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CABS - Annual Report 2017

The CABS Lebanon teamThe CABS Lebanon teamThis year, 2017 was one of the most intensive and successful years in the history of CABS - Committee Against Bird Slaughter. The main focus of our activities this year was the fight against illegal bird slaughter in the Eastern Mediterranean, where millions of European songbirds, storks and birds of prey are killed illegally each year. Particularly effective was our campaign against bird trapping in Cyprus, where in three large operations we were able to help the authorities seize a total of 6,043 limesticks and nets and freed more than 1,170 birds from the traps. Thanks to the much better cooperation this year with the military police, eight poachers were caught red-handed and sent to the judiciary in the British-controlled military base Dhekelia alone.

In Lebanon, together with our new partner association, the Society for the Protection of Nature in the Lebanon (SPNL), we organised the first ever international Bird Protection Camp in the Middle East in September. During the two-week mission, our teams were able to document on video the shocking scale of illegal shooting of birds of prey in the Lebanese Mountains for the first time. The footage we published caused a stir around the world and increased the pressure on the Lebanese government to devote more resources to combating poaching. In addition, we have made numerous contacts and gained valuable experience that will be very helpful in the future actions in Lebanon.

A big thank you goes to all our members, donors and activists without whom this vital work would not have been possible! However, it does not take time to rest and reflect on these successes. Whether at home or in the Mediterranean - there is still a lot of work to do, which we will tackle with your support in the coming year.


Poisoned buzzards (Germany)Poisoned buzzards (Germany)

  • The staff at our monitoring project for bird of prey persecution and wildlife crime (E.D.G.A.R.), funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, logs more than 20 poisoned birds of prey and 2 active live cage traps for catching hawks during inspections on the Lower Rhine and in the Münsterland.
  • After years of research, CABS presents the Italian police with a comprehensive dossier on illegal bird trapping and smuggling from Italy to Malta. The information provided leads to the arrest of a total of 13 bird trappers and the confiscation of more than 2,000 live songbirds - especially goldfinches, greenfinches, serins and linnets. It is one of the biggest stings on bird trafficking in recent years and our first joint action with the new environmental unit of the Carabinieri (which replaces the Forest Police, which was dissolved on 31.12.2016).
  • On behalf of Prime Minister May, the British Armed Forces Command in Cyprus announces a crackdown on bird trappers and closer cooperation with CABS in British Sovereign Base Areas. The decision is a direct response to our "In your name" protest campaign, in which around 20,000 bird lovers from across Europe participated to call on the British government to stop turning a blind eye.
  • During actions in Malta, our "Bird Guards" document the illegal trapping of Golden Plovers with electronic lures and giant pop-up nets during the night. In total, 82 active sites were found between December and January - more than double the number from the previous year. Due to lack of resources, the police managed to convict the poachers only in two instances.


Dismantled nets (Cyprus)Dismantled nets (Cyprus)

  • In Cyprus, CABS teams start a campaign against winter trapping of thrushes with nets and limesticks. Within one month, our teams in the south of the Mediterranean island record 178 active sites. 517 nets (with a total length of more than 10 kilometres) and 648 limesticks are seized and dismantled. 16 poachers are caught by police and 631 birds are successfully released from the traps and nets.
  • During a weekend assignment in northern Italy, two bird trappers are brought to justice: Near Lake Iseo (Val Camonica), a CABS team finds a large-scale facility with 4 giant trapping nets and 21 snap traps for songbirds. At the same time, another group on Lake Idro (Val Sabbia) finds and discovers a long 20m net next to a hunting lodge. The police managed to catch both poachers in the act. A total of 17 live decoys (fieldfare, song thrushes and chaffinches) are seized to be checked before release.
  • Shortly before the start of the breeding season large-scale maintenance is carried out at our protected wetland reserve "Raisdorfer Teichlandschaft" in Northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein). Staff and contractors make scrapes, clear overgrown areas and drain an old fish pond. An old overflow is also being demolished and replaced by a new outflow. The extensive habitat improvements are aimed to benefit shallow water spawning amphibians, aquatic insects such as dragonflies and breeding birds such as Little Grebe and Reed Warbler.


