Diary of CABS Bird Protection Camps, autumn 2020
During the migration period from early August to mid-November 2020, CABS bird protection camps will be running as usual in the poaching hotspots in the Mediterranean. Actions are taking place in Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus, as well as in Lebanon. With our diary we will provide regular updates about the progress of the actions.
Cyprus: 44 poachers caught and almost 2,000 traps and nets seized! Today, after 12 weeks, this year's longest CABS bird protection camp came to an end. Since the beginning of September, our teams have been working in Cyprus, monitoring illegal bird trapping and hunting in the south-east of the Mediterranean island, which is a particularly important flyway for bird migration. They have collected 1,929 limesticks and dismantled 50 nets at 114 active sites. 102 illegal electronic decoys were also recovered. As a direct result of our field investigations, the police and wardens from the Game Fund caught 44 poachers in the act - 31 for bird-trapping and 13 for illegal hunting. 329 birds were freed from traps and nets.
Notorious bird trappers caught in Cyprus: In early November, Cyprus police conducted an operation at a notorious illegal bird trapping site in Larnaca Province, a search warrant was also carried out at the suspects homes addresses and five nets, five electronic callers, and 366 dead birds (all protected species) were seized. Three persons were handed fines totalling 11.660€. This is the most effective persecution action in recent years against large bird trapping operation. The police operation was a result of the multiple reports from CABS and BirdLife Cyprus, following repeated documentation of illegal trapping at the site, which was handed over to the competent authorities. We welcome this particular Police operation as well as the high fines imposed on the suspects, and demand continued action at both this site and others where birds are trapped on a large-scale.
Maltese "scientists" unveiled as poachers: In recent weeks on Malta, field investigations by our CABS team have led to a total of 14 bird trappers being reported to the police. Although the recordings made by our teams clearly show that the men caught finches without permission, 10 of them told the police that they were part of a dubious "scientific study" by the Maltese government to investigate bird migration. Some of the trappers even presented the police with forged papers to prove their alleged participation in the controversial 'catch and release' project. However, an inspection by the government's Wild Bird Regulation Unit (WBRU) revealed that none of the trappers we filmed were working for the project. The police announced that charges would be filed in all cases. Nine large nets and 42 live decoys (linnets, chaffinches, siskins and gnawers) were confiscated.
29.11.2020, northern Italy
Bird trapper caught in Lombardy: In the mountains west of Bergamo (Northern Italy) we caught a "big fish". On the edge of a forest, a CABS team discovered a professionally constructed trapping facility with two huge trapping nets and 18 decoy birds. The poacher had mainly targeted finches like goldfinches, siskins, chaffinches and brambling, but also robins, song thrushes, blackbirds and a blue tit. Following a report to police, they were able to catch the man in the act - he is an "old acquaintance" who has not yet been deterred by the low penalties in Italy. The decoy birds and most of the freshly caught birds were freed.
22.11.2020, northern Italy
Massive reduction of poaching in northern Italy: 35 years of bird protection camps in Lombardy pay off! The decline in trapping has intensified once again – Never before, have we found so few traps and nets as this autumn. Within the last decade alone, the number of bow traps we have found has fallen by -93% from 1,228 (2010) to the current 78. Also, the number of snap (spring) traps has declined by -63% from 802 (2010) to 169 this year. The nets are holding on stubbornly, but here too the number has halved - by -51% from 116 (2010) to 57 this year. The reason for this great result is the continuous presence of CABS teams throughout the trapping season and our close cooperation with the police. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be done in Northern Italy - the last remaining trappers are notorious criminals and each one has to be brought to justice individually. On the other hand, poaching with shotguns seems to be on the increase again.
Crack down on illuminated trees in Lebanon: Following joint investigations between MESHC Anti-Poaching Unit, Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon in partnership with CABS, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces conducted several rooftop raids in the regions of Bchamoun, Qumatiyeh and Barja; the aim was to disrupt and shut down several sites using ‘illuminated trees’ and electronic decoys callers to lure and shoot protected nocturnal migrating birds – primarily thrushes. A common method of migratory bird poaching at this time of year in Lebanon. The raids follow a lengthy investigation to map out the roof top poaching sites during day and night patrols, as well as collated intelligence gathered from surveying images on Google Earth. The findings were then handed over to the General Directorate of the Security Forces. It’s also worth noting that several ‘snipers’ became aware in the raids and turned off the lights to avoid being held accountable. Several poachers were caught red-handed and investigations are ongoing.
