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Stone crush traps in the Central Massif in France

CABS present a new study on the brutal trapping method

Tendelle set under a juniper bush on the causse NoirTendelle set under a juniper bush on the causse Noir A Stone Age bird trapping method has survived for centuries in the French Central Massif - stone crush traps, in French tendelles. This barbaric trapping method was banned for over 100 years but the authorities were never able to curb the practice. The situation changed in 2005 when France legalised the practice again after an interlude of a century. Overnight the poachers became the custodians of a ‘traditional hunting method’!

Back to the Stone Age

The now legal traps are one of the most brutal instruments in the bird trapper’s arsenal. A trap consists of a limestone slab weighing some 3 to 10 kilograms, which is propped up on a structure of twigs and wood slivers and strewn with fresh juniper berries as bait. Birds coming to eat the berries brush against the twigs and are crushed under the slab or trapped in a small cavity under the slab.A crushed FieldfareA crushed Fieldfare. Many birds do not die instantly but haemorrhage, suffocate or die of thirst. Numerous birds also die from hypothermia as the temperatures in winter on the plateaux of the trapping region rarely rise over 0° C even during the day.

The permitted catch in the traps are Fieldfare, Song and Mistle Thrush, Blackbird and Redwing. Other protected bird species are however far too often victims, especially Robin, Great and Coal Tits, Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch, but also more uncommon species such as Ring Ouzel or Alpine Accentor.

As these species are protected under the EU bird protection guidelines, the use of these indiscriminate deadly traps is strictly forbidden throughout the EU. Notwithstanding these restrictions, 32 communities in Southern France are once again officially permitted to set out up to a total of 20,000 tendelles.

The Environment Ministry in Paris justifies this lifting of the ban on the basis of the development of a new type of trap. This new trap is allegedly not fatal for the smaller