CABS bird protection camps in Brescia
The province of Brescia - located in Lombardy between Lake Garda and Lake Iseo - is the focal point of poaching in Italy. Nowhere else do so many hunters and poachers go hunting for wild birds with shotguns, nets and traps as they do here in the Southern Alps.
In 1985 the committee's first bird protection camp against bird poaching took place here. What begun as a spontaneous weekend missions in autumn gradually evolved into regular five-week highly coordinated operations with several staff team leaders and up to 150 volunteers. Until today our annual autumn bird protection camp in Brescia is the biggest strategic action against poaching in Europe.
CABS also maintain a local group in Brescia (from our Milan office) that works against poaching throughout the year. In addition, we regularly carry out three strategic anti-poaching operations throughout the year:
- Spring operation in March and April against songbird trapping with nets
- Summer operation in August against the illegal killing of pied flycatchers , redstarts and pipits.
- Autumn operation in October and November against illegal bird trapping and hunting
Our approach is the same for all our missions in Brescia: the primary focus is combating illegal bird trapping. Our teams conduct field investigations over the difficult terrain in search of active trapping sites with Nets, Bow traps or Snap traps. We work in close cooperation with Carabinieri (police) officers who are specialised in wildlife crime and lead them to the active trapping sites; where they lie in wait and arrest the poachers when they return to attend their traps.
In places where it's near impossible for the police to intervene, we work with hidden cameras or dismantle the illegal traps ourselves. Our second focus is on monitoring illegal songbird shooting. To do this, we hide in well-known hunting hotspots, such as mountain passes or remote vineyards and fields. From the surveillance position we document any infringements and report them to the police, who can initiate criminal proceedings with the evidence we collect.
In autumn, we also often work in conjunction with the WWF hunting supervisors. Some of these conservationists, who have police powers, patrol the same areas where CABS teams search for bird traps. Wherever possible, operations are coordinated and carried out jointly.
Many live birds seized from poachers - be they illegal decoys or animals freed from traps and nets - are taken to the Modena Wildlife Sanctuary set up by fellow Italian CABS members.
In Brescia, we are also working to lobby the EU and challenge illegal derogations to allow the shooting protected species and catch decoy birds in large trapping installations (roccoli). Since the 1980s, we have also been committed to preventing the commercial sale of songbirds in restaurants - with the ban on the sale of Tunisian sparrows in 2014, we mostly guaranteed an end to this business. The decisive impetus for this work always came from the findings of our bird protection camps in Brescia.
The success of these long-standing and complex campaigns is something to be proud of: The number of bird traps we collect every year is declining significantly. On the other hand, the number of other hunting violations in Brescia remains high and that there is no reason for us take our foot off the gas just yet.