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Thousands of rare Lesser Spotted Eagles die in Lebanon

For the first time, bird conservationists present a concrete estimate of the extent of the persecution of one of Europe’s rarest eagle.

Berlin / Bonn - 5000 Lesser Spotted Eagles are killed each year by poachers in Lebanon as they attempt to complete the migration to their wintering quarters. This shocking estimate is the result of a joint research by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and the German journal Der Falke (The Falcon). The estimate is based on the evaluation and combination of several indicators.

Shot Lesser Spotted Eagle in a Lebanese rehab centreShot Lesser Spotted Eagle in a Lebanese rehab centreDead and injured Eagles found by CABS members during recent bird protection camps, eyewitness accounts, data from radio tagged birds, reports of ring recoveries, online trophy photos on social media and statistics injured birds received by local rescue and rehabilitation shelters were just some of the sources used in the evaluation as well as an analysis of migration patterns and density of Lesser Spotted Eagles in the region. "On days of heavy passage during peak migration, hundreds of eagles can be shot down at a single ‘bottleneck’ concentration point," says co-author Axel Hirschfeld of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, who has already undertaken several expeditions to the hotspots of bird of prey persecution in Lebanon. "It is particularly tragic for Lesser Spotted Eagles which have evolved to systematically pass through narrow corridors often just 20km wide where thousands of hunters are waiting for the birds to pass low overhead. Given the estimated global population is made up of approximately 30,000 pairs, shooting of Lesser Spotted Eagles cannot be without consequences for the species as a whole, "says falcon author Thomas Krumenacker, who analyzed the migration routes of the rare birds of prey over the Middle East.

The authors call for stronger political pressure from the European Union on the government in Lebanon. "Because in many EU countries, measures to preserve the species are supported with considerable sums of money. The birds literally vanish in a plume of smoke thanks to the actions of the bird hunters, "criticize Hirschfeld and Krumenacker.

In Germany, approximately 100 pairs of the smallest domestic eagle breed in the federal states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. "Every eagle taken from the sky gives the efforts to rescue the highly endangered species in Germany a major setback," warn the authors. The research appears in the December issue of the journal Der Falke .

Download the article "Fatal Flight" here:

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