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Bird protection camps in Southern Italy

Ischia, Procida, Giglio und Ponza - four islands, four camps

Poacher’s cache in a cave - Italian CABS members find an illegal hunting weaponPoacher’s cache in a cave - Italian CABS members find an illegal hunting weaponWhen migrant bird return from their winter quarters in spring, thousands of trappers an hunters lie in wait for them, above all along the west coastline of Southern Italy and its offshore islands.

CABS has conducted a spring bird protection camp on the island of Ischia every spring since 1993. The island is a poaching hotspot in the south of the Apennine Peninsula. Between 25 and 35 CABS activists are deployed on operations from about mid-April to mid-May each year. In spring 2008 our field of operations was extended to include the famous Amalfi coast where nets and traps for song birds are set out. A large number of participants are licensed game wardens from our partner organisations.

The programme during daylight hours is devoted to searching for illegal wire traps for late insectivore migrants such as Whinchats and Nightingales. At dusk the activists lie in wait for hunters at known poaching hot spots. If a shot is heard or an armed hunter is seen they follow the offender to try and catch him red-handed. At night searches for electronic decoy devices are carried out - these are used mainly to attract Quails on passage in front of the hunters’ hides.

Whinchat in a snap trapWhinchat in a snap trapThe small island of Procida, which lies offshore from the city of Naples, is another centre of migrant bird poaching in Southern Italy. The island, only some 4 square kilometres in area, has more than 10,000 inhabitants. Dozens of poachers pursue their evil ways in the confusing maze of small properties. Until a short time ago the participants in the Ischia camp looked after Procida as well. But every time the teams of conservationists arrived on the ferry the hunters were tipped of by the local people so that the operations were usually not very successful. Since 2007 a separate contingent of activists is based on Procida. CABS finances completely both operations.

On the islands of Ponza und Giglio (Lazio) further to the north our partner organisation LAC conducts anti-poaching operations for some three weeks in spring. In contrast to Ischia and Procida these two islands are located far out to sea and are therefore vitally important stepping stones for birds that stray too far west from the mainland. Several hundred hunters go hunting on the islands with traps, nets and shoguns. In addition large numbers of brutal snares are set out for wild rabbits.

The activists, mostly Italian, collect hundreds of traps and a dozen nets each year, dismantle electronic decoy devices and lie in wait for hunters on the inaccessible island coastline. They also have employed licensed game wardens for a few years and have been successful in markedly cutting back poaching activity.

Officers from the local forest police or the Carabinieri are also available for many of the operations to assist with arrest and seizures of weapons and trapping material. On Ponza officers of the Lazio provincial police also take part. In the course of our camps in Southern Italy some 200 snap traps, a dozen nets and up to 30 electronic decoy devices are seized every year. The game wardens usually confiscate more than 15 shotguns and several thousand cartridges.

The costs of the operations in Southern Italy amount to some 7,000 Euros a year which CABS finances from donations collected mainly in Germany. The Stadler nature protection foundation supports us every year with a generous contribution.