Linnet as live decoy (Malta)Linnet as live decoy (Malta)

  • Campaign against the illegal bird trade in Malta: CABS publicly denounce the overwhelming lack of enforcement on the bird market in the capital Valletta. Previously, Maltese CABS members have documented the sale of hundreds of captured greenfinches and other songbirds on the market with hidden cameras. Also on Maltese websites, illegal sales pages for trapped Golden Plover are discovered.
  • Together with a film crew from the German/French television channel ARTE, we document the illegal trapping of finches and other migratory birds in Malta, as they attempt to make their way back to their breeding grounds. During the three-week operation, 133 active trapping sites are found and partially closed down. Despite a regular slow response from the police, our teams manage to ensure nine poachers are convicted and indicted in court.
  • In Cyprus, our spring camp against songbird trapping begins. With an extended duration from mid-March to early May, it is one of the longest bird protection operations in CABS history. In total, more than 40 volunteers from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Cyprus, Slovenia and Switzerland take part. There is also a BBC film crew documenting the action.


Seized ammunition (Palmarola/Italy)Seized ammunition (Palmarola/Italy)

  • During an excursion to the Mediterranean island of Palmarola (Italy), our teams discover two illegal hunting lodges in the middle of the nature reserve. After reporting the case, officials of the military police seiz four unregistered shotguns and more than 1,330 shotgun cartridges. On the island of Ischia, CABS members together with our partner association ENPA catch a bird trapper with seven traps and several freshly caught Whinchats.
  • Shooting down raptor poaching in southern Italy: After CABS members film raptors being shot at on the Strait of Messina, three men are arrested by the Carabinieri. An unregistered shotgun, two dozen rounds of shotgun ammunition and a freshly shot Honey Buzzard are also seized. The perpetrators are charged with poaching and gun violations.
  • As part of a large-scale field investigations across Malta, our teams discoveres two large-scale catches with around 80 freshly caught Turtle Doves. The birds are seized by the police and released immediately. At Girgenti, our teams also film a hunter with an illegal clap net, which is later confiscated together with the man's weapon. His hunting permit will subsequently be revoked.
  • In Malta, a total of 18 volunteer bird conservationists join force to monitor the spring hunting season from 7 to 28 April. Although officially only Quails are allowed to be shot, our members film the killings of numerous protected species, including birds of prey, bee-eaters, turtle doves and stone curlew. As a result of our video footage, the police manage to arrest five poachers and one of their own colleagues who was assisting one poacher for over an hour.


Thrush chick (Italy)Thrush chick (Italy)

  • Chick-thieves caught in northern Italy: During monitoring of the apple orchards south of Bolzano, a CABS team observes two people looting thrush chicks. In subsequent police checks, the two poachers are found to be in possession of seven Song Thrushes a few days old. The investigation reveals that the birds are being illegally taken from the wild to be later sold to hunters as tame decoys.
  • Review of our Bird Protection Camp in Cyprus: During the five-week mission, our activists discover 65 active sites. Together with the police, a total of 1,362 limesticks and 20 nets are seized. More than 120 birds, including Blackcaps, Nightingales, Wrynecks, Ortolan Buntings and a Masked Shrike, are safely freed from the traps.
  • At an international workshop in the Beekaa Valley (Lebanon), experts from CABS, along with local bird conservationists and government officials, are discussing ways to reduce illegal migratory bird hunting in the country. With the support of the Ministry of the Environment in Beirut and the UN Convention on the Protection of Migratory Species (CMS), the project ‘Operation Safe Haven’ is given the green light, leading to the joint CABS / SPNL operation in autumn 2017.


