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Bird trapping on the South Italian coast

Danger on the coastal and islands flyway

Whinchat killed by a trap in IschiaWhinchat killed by a trap in IschiaThe islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea along the south Italian coast, in particular Capri, Ischia and Ponza, are valuable stepping stones for the migrants returning from Africa. After arrival here in spring following a demanding flight across the Sahara and the Mediterranean they are often too exhausted to fly. The poachers are well aware of the birds’ predicament.

From the end of March onwards, snap traps baited with mealworms are set out in vineyards, olive groves and gardens. These prove to be the undoing of the starving birds. Species whose populations north of the Alps are threatened with extinction, such as the Nightingale, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart, die in masses in the small traps. Quails, Turtle Doves and raptors are also the much sought-after prey of the hunters, who clear their fields of fire by burning off the macchia. Calls from electronic bird lures can be heard at night far out to sea, and these decoy the birds into the traps and on to the hunters’ guns.

Woodchat Shrike found dead in a trap on PonzaWoodchat Shrike found dead in a trap on PonzaConservationists conduct annual operations in the period mid-April to mid-May from our bird protection camps in Southern Italy. At dawn they patrol the coastal areas with the forest police to locate hunters shooting at the arriving birds; during the day traps are found and removed with the Carabineri. From midnight onwards patrols search the macchia for electronic lure devices. The WWF game wardens and LIPU members conduct operations over several weeks on the islands of Ischia and Procida in the Gulf of Naples. Hundreds of traps, dozens of weapons and several hundred rounds of ammunition are confiscated in this way every spring.

Poaching in the Gulf of Naples has decreased noticeably now for several years, although prominent hunting association officials are caught regularly. These included the president of the south Italian hunting association as well as the top chef of the Ischia gourmet cooking society, who was caught hunting Nightingales on the fringes of a pine wood. Two Franciscan monks were also caught setting traps in a monastery garden. The numbers of small metal snap traps, which were set out in tens of thousands in gardens on Ischia and Ponza at the start of the 1990s, have shrunk so dramatically that on many days the teams find not a single example. In spring 2007, in a four week period, only 50 traps were found on Ponza and 45 on Ischia.

Whereas we were present with numerous German conservationists between 1993 and 2004, since the situation has quietened down we have deployed our activists - above all in spring - to where they are more urgently needed on Cyprus and on Malta. Operations in Southern Italy are conducted principally by our Italian partners and funded by CABS.

The costs of these operations are covered by private donations, mainly from Germany. If you would like to support our international wildlife and nature work a donation, however small, would be gratefully received.