Songbird slaughter continues in Cyprus: Although the autumn season is drawing to an end, our CABS team continue to document illegal shooting of songbirds with the vast majority of incidents taking place without intervention from the authorities. However, in one case earlier this week near Akrotiri, our team contacted wardens from the Game and Fauna Service who quickly attended the scene and caught the poacher red-handed. Unfortunately, he had already killed six white wagtails but was slapped with a 2,000€ fine. Our teams scouted the area and found another wagtail critically injured but still alive. Despite the vet’s best efforts, the bird died two days after. If you come across any such incidents please contact us via our CABS in Cyprus page - all information provided will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
Italy - Hunting ban to combat pandemic! Italy has introduced a traffic light system to improve regional coordination of measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, in the "red" regions, which have been particularly affected, songbird hunting is prohibited with immediate effect. In this way, the authorities want to prevent the hundreds of thousands of recreational hunters from making unnecessary trips to the hunting ground and the subsequent obligatory wine in the bar. So far, the hunting ban has been imposed in Lombardy and Tuscany, Piedmont, Calabria, Campania and South Tyrol. Hunters in other regions will soon face the same fate. It is doubtful whether the traffic light will turn green again before the end of the hunting season on 31.01.2021. Several million migratory birds that would otherwise have been shot - above all skylarks and thrushes - can now fly over the Apennine Peninsula undisturbed.
31 live finches seized in Malta: Over the last three days, a joint team from the CABS and BirdLife Malta
has been monitoring the controversial songbird trapping season in Malta and Gozo. Three large trapping sites were discovered, which were operating without any kind of permit and were therefore immediately reported to the Police Environment Unit EPU. Two other suspected cases are still under investigation by the authorities. Although the bird-trappers were able to flee before the arrival of the officers, not without having been filmed by our teams for a long time beforehand. Footage showing the faces of the perpetrators and, in two cases, the licence plates of their getaway cars was handed over to the police. Four giant clap-nets, a cage trap and a total of 31 live chaffinches, greenfinches, linnets, hawfinches and siskins were confiscated at the abandoned trapping sites. The wild birds were being used as live decoy birds and are now flying free again!
Hunter caught illegally trapping: In the mountains north of Brescia (Italy) we have filmed a licensed hunter setting up bird traps for songbirds. The suspect is no stranger to us - we have known his trapping site since 2008, hundreds of traps and nets have already been dismantled here until we finally managed to catch the culprit in 2015. For four years there was peace and quiet in the mountainside, but this October a CABS team found traps for robins again. In order to convict the cautious offender again, we kept the area under surveillance and eventually filmed him in the act. Video evidence and a case file was handed over to the police the day before yesterday and the man has now confessed to the crime. It is poacher no. 35 of the Bird Protection Camp in Brescia, which ends today after 5 weeks. A total of 78 bow traps, 188 snap traps and 57 nets were seized during our operation. In three cases, investigations are still ongoing.
Strike against poaching in Cyprus: At Monte Phanos near Paralimni in the southeast of the Mediterranean island, we have the largest haul of limesticks so far this autumn. A CABS team had lay in wait before dawn at the trapping site and filmed the poacher laying out the illegal bird traps. We called in wardens from the Game and Fauna Service who quickly attended the scene and were able to catch the suspect despite an attempt to escape. Through the video material we provided, the perpetrator had no choice but to confess. 115 limesticks were seized and numerous birds were released, including the great tit in the photo. Unfortunately, the punishment is ridiculously low - the man gets away with a measly 850€ fine. Just by selling the birds he has caught in recent weeks; he has been able to earn many times the fine now imposed. Nevertheless, we are happy to have closed down the site - no more birds will die here this year!
Spain: Curfew exemption granted for bird protection! To contain the COVID 19 pandemic, the government in Madrid has imposed strict night-time curfews. However, for us this presents a problem in that the majority of bird trappers, whom we are investigating together with the police, are most active during the night. The regional government in Valencia has granted our request for a derogation from the restrictions – and our CABS teams are now allowed to be in the field again between 10pm to 5am. A nice sign of trust and appreciation of our work. The participants of our current bird protection camp in Eastern Spain have already made extensive use of the permit and have caught another 7 bird poachers! Since the beginning of the campaign in Spain, 27 poachers have been convicted as a direct result of our field investigations (15 trappers with nets, 12 with limesticks), 30 clap-nets and 1,300 limesticks have been seized and dozens of birds have been freed from the perilous glue or from tiny live decoy cages.
Poachers No. 32 and No. 33 of the Brescia Bird Protection Camp: Even though the trapping season is coming to an end, there are still some active poachers. In the mountains between Lake Iseo and Lake Garda (northern Italy), our CABS team has caught another two perpetrators in collaboration with the police. Poacher No. 32 this autumn had set up 10 snap traps not far from Vestone, and 15 of the illegal traps were also found with Poacher No. 33 near Gargnano. They are baited with fly larvae and attract mainly robins, which are killed and eaten with maize porridge as "polenta ösei" a popular - but of course illegal - delicacy. Three robins were found dead. The animal in the picture did not have to suffer for long - its skull was completely crushed by the spring bars ...
03.11.2020, Calabria (Italy)
Illegal duck hunting stopped: A small CABS team was able to stop two duck poachers in Calabria (Southern Italy) together with the police. The two men had illegally shot at waterfowl in a designated Natura 2000 site near Sibari in the northeast of Italy's "boot tip". Hunting is completely forbidden in the specially area - and the hunters used illegal electronic decoys with duck calls. The police were able to secure two shot gadwall and one shoveler and wigeon duck each. Criminal proceedings were initiated against the perpetrators.