  • In the Zülpicher Börde (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) ecologists from CABS main staff team, are going on the search for breeding sites of endangered Marsh Harriers. In cooperation with the farmers and the nature conservation authority, two nests each in barley fields are fenced off with 600-square-metre protection zones, to be left in place until after the harvest time. Four young chicks successfully fledge in mid-July.
  • Success for our campaign in Cyprus: The Government of Nicosia amends the Hunting Law and introduces higher fines for bird poachers for the first time. Instead of the usual "warning fee" of a few hundred euros, penalties of several thousand euros are now possible. CABS welcomes the tightened sanctions and announces an extension of its actions in Cyprus for autumn 2017.
  • Actions have consequences, for illegally targeting Turtle Doves: As key case witnesses, two CABS activists testify against a poacher in front of the criminal court in Valletta (Malta). The accused hunter was filmed by our team, shooting at Turtle Doves in Ghaxaq, May 2015 during the closed season. After hearing the witnesses, the magistrate sentences the man to a fine of 1,000 euros. In addition, his hunting license is being revoked for two years.


Seized Sparrowhaw (Germany)Seized Sparrowhaw (Germany)

  • A pensioner from the town of Düren, Germany, is sentenced to a penalty of 100 daily rates of 40 Euro (4,000 Euro) for illegal bird trapping. The case against the man got underway after CABS members discovered a net and several bird traps on the man's property in November 2016 and contacted the authorities. In the subsequent raid, in addition to dozens of traps, 32 native songbirds and two birds of prey in cages were discovered and confiscated.
  • Illegal trapping and trade of songbirds in Frankfurt: Following a criminal complaint by CABS, a penalty order of 70 daily rates of € 8 (560 Euro) is issued against a bird trapper from Frankfurt-Riederwald. The man had caught wild Goldfinches and tits with cage traps and live decoys at his house.
  • Raid in Aurich (Lower Saxony): On the house address of a bird trader, the police and nature conservation authorities come across several active songbird traps and 20 wild-caught Goldfinches. The search warrant was conducted after CABS staff discovered the man posting suspicious sales offers on EBay classifieds.


The CABS team on the British BirdfairThe CABS team on the British Birdfair

  • CABS on the largest bird fair in the world. Thanks to the support of the cosmetics chain ‘Lush’ we are able to present our work at the British "Bird Fair" in Rutland Water Park (England). The main topic of our stand and several lectures is the illegal bird catching in the British military bases in Cyprus. In addition to numerous CABS activists from England, the well-known BBC presenter Chris Packham also promotes our campaigns. Incidentally, CABS receives the award for the most beautifully designed stand of the fair!
  • In Malta, our seasonal mission against wader trapping begins. By mid-September, our teams discover a total of 14 giant nets stretched over artificially created ponds. All facilities are shut down by the police. Three bird trappers are convicted and have to answer in court.
  • Launch of our operation for the conservation of birds of prey in Calabria: From mid-August to early October, a total of 28 CABS volunteers monitor the passage of honey buzzards, falcons and hawks along the Strait of Messina. The action is carried out in close collaboration with the local police, the Carabinieri and Italian ornithologists.
  • Successful operation against Pied Flycatcher trapping in the province of Brescia (Northern Italy): From end of August to beginning of September, CABS members and police find 12 active pied flycatcher sites in the mountains west of Lake Garda. Officials convict 8 poachers; 120 snap traps and 25 nets are dismantled and seized. 76 Pied Flycatchers are released unharmed from the nets.


Shot Honey Buzzard (Lebanon)Shot Honey Buzzard (Lebanon)

