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Ponza Bird Protection Camp

Police use helicopter for vertical assault on trapper

Forest police helicopter on the Piano d'Incenzo on 28.04.2011Forest police helicopter on the Piano d'Incenzo on 28.04.2011A month-long CABS and LAC sponsored BPC is being conducted on the small Mediterranean island of Ponza, Lazio province. At the end of March an advance CABS team of British and German members had located trapping sites and, in cooperation with the forest police, caught two poachers red-handed. Since 20 April six Italian conservationists have been in action on Ponza daily.

Their main area of operations is the die Piana d'Incenso - the uninhabited, rocky northern tip of the island - where poachers set out snap traps for birds and shoot every morning at Quail, Turtle Doves on passage, as well as at other migrating birds.

On the first day of operations the volunteer conservationists surprised several hunters who had hidden themselves in the cliffs. Although some managed to get away in the rough terrain without being identified, one poacher was photographed, could be unmistakeably identified, and an official complaint against hunting out of season was lodged with the police. On the following morning (21,4) a trapper with 22 snap traps was caught, and a further success was registered two days later when another poacher was caught. In the latter case the young man (a licensed hunter), noticing that he had been observed, ran home and discharged from his house two warning shots in the direction of the pursuing conservationists. An official complaint was lodged in this case as well.

Traps seized with dead Whinchats and RedstartsTraps seized with dead Whinchats and RedstartsThe forest police devised a surprise attack on a specific location on the Piana d'Incenso in order to catch a particularly audacious poacher who had set out his traps there for years but had never been caught. On 28 April the camp members checked the traditional trapping site and found traps once again. Instead of removing them, the forest police on waiting on stand-by on the mainland were informed. Half an hour later the officers landed by helicopter between the traps. The understandably shocked poacher was held for identification and later charged. A total of 27 snap traps, and eight dead, trapped Whinchats and Redstarts were seized.

Events the next day (29.4) demonstrate how difficult it to bring the poachers on Ponza to their senses. In spite of the demonstration of will by the police the previous day, several hunters were out stalking illegally and abused and threatened the Italian conservationists. It has therefore been decided to prolong operations until 20 May, by which time the end of migration will mean an end to illegal hunting as well. At least for this year!

The operations on Ponza are jointly funded by the LAC and CABS.