Finch trapper caught on Malta: In Selmun in the north of Malta, together with the police, a CABS team caught a man with an illegal cage trap for hawfinches at the weekend. The trap was installed on a shrub with a live hawfinch as a decoy. Video footage showing the poacher setting up and taking down his trap was handed over to the police on site. The perpetrator was then identified and, when questioned by the officers, admitted to having set the trap. He will soon have to stand trial for this. The trap and the decoy were confiscated. Our team in Malta will be on duty until the end of the month to document the current hunting season as well as the controversial trapping with large clap-nets.
International bird protection camps in times of a global pandemic are anything but easy - all CABS operational areas in the Mediterranean area have also become risk areas. The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 present us with new challenges on a daily basis during the current bird protection camps in Italy and Spain, Malta and Cyprus. But despite nightly curfews, travel and contact restrictions and strict quarantine regulations, all Our planned anti-poaching operations have so far been able to take place almost without disruption. The lockdowns announced for November arrive punctually at the end of the bird migration and fortunately only partially affect our work. Thanks to all CABS bird guards who have been working over the last two months despite all adversities and made the actions a success!
Spanish poachers shoot hoopoe: At our autumn bird protection camp in Eastern Spain, the primary focus is conducting field investigations to identify and shut down illegal bird-trapping sites - only yesterday we were able to catch another two trappers – one with clap-nets and another one with 80 limesticks. But poaching with shotguns is also widespread on the Iberian Peninsula. Unfortunately, many hunters have a callous disregard for the law and protected wildlife. Near Valencia, a CABS team found this hoopoe that had recently been shot - his right wing was blasted to pieces, some shotgun pellets had also hit his body. Unfortunately, he died before we could take him to the vet and there is no trace of the culprit.
Winter is Coming in Cyprus: We’re now eight weeks into our autumn bird protection camp in Cyprus and the seasons are beginning to turn. As songbird migration begins to wane, the poachers are beginning to turn their attention to thrushes that have arrived to over winter in the milder climate. During our night-time field investigations, a CABS team lured by the loud song thrush calls, located an active trapping site with mist nets and an illegal electronic decoy caller in Aradippou, near Larnaca. Thankfully, the Game and Fauna Services responded quickly to our report and ambushed the site, which resulted the site being dismantled and prosecution of the trapper. We saved three song thrushes from the nets and the poacher was fined €4,000!
29.10.2020, Brescia (Italy)
Mafia methods: After many successful anti-poaching cases in Italy this autumn, our opponents are sinking to new lows in their attempts to bully us: Yesterday, one of our employees received a threatening letter to his private home address: "Now we know where you live. It is only a matter of time. You better take your daughter to her grandparents.” Not that this particularly intimidates us – but once again it just goes to show what these poachers are really made of!
28.10.2020, Brescia (Italy)
Alpine accentor poaching, illegal trapping nets, songbird shooters - there is still a lot to be done at the CABS bird protection camp in Brescia, northern Italy! In the last few days we have been able to catch six more poachers in the Southern Alps between Lake Garda and Lake Iseo. Two of them had set up mist nets (photo: captured blackcap), and three men were caught illegally hunting songbirds - they had either shot at protected species or used forbidden electronic decoys (photo: shot song thrush). We also had a particularly unusual case not far from the town of Gardone, where we caught a hunter using Alpine accentors as live decoys. To make them appear legal, they were fitted with fake breeding rings (photo). Apparently, the hunter had specialised in shooting this rare species.
27.10.2020, Valencia (Spain)
Success in Spain despite corona restrictions: In just the last few days, CABS teams have caught a total of 12 poachers between Valencia and Vinaros in eastern Spain and shut down their bird trapping sites. Seven perpetrators had constructed huge clap-net trapping sites, one had set up four mist nets; two dozen decoy birds were confiscated. A further four poachers had set up long-banned "parany" (traditional limestick trapping installations) - a total of 280 limesticks were seized. The thrushes, robins and warblers caught with nets and gluesticks are usually eaten, some finches - especially linnets and goldfinches - end up as cage birds in the homes of supposed "bird lovers". Most poachers in Spain are active mainly in the dark, so our work is somewhat hampered by the night-time curfew imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we are satisfied with the results of the bird protection camp so far - the cooperation with the environmental unit of the Guardia Civil and the regional nature conservation authorities has been especially gratifying.
More information about CABS bird protection camps in Spain can be found here.
Crane massacre in Lebanon: There is currently an unusually strong migration of European cranes in the eastern Mediterranean. Yesterday, we received the first disturbing reports and images regarding rampant killing of the strictly protected migratory birds in southern Lebanon, as they attempt to migrate through the country en route to their wintering grounds in Africa. A gang of poachers, lured flocks of passing cranes with electronic decoy callers south of Tyre, at the Coastal Nature Reserve. Eyewitnesses report seeing many birds coming down to settle and being met with heavy fire from both military rifles and shotguns for over 2 hours without action from the Security Forces or Lebanese Army. Witnesses also describe seeing many birds bleeding from above as they tried to escape. Images were subsequently uploaded to social media to brag about the killings. It’s unknown exactly how many were killed, but from images received it’s believed to be treble figures. In addition, there are reports of shot pelicans from all over the country. Together with our Lebanese partners from Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, MESHC Anti-Poaching Unit and Association for Bird Conservation in Lebanon جمعية حماية الطيور في لبنان, we are in the process of securing more pictures and videos via social media to hand them over to the authorities and urge anyone with additional information to get in touch. We sincerely hope that the evidence will help to identify the perpetrators; and bring them to justice with strict penalties to prevent any further incidents. The world is watching.