  • First Bird Protection Camp in the Middle East: In Lebanon, anti-poaching experts from CABS and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) document the mass shooting of protected eagles and hawks in the run up to the first official hunting season for decades, as well as the trapping and trade of dead songbirds for consumption. The videos our teams records are detailing the shooting of hundreds of honey buzzards and trigger international outrage and prove that effective enforcement is largely absent.
  • In Malta, our long standing Bird Protection Camp begins to monitor the autumn hunting season. A total of 23 volunteers from 7 countries take part in the campaign from 8 to 29 September, monitoring key roosting sites and well-known poaching hotspots. Five cases of protected species being shot down and two cases of illegal bird trapping are filmed and reported.
  • Crushing the quail hunt in Serbia: Experts from CABS, in collaboration with colleagues from the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia, document mass illegal quail poaching in Serbia. Across 16 hunting sites, a total of 24 illegal electronic decoys are found. The police convicts seven hunters based on our advice. One of the convicted men is a game warden himself!
  • Hunting officer loses his license: A former member of the board of the North Rhine-Westphalia federal hunting association withdraws his appeal against a conviction for bird of prey poaching. In the summer of 2015 CABS members caught the man attending an illegal hawk trap, for which he was later sentenced by the district court Ahlen to a fine of 50 daily rates of 70 euros (3,500 Euros) and the revocation of his hunting permit.


Trapped Robins (Italy)Trapped Robins (Italy)

  • In northern Italy, between 30 September – 5 November, CABS conducts its 36th autumn Bird Protection Camp against the illegal trapping of songbirds with nets and traps: a total of 96 bow traps, 630 snap traps, 41 nets and 15 small nets as well as 7 cage traps are found across 73 separate locations. The police convicts a whopping 48 poachers based on our field investigations. Search warrants conducted by authorities yield an additional 62 nets, 450 frozen birds and more than 800 live songbirds. The decline in the brutal bow traps is particularly pleasing: in 1997 we would typically find 9,400 traps, in 2007 there were at least 1,200. So, at 96, we have reached a historic low!
  • Final review of our autumn campaign in Cyprus: Since the end of August, more than 30 nature and animal friends from the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, France, Poland, Serbia, Hungary, Switzerland and the USA are being deployed in the south of the island , They find 3,353 limesticks, 143 mist nets and 96 electronic decoys and dismantle them together with the police. 20 poachers are convicted as a result of our findings. 420 birds are released from the illegal traps. As a result of the near constant CABS and police presence, the bird trappers are now under massive pressure - the number of limesticks has declined by almost a quarter since autumn 2016!
  • Good news from France: The new Minister of the Environment within Macrons government, Nicolas Hulot, publically announces that the illegal capture of Ortolan Buntings will no longer be tolerated. At the same time the ruling in Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) confirms the verdicts against 11 Ortolan Bunting trappers from the Mont de Marsan region, which were sentenced to a fine of 1,000 euros each following a CABS report.
  • Successful campaign against bird trapping in Spain: Despite an intensive search, CABS members deployed to Catalonia find just 13 active trapping sites, each with about 400 limesticks. Four poachers are convicted by the Guardia Civil. Five years ago, within a few days, we discovered several hundred of these trapping installations in the same area and reported them to the authorities. A great success for the birds and our activists.
  • In southern Calabria, in October, a CABS team together with the Carabinieri apprehends a total of 15 poachers over several missions. Much of the songbird hunting includes the use of banned electronic baits or shot protected species (especially chaffinches). In one case, CABS staff film a teenage boy hunting - his father is later deprived of his hunting license after leaving the firearm with the boy.


Deep frozen warblers in Lebanese supermarketDeep frozen warblers in Lebanese supermarket

  • CABS supporters in Lebanon discover hundreds of frozen songbirds at checks in Lebanese supermarkets. Despite an official ban on trapping and trade, plucked Blackcaps are offered as delicacies for sale. A protest campaign initiated by us via social media triggers a flood of protest letters, which lead to birds being removed from the shelves after just a few days. Two supermarket chains with more than 30 branches are affected across Lebanon.
  • Despite a pending case before the European Court of Justice, the Maltese government once again issues an unbelievable 6,000 (six thousand) licenses to catch finches, thrushes and plovers. CABS is on hand with several teams from mid-November to mid-December to document illegal trapping season under European law.
  • The bird trappers in Cyprus have no rest: just four weeks after the autumn camp ended and six weeks before the start of the winter camp, CABS staff are making a small bird protection mission on the Mediterranean island. 72 nets and over 300 limesticks are collected!
  • Operation in Sardinia: Members of our Italian partner association Lega Abolizione Caccia (LAC) are looking for horsehair snares together with CABS staff on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Within a week, they find around 550 of the illegal traps, which the bird trappers use especially for targeting thrushes and robins. Only a few years ago, we would routinely find 10,000 snares in this operation - the decline goes back directly to our long-standing Bird Protection Camps!


