The Po Delta: the Bermuda triangle for ducks
Venice lies in the middle of one of the most extensive wetland areas in the Mediterranean. The waters around the Po Delta, which gave the city its nickname "lagoon city", stretch for more than 700 square kilometres along the Italian Adriatic coast. As such, they are a magnet for water birds ... and hunters.
Hundreds of shallow lakes and inlets are home to a huge gatherings of mallard ducks, whistling ducks, teal, various divers, geese and even flamingos in the autumn and winter. Part of the area is a nature park and biosphere reserve. However, it is precisely where most birds roost that hunting is permitted. CABS members have mapped out more than 600 hunting shelters hidden in the swamp. From the beginning of October until the end of January, this landscape is in the hands of organised hunting parties. On some days, more than 1,000 shots are counted from a single point. Hunting travel agencies offer duck hunting trips for thousands of euros, many politicians and hunting officials go here to indulge in their hobby.
The large water areas are called "valli" by the locals. But there are no valleys to be seen here far and wide. The highest elevations are the two metre high dikes surrounding the lagoons. To approach the area without being seen is almost impossible in the vast open landscape. Access roads are blocked by barriers and are usually guarded on hunting days. Hunters who violate protection regulations do so here with almost absolute confidence they will not be spot-checked. Therefore, the daily limit of 25 ducks per hunter, set by law in Italy, is barely worth the paper it's printed on; almost everywhere prohibited electronic decoy callers are used and protected species are shot down on a daily basis. Even where the hunting is in accordance with the law, massacres take place. It is estimated that at least three million ducks a year are legally shot in the Po Delta area. In addition, hundreds of thousands are poached illegally. Furthermore, time and again flamingos are found with lead poisoning, because they accidentally ingest large amounts of lead shot in the mud while searching for food.
After a preliminary scouting excursion in 2018, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) carried out our first official action in the lagoons in January 2019 and in January 2021 we coordinated the largest ever operation in the area together with the environmental unit of the Carabinieri.