A tale of two trappers on Cyprus: During our ongoing autumn bird protection camp on the Mediterranean island we have just recently caught another two poachers - one had 21 limesticks and had to pay a ridiculous 200€ fine, the other was caught with 19 limesticks and has to pay 3,000€. The difference: the ‘lucky’ poacher with the small "bird-trapping fee" was caught in the Republic of Cyprus, whereas the offender with the high fine was caught in the British Sovereign Base Area at Cape Pyla. While the Republic of Cyprus in no way considers poaching to be a serious problem, following lobbying by both CABS and RSPB Love Nature, the British Bases Cyprus have significantly increased the penalties. As a result, bird-trapping has almost completely disappeared in the ESBA. During the actions in the last few days we have found a total of 286 limesticks (almost all in the Republic of Cyprus) and were able to free 6 birds - among them this late thrush nightingale on the photo.
To be, or not to be? – our hopes for the first year without bow traps in Italy have been dashed: a CABS team has found 41 bow traps (also known as ‘archetti’) at a site near the western shore of Lake Garda (province of Brescia). Bow traps are an ancient bird trapping method used to primarily target robins - which are considered a sought after autumn 'delicacy' to many italian poachers. Thankfully following a report to police, they were able to catch the trapper in the act. Just short time later, in Val Trompia, following another report from CABS members, a man was caught with 12 bow traps set in his garden. Nevertheless, this is still a huge success, because until just a few years ago we would routinely find and dismantle thousands of these brutal bird traps each autumn in the mountains of Brescia! Aside from these cases we have been very busy: In the last few days we have caught another eight poachers - five bird trappers with nets and three hunters who had shot down protected birds.
Finch trapping on Malta: An aerial survey flight conducted last weekend by CABS revealed that 69 bird trappers already had their sites active with nets out, days before the official opening of the trapping season yesterday. A comparison of the site locations with the government´s list of registered trapping stations for Golden Plover and Song Thrush yielded that 53 of these sites are NOT listed, suggesting that they are being used to trap other species such as finches or protected waders. Instead of a strict supervision we have a situation of total anarchy where even the police have no clue which rules apply, and which sites are being used for the study and which sites are being operated illegally. CABS criticised Prime Minister Robert Abela and Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri for creating and using the concept of a ‘scientific study’ as a smokescreen to bypass the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which has already convicted Malta for breaching EU law by allowing finch trapping in the years 2014 to 2017.
Bird protection camp in Spain: In the eastern Spanish region of Valencia we successfully started our autumn mission this year - within just a few days we have already caught five poachers! Two of the men were using clap-nets to catch songbirds, one had a mist net and the fourth had set up an illegal magpie trap in an old limestick trapping installation. Another perpetrator had been caught hunting birds with an illegal electronic lure. Three linnets and a magpie were released. As Spain is heavily affected by the Covid pandemic, we need to constantly assess the situation to see how far we can go in our efforts. We hope to stay on the ground until the end of the trapping season in November.
Warbler hunting in Cyprus: The use of banned limesticks and nets has steadily decreased over the last 10 years due to our work in Cyprus. However, in return, more and more former bird trappers with full regular hunting licences are now going out to hunt birds, shooting the strictly protected species they used to catch. The main focus is on blackcaps (photo) which are considered a much sought-after delicacy known as ‘Ambelopoulia’. The CABS teams which have been deployed on the Mediterranean island since the beginning of September, observe hunters on a daily basis as they use illegal electronic decoys with loud warbler songs to lure and shoot migratory birds. Although this hunting is openly visible to everyone, the authorities are hardly prepared to intervene. Despite this, together with wardens from the Game and Fauna Service, we have now been able to convict 18 hunters for hunting warblers - in addition to 5 bird trappers who had used traps. 1,098 limesticks and 12 nets have been seized so far.
Coal tit trapper caught: In the upper Valcamonica (province of Brescia/Italy) a CABS team has caught a man setting up a live trap in his garden to catch Coal tits. He apparently wanted to keep the animals as cage birds - a widespread "tradition" in the Alpine valley. A decoy bird was seized by the police (photo). In two other cases the authorities were also able to convict the poachers: One had set up a net at Lake Iseo, another had set up 20 snap traps in the mountains north of Brescia (see photos). Therefore, since the start of the bird protection camp in early October, 11 poachers have been caught, 9 nets and 52 bird traps have been confiscated. Two dozen live decoy birds that were seized by the police from poachers and hunters have been brought to our wildlife sanctuary in Modena.