Golden Eagle in the rehab centre "Il Pettirosso"Golden Eagle in the rehab centre "Il Pettirosso"

  • The "Il Pettirosso" Wildlife Rescue Centre in Modena, which is being co-financed by CABS since many years, is growing steadily. In the summer, more aviaries for small birds were built, the enclosure for injured or government seized lynx and wolves was also expanded in late autumn. Since the start of the year 3,800 animals were taken, including 2,900 birds alone (including about 2,200 songbirds and 450 birds of prey), more than 520 hoofed animals (mainly deer), 220 martens, weasels and badgers, as well as 65 porcupines and 8 wolves.
  • In collaboration with the German Council for the Protection of Birds (DRV), CABS prepares and publishes a Europe-wide study on the shooting of 82 migratory species in the context of legal hunting. Official hunting statistics show that at least 40 million migratory birds in the EU are killed legally every year, including 1.4 million Turtle Doves, 1.6 million Quails, 107,000 Lapwings and 899,000 Skylarks. The study is published in issue no. 53 of the renowned journal "Berichte zur Vogelschutz". The article will available in English an format in due course.
  • Our chairman Heinz Schwarze is honored in Kiel with the "Emmy and Karl Kaus Award" for his life's work. The Karl Kaus Foundation is thus honoring its outstanding contributions to bird protection in Schleswig-Holstein and years of fighting against bird hunting in the Mediterranean, in particular in Malta. We say: Congratulations, dear Heinz, you deserve it!


For their kind support and cooperation we would like to thank the Foundation Pro Biodiversity (Bielefeld), the Karl-Kaus-Foundation for Animal and Nature (Bremen), the Minara Foundation (Switzerland), the LUSH company, the Environmental Police of Malta (ALE), the Carabinieri Forestale in Italy and its anti-poaching unit SOARDA, the Civil Guard in Spain (SEPRONA), the Police Anti-Poaching Squad (APS) in Cyprus, the UN Police in Cyprus, the SBA Police in the British military base Dhekelia, the secretariat of the Berne convention for the protection of the European animal world (Strasbourg), the office of the Bonn convention for the protection of migratory species (CMS, Bonn), the environmental program of the United Nations (UNEP), the Federal Agency for nature protection and the Federal Environment Ministry, the environmental crime department of the Dusseldorf Ministry of the Environment, the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO, Paris), the Lega Italiana Protezione Ucelli (LIPU, Rome), the game warden of the Italian WWF, the Lega Abolizione Caccia (LAC) in Milan, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (ENPA) on Ischia, the wildlife conservation centre "Il Pettirosso" of the CSA in Modena, the Society for the Protection of Nature in the Lebanon (SPNL) , the Lebanese Bird Conservation Coalition (LBCC), our friends of BirdLife Malta, the Spanish conservation groups GECEN, AE-Agró and GER-EA (all of Valencia), the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW, Berlin), the umbrella organization German avifaunists, the federal association for bird protection in Bavaria, the NABU federal association, the NABU national associations Berlin, NRW and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the German animal protection federation, the North Rhine-Westphalian ornithologists society (NWO), the ornithological working group Helgoland, the institute for bird research - bird host Helgoland , the association ProRing eV, the German Council for Bird Protection, the Working Group peregrine falconry, the association Saxon Ornithologist n, the Berlin Ornithological Working Group, the wild bird rehab centre Kirchwald, the association Aquila e.V., the Bergische Greifvogelhilfe, the bird rehab center Paasmühle, the biological stations Düren, Euskirchen and Bonn / Rhein-Sieg, the project Froschland e.V., the community Schwentinetal, the federal city of Bonn and of course all our members, supporters and volunteers.