CABS actions in Bolzano
Each year in May, bird-trappers and bird traders from all over northern Italy come to the orchards around Bolzano to plunder the nests of thrushes. The chicks are then marked with 'legal' breeding rings and are put on the market as alleged captive-bred offspring. The chicks are bought by hunters, who use them as live decoys to hunt songbirds and can thus shoot a particularly large number of thrushes.
The problem has been known for a long time, but it has become much more serious with the ban on decoy hunting in large trapping areas known as Roccoli in 2014, which was brought about following a lengthy CABS campaign. Since the bird traders are no longer able to meet the demands for live decoys, they are increasingly inclined to take the young birds from the wild.
In spring 2016, CABS started our work against chick theft in the fruit plantations of Bolzano. The aim of the bird protection camp, which takes place in May each year, is to conduct field investigations and gather evidence on poachers in such a way that the local police can convict the perpetrators in the act. In consultation with the farmers, our teams check the almost endless rows of fruit trees and search for active nests of thrushes marked by the poachers or suspicious persons. As a rule, we rely on foot and bicycle patrols, but we also monitor the plantations from the surrounding mountains. The operations take place during the day as well as at night.
Marked nests are monitored by us and the license plates of vehicles of suspicious persons are referred to the police. The local police stations are aware of the problem and usually react very quickly, so that a patrol car is usually on the scene within a few minutes.
The work against the nest robbers is nevertheless very difficult. Not only the poachers stand out in the rows of fruit trees, our patrols are also visible from afar. Often the perpetrators manage to escape from us and the police. Also the monitoring of marked nests remains often unsuccessful, since it is unclear, at which time the perpetrators come in the approximately 10-day time window before the young chicks fledge. In addition, it seems as if they are partly warned - the open landscape with low-stemmed fruit trees makes it very difficult to hide oneself or a covert camera, so that local accomplices can become aware of us and inform the perpetrators.
In spite of these difficulties, poachers have already been prosecuted as a direct result of our field investigations. In addition we disrupt the nest robbers with our actions and make the business for them clearly more difficult. Over the next few years, we want to expand our knowledge of this unusual form of poaching in order to improve our work to combat "chick robbery" in South Tyrol.