Rare Pallid harrier killed in Lebanon: As autumn migration continues through Lebanon, with many Lesser spotted eagles, Short toed eagles and Levant sparrowhawks in recent days; MESHC Anti-Poaching Unit and Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, in partnership with CABS continue to patrol the bottleneck areas to document and report incidents of illegal bird poaching. During a patrol of the Eghbe bottleneck area (where we have previously witnessed dozens of massacres of birds of prey) our warden Gabi Nadur identified a poacher with this freshly shot juvenile Pallid harrier – killed during its first migration. Pallid harriers are a globally threatened species and ‘red-listed’ due to population declines across their range. The global population is estimated at 9,000-15,000 pairs, with just 600-2,300 mature individuals in Europe. Unfortunately, the poacher couldn’t be prosecuted as it couldn’t be definitively proven he had shot the bird. A warning was given, and his details will be passed to the police in the event of any further incidents. The team will continue to monitor the area until the end of the month.
Limesticks are the absolute opposite of a selective trapping method – anything and everything that accidentally passes by sticks to them. Thus, not only birds end up on the forbidden traps, but also numerous reptiles that search for prey in the bushes. In the last few days, our CABS teams in Cyprus have found several such cases of "by-catch" - including a young chameleon and a Troodos lizard (a species endemic to Cyprus). We a lot of effort were able to clean and release the two animals (see photos). Since the start of the bird protection camp five weeks ago, we have now collected 1,029 limesticks!
Update from our Bird Protection Camp in Northern Italy: in just the last few days, the five CABS teams currently deployed in the Province of Brescia have been able to convict another four poachers. One of them had set up 12 snap traps at Lake Iseo and caught robins (photo), one had set up nets north of Brescia and two of the perpetrators had illegally shot protected songbirds - among them warblers, finches and a mistle thrush. Therefore we have now caught eight poachers in the first half of a total of four weeks of operation - an unusually low number for the main migration period!
The extinction of Bow traps in Brescia is near: Bow traps (also known as ‘archetti’) are an ancient European bird trapping method used primarily to target robins; however other species are also caught such as this wren. The birds are attracted by rowan berries and as they attempt to settle on a carefully placed horizontal stick – a snare springs in a fraction of a second and leaves the birds hanging upside down with their legs completely crushed in a noose. The north Italian province of Brescia is the last place in the world where this cruel practice still takes place. When we first started our regular autumn bird protection camps in Brescia during the mid 1980’s, we would typically collect and dismantle several thousand such traps; and as our operations have expanded, peaked in 2001 when over 12,000 traps were collected in just 20 days. Last year over a five-week period, our Bird Guard teams collected just 224 and so far during this years’ mission, our teams are yet to find a single one. We therefore hope that this could be the first year where their use has been completely stamped out!
Spanish sparrow slaughter in Cyprus: On Tuesday, the CABS team currently active in south-eastern Cyprus witnessed the massacre of over a hundred Spanish sparrows in just one morning by poachers in Mazotos and Ayios Theodoros. Game and Fauna Service wardens were called and attended the scene, but couldn’t secure enough evidence for prosecution. CABS members therefore took video evidence to the police station in Kofinou along with dead birds to make a report. Game Wardens have since been deployed to the areas to instruct the hunters to stop the shootings, one hunter who was stopped with a bag full of sparrows and wagtails was subsequently convicted. The picture shows two of the critically injured birds picked up alive by our team, one died soon after and the other was taken to a vet to be treated and hopefully rehabilitated.
Hawfinch trapping in Malta: A few days before the start of the controversial bird trapping season for songbirds and golden plovers, our teams in Malta have already uncovered the first two cases of poaching during the closed season. In a valley near Birzebbugia, our teams were able to film a man at the weekend trapping hawfinches with a 20-metre folding net. Thanks to our video footage the poacher was quickly identified by the police. Nets and several live decoy birds were seized. On Monday another trapper was filmed at Zurrieq from a great distance with eight live hawfinches and siskins. Unfortunately, the police arrived here too late, so the man was able to escape with his prey. The investigation is still ongoing. CABS teams will be in Malta until the end of the month to document incidents of illegal migratory bird hunting and to stop the poachers. (The photo is from our archive).
06.10.2020, Brescia, Italy
Italy: 3 bird trappers in 3 days! The big CABS bird protection camp in Brescia, northern Italy started just 3 days ago and already our teams have found 5 active bird trapping sites. As a result of our investigations, the authorities have already stopped 3 poachers: one had set up a net for catching thrushes (probably to use them as live decoys for hunting), one using cage traps (probably to catch birds to be kept as pets) and the third had set up a dozen snap traps to catch robins (they are considered a local ‘delicacy’ here). Our mission will continue until the end of the autumn migration period in November.
Our teams on Cyprus have once again had a great night shift. During an inspection of trapping sites near the buffer zone to the Turkish-occupied north of the island, thanks to the loud blackcap decoy caller, they found two huge trapping nets. 22 freshly caught birds hung in the nets - 19 blackcaps, 1 Common Chiffchaff, a barn owl and an Long-eared owl. Unfortunately the authorities were once again unavailable, so we dismantled the nets ourselves. In fact, we often do not have any support at night as the Game and Fauna Service do not work at night - however, almost all the trapping sites are only active at night! But at least we were able to shut down this large site and release all birds into the wild.
