heard the last shriek of a thrush before its head was crushed by the trapper. We were shocked by the whole situation and disillusioned by the indifferent and elusive attitude of the authorities and their failure to take action. We continually called the Guardia Civil to report offences and incidents and documented our frequent attempts to persuade them to take action. We reported at least four types of offences. The parany installations as bird trapping sites, the glue used to catch birds, the use of electronic decoy devices and hunting at night when thousands of birds are migrating".

Help arrived too late for this Blackcap and Starling -  the paranyero has already killed them and will retrieve them at dawnHelp arrived too late for this Blackcap and Starling - the paranyero has already killed them and will retrieve them at dawn Ultimately the teams began to dismantle the traps themselves – a dangerous undertaking as the poachers sleep within the installations. In a few nights of work several thousand limed twigs were dismantled and some thirty thrushes and warblers not yet killed by the poachers were rescued.

The volunteers also conducted a series of surveys and interviews to try to get to the bottom of the problem, but often ran up against a wall of silence. A member of the Castellón council did however explain the patronage structures that prevent poaching being combated by the responsible authorities. Local politicians have given tacit instructions that the trappers are not to be interfered with and the Guardia Civil have no choice but to comply with the orders of their superiors. Only a handful of the some 70 officers working in Castellón Province are committed to upholding the rule of law and the suppression of parany trapping. Even these have to work unpaid overtime to catch poachers as the local council limits their official working hours from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm. As the paranyeros are active during the hours of darkness, this restriction makes it almost impossible for the officers to catch poachers red-handed. Their operations against poachers are anyway only effective if the local authorities start criminal proceedings. This seldom happens or, if it does, the file often goes astray. Additionally it often takes three to four years for the case to come to court so that the link between offence and trial is publicly intangible and scarcely serves as an example or a deterrent. Not to mention the fact that most trials end in the acquittal of the poacher.

A lucky Blackcap found at night in a parany, CABS volunteers remove the glue with alcohol and soap solutionA lucky Blackcap found at night in a parany, CABS volunteers remove the glue with alcohol and soap solutionThe above account highlights the gravity of the situation. In the meantime the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court is awaited with apprehension by conservationists. In 2009 the Valencia Community proposed a new pro-hunting law – this is still under consideration. The practice of parany trapping is illegal because it contravenes the EU Bird Directive in terms of non-selectivity and mass capture. The new proposed law would permit trapping again on a legal basis because of the use of a new synthetic glue that is ‘selective’ and allegedly does not damage the plumage of the birds caught permitting protected species to be released unharmed.

Based on the evidence gathered this year CABS will file an official complaint with the European Commission in order to pre-empt legalisation of parany trapping. It is essential to prevent the official reintroduction of this mass and non-selective trapping practice as Valencia lies on the vital migratory flyway along the eastern coast of Spain. In autumn 2012, the small teams of CABS and local volunteers monitored several hundred paranys. Of these at least 600 were actively trapping.

You can find more background information on paranys here » »