Since the shocking discovery of the "Bird Cemetery" near Larnaca (see 01.10.2020), our CABS members have regularly inspected the area and once again caught two hunters illegally poaching bee-eaters. Although the game wardens we called were unable to find any shot birds among the men, one of them received a fine of 85 euros for discarding spent shotgun shells. Since then, at least some degree of peace has returned to the place. The good news is that three days ago we found a live bee-eater among all the bird carcasses (photo) and took him to a vet. There we were confirmed today that he has a good chance of surviving the gunshot wound!
Ortolan trapper convicted on Malta: this week following several days of investigation at a trapping site near Zurrieq, southwest Malta, our CABS team filmed a poacher trapping protected Ortolan bunting, a species which is threatened throughout Europe. Video footage showing the bird-trapper targeting the birds, his face and number plate number was handed over to the police. Also, this week, near Birzebbugia in the south of the island, a large ground net-catching facility for quail was discovered on a hunter's property and shut down by the police. Again, the decisive tip came from our members, who had discovered and photographed the site the day before during a search. During this search, a freshly shot kestrel was also found next to a hunting lodge.
Migratory bird cemetery discovered in Cyprus: Participants of the current CABS bird protection camp in Cyprus have found hundreds of dead migratory birds on the coast south of Larnaca. In addition to dozens of bee-eaters, numerous swallows were also found, as well as a kestrel, hoopoe, night heron and a European Roller. Obviously, the protected birds - which are scattered together with thousands of shotgun shells in an area near Meneou - have been killed by poachers for no reason other than target practice. The police, informed directly by us, have refused to even send a patrol car and so far, no investigations have been made and nobody has bothered to secure the evidence. CABS has therefore issued a press release today and called on the authorities to intervene immediately. At the same time, our teams are now intensively monitoring the area to prevent further shootings. Our partners at BirdLife Cyprus had initially given us the information about the area. You can read our full press release here.
Update from the bird protection camp in Lebanon: after seeing several images emerge recently on social media of illegal killing of protected migratory birds in Akkar, Northern Lebanon members from MESHC Anti-Poaching Unit, Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon in partnership with Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) went to monitor the situation in the area yesterday. The remains of several dead birds of prey including Honey Buzzards, Kestrels and Levant Sparrowhawks were found and a meeting took place with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces to discuss cooperation in deterring the snipers with harsher penalties. The mayor of the district also handed over an injured Marsh Harrier which was found by the roadside with shotgun injuries and taken for rehabilitation. Furthermore, today, the teams have shut down two illegal bird trapping sites in cooperation with the security forces in Barja and Jadra. Both nets and decoy callers were dismantled and seized. It should be noted that despite the ongoing political, economic and cover situation in the country, the situation in and around Barja has significantly improved over the last 3 years, the region used to be a black hole for birds with illegal trapping sites everywhere between the houses and fields. This is a direct result of the increase in people’s awareness, tightening of enforcement from the ISF in cooperation with the ongoing campaigns and operations between SPNL, MESHC and CABS.
Update from Malta: In the last two days, our CABS teams have documented further kills of protected species in Malta - in addition to several honey buzzards, a highly endangered European Roller was also killed. The birds end up stuffed in the display cases of fanatical hunters and animal collectors. Due to the apparently (once again) out-of-control hunting season, we have asked the government in Valletta to impose a hunting ban for certain regions and to ensure a permanent police presence there. Most affected are the areas west of the international airport, which are becoming a mass grave for migratory birds. To underline our call, we have today again released a video of illegal shootings from this area:
Honey buzzards killed in Malta: In recent days, participants in our ongoing bird protection camp in Malta have documented a number of serious poaching offences. Strictly protected honey buzzards were shot at several roosting sites around the international airport, killing at least six of the endangered migratory birds. Hunters were also observed at various locations who had illegally mounted silencers on their guns, were hunting in protected areas or were shooting at birds during curfew hours. At least two perpetrators have already been convicted - others are being investigated by the police after we were able to hand over videos to the authorities as evidence.
You can find our latest Press Release here.
We have uploaded a video of one of the honey buzzard shootings to Youtube.
Poacher No. 5 caught in Brescia: Even though our summer mission in the northern Italian mountains of Brescia is now over, the Carabinieri (police) were able to catch another bird trapper based on one of our field investigations. We reported the trapping site not far from Lake Iseo 2 weeks ago, but the culprit had not reappeared for several days, so that the officers only returned to conduct follow up spot checks. Now the man has been caught with a dozen snap traps for Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart. It is poacher no. 5 of our summer operation. The two pictures are from this summer and from Brescia, but not from the current case.
Another raptor massacre in Lebanon: Just a day into our joint bird protection camp in partnership with Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon and MESHC Anti-Poaching Unit; and the 'Bird Guard' team immediately discovered the remains of a recent massacre of protected migratory birds of prey. During a patrol yesterday in Egbhe, Keserwan district of Mount Lebanon (an area where we have routinely documented raptor massacres each autumn since our joint campaign began in 2017), the team found the remains of 16 dead honey buzzards, two lesser spotted eagles and a marsh harrier, all in the same spot. Some of the birds had been butchered with just the breast meat removed, whereas others had evidently been killed for no reason other than an easy target as they fly low overhead heading south in the mountain passes. Over the next few weeks during peak migration, the team will conduct field investigations in cooperation with pro-regulation hunters and the Lebanese Internal Security Forces to report and convict any poachers targeting protected species.
Brutal bird-trapping with limesticks: The use of glue to catch wild birds is a particularly barbaric and cruel method. The glue is spread on horizontally positioned ‘branches’ - perfect sitting places for birds. The passing birds, weakened by their arduous journey, land on the inviting branches and instantly become stuck by their feet. In a panic, they tip forward and end up next with their wings and tail feathers on the glue until they become completely entangled. During our bird protection camp in Cyprus we have to deal with such finds every day - when we find the animals early enough, we can free them mostly unharmed. But when the birds have been hanging in the Mediterranean autumn sun for hours, they hardly have a chance to survive.
Since the start of our autumn operation just a fortnight ago, our teams have found and dismantled 642 such limesticks and caught 10 poachers. Thankfully, with a lot of effort and patience, we were able to clean this male blackcap up and release him after a night at our basecamp.
Egyptian Vulture rescue in Lebanon: Yesterday our partners at Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon received an alert from the Bulgarian BirdLife partner (BSPB) that a juvenile Egyptian vulture fitted with a GPS tracker had stopped moving at around 4am in Douar, Lebanon. Members of the MESHC Anti-Poaching Unit were rapidly on the ground and with help from the Internal Security Forces, managed to recover the critically injured bird which was found in a farm. Subsequent X-ray revealed 13 shotgun pellets, a broken wing and a broken leg. The bird is now in a stable condition and being rehabilitated. A fantastic joint effort! Today also marks the beginning of our CABS/SPNL/MESHC bird protection camp in Lebanon.
Together with local authorities, our Lebanese 'Bird Guard' teams will be monitoring the situation closely in several known poaching hotspots over the coming weeks during the peak migration period.
Yesterday morning, we almost succeeded in making a big "catch": One of our CABS teams currently active in south-eastern Cyprus, found two large mist nets along with electronic blackcap caller while investigating a long-known trapping site near Larnaca. Upon arrival, dozens of birds were found wriggling in the nets. The wardens from the Game and Fauna Service responded to our call, but unfortunately the poacher – a notorious criminal trapper – managed to escape in his car. He had already killed 57 birds – which were subsequently found in a bucket. Nevertheless, together with the authorities, we dismantled the nets and caller and managed to rescue and release a further 52 birds from the nets. Apart from warblers, he had also caught various shrikes and a wryneck. We will keep the site under close observation and try to ensure the poacher is brought to justice!
France suspends turtle dove hunting! Paris seems to be making another dramatic U-turn in its hunting policy: Only a fortnight ago the use of limesticks for bird-trapping was banned, now the Supreme Administrative Court has also completely halted the hunting of turtledoves. European populations have plummeted by 30-49% in just the last 16 years - not least due to the completely unsustainable levels of hunting in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Austria and Bulgaria. In recent years, the CABS and our partners have used numerous campaigns and actions to draw attention in particular to the dramatic situation with the turtle dove – In our 2019 report on hunting bags statistics we conservatively estimate that between 1.3 to 2.2 million turtle dove are legally shot in Europe each year (around 1/6th of the entire breeding population). Just this spring we submitted a formal complaint against France to the EU Commission. Brussels has now taken the reins and is putting considerable pressure on EU Member States where endangered bird species are still being shot en masse. Unfortunately its estimated that between 7-10,000 turtle dove will have already been killed since the opening of the season at the end of August. However, this success cannot be overestimated, because France has so far been one of the major "hunting nations" that has blocked any progress in migratory bird protection. We now expect similar restrictions to those imposed on the turtledove to also be applied to species such as curlew and skylark.
With the beginning of the autumn bird migration, the first evidence of the horrible massacres that Lebanese poachers cause among our European migratory birds is reaching us once again. This image from last week shows a group of men proudly posing for a "selfie" with over 500 freshly shot migratory birds. The prey are almost exclusively species that are strictly protected under law in Lebanon, such as swallows, orioles, wheatears, bee-eaters, wrynecks and red-backed shrikes. The photo was taken in the north and posted on Instagram on Friday. The police anti-poaching unit were immediately informed. At the same time, preparations are underway for our bird protection camp in the Lebanese Mountains, financed by CABS, which will start next week and run until the end of the month. The "Bird Guards" of our partner association Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon who we have worked with since 2017, will monitor important migration corridors and take action against poachers together with the authorities.
Warbler hunter caught red-handed: Not far from Larnaca (Cyprus), a CABS team has discovered an illegal bird hunter. The man was hiding in the bushes with an electronic decoy caller in operation (the photo shows the device that was seized). With the loud blackcap calls he not only attracted the birds, but also our members, who immediately reported the incident to wardens from the Game and Fauna Service. The officials have convicted the perpetrator on the spot, the penalty is unfortunately only 500 €. With such small sums of money, we should not be surprised that illegal songbird hunting is on the increase in Cyprus ...
08.09.2020, Brescia (Italy)
Successful summer bird protection camp in Brescia: Over the course of the last 2 weeks, in the mountains of Northern Italy, five CABS teams have been deployed to monitor and investigate seasonal illegal bird killing in the alpine meadows. The bird guards from Italy and Germany found a dozen active or prepared trapping sites for songbirds in the mountain region between Lake Iseo and Lake Garda. Each September, bird poachers primarily target migrating pied flycatchers (see archive picture from 2019); redstarts and tree pipits are also on the seasonal "menu". In cooperation with the police (Carabinieri), four poachers were caught. One bird trapper had set up snap traps, three hunters were caught illegally hunting with their shotguns and using electronic decoy lures with flycatcher and pipit calls. Compared to previous years, the activity of poachers seems to be decreasing - a nice little success!
Red-breasted flycatcher saved: Yesterday, a CABS team made a special find in Cyprus. They discovered a red-breasted flycatcher on a limestick near the southern Cypriot city of Ayia Napa. This rare migratory bird from Eastern Europe has only been observed on Cyprus a handful of times each year - this bird almost landed in the pan - together with a nightingale, which was also caught on one of the illegal traps. Both birds could be released unharmed, the trapper was convicted by officers from the Game Fund. Our bird protection camp on Cyprus has been quietly running for a week now, so far we have been able to catch three bird trappers and one hunter, 279 limesticks have been seized, as well as 6 electronic decoy callers. At 12 weeks, this camp is our longest this autumn and runs until November!
02.09.2020 Calabria (Italy)
First CABS summer mission in southern Italy completed: In Calabria there is a long tradition of hunting garden warblers.The birds gather there in order to strengthen themselves on ripe figs before the arduous flight over the Mediterranean and Sahara to their wintering grounds. Poachers lie in wait in the orchards with their guns and shoot the small birds at close range. So far we had only heard rumors about this form of poaching and this August we had our first case and prosecution. Together with the Carabinieri Forestale we were able to convict two perpetrators with a total of 26 shot birds. Shotguns and electronic decoys were seized. In future we intend to conduct a regular camp here in late summer.
Huge success in France: Macron government bans bird-trapping with limesticks! Until now, in five departments of Provence, contrary to the rules of the EU Birds Directive, thrushes were allowed to be caught with limesticks in order to cage and use them as live decoys for songbird hunting. The derogation was justified on the grounds of "old hunting traditions". Approximately 7,000 hunters were allowed to trap 42,000 wild birds last year. After the EU Commission had put huge pressure on France, the country finally caved in yesterday and prohibited the use of the cruel traps. It is expected that the suspension will become a permanent indefinitely. The ban was preceded by a decade-long campaign by the French bird protection association LPO and CABS. CABS teams conducted field investigations on trapping sites and collected data on the abuses which include the illegal capture and killing of many ‘non target’ protected songbird species, which ultimately convinced the authorities and politicians. A great success for our campaign!
Illegal wader trapping on Malta: earlier this week, our CABS staff brought eight serious cases of poaching to the attention of the Maltese police. The cases involve eight huge trapping installations for curlews, plovers and other early migrating waders, which are caught with huge clap-nets at artificial ponds set up especially for bird-trapping. In order to identify the sites, CABS staff conducted an aerial survey last week and photographed all active trapping sites. The photos show the set clap-nets, freshly water-filled ponds and numerous plastic decoys used to lure the birds. Especially sad: Half of the sites reported were also illegally operated in July 2019, August 2018 and July 2017 and reported to the authorities with the exact GPS coordinates. "The fact that in four years the police have not succeeded in shutting down these criminals and their trapping facilities shows the state of the species protection enforcement on Malta", criticizes CABS chairman Heinz Schwarze. CABS teams will continue to search for illegal trapping sites on Malta over the coming weeks and will also document and report cases of illegal shooting from 1st September - the start of the hunting season.
25.08.2020, Brescia (Italy)
CABS bird protection camp in the Southern Alps is underway: In the mountains of the northern Italian province of Brescia, four CABS teams are currently conducting field investigations against illegal bird killing. In the region, early migrating songbirds are now being caught and killed with snap traps. The birds are considered by some as a traditional delicacy. A good dozen trapping sites are currently under observation. Especially from the mountains, the poachers can be well observed on the lower situated alpine meadows. The evidence gathered will be reported to the authorities to help prosecute the perpetrators.
22.08.2020 - Start of CABS large Bird Protection Camps!
CABS autumn bird protection camps get underway: Bird migration is picking up - time for our field operations and 'Bird Guard' camps to get started. Today will see the start of summer activities in the mountains of northern Italy and on the coast south of Naples, where poachers are using traps and shotguns to poach early migrating songbirds. At the beginning of September we will continue with our large bird protection camp in Cyprus (investigations against limesticks and nets for catching songbirds) and the camp in Malta (protecting migrating waders and birds of prey), before the actions in Lebanon and northern Italy will continue at the beginning of autumn. Later in the year, it will also go to eastern Spain, the Italian island of Sardinia and again to Malta. We keep our fingers crossed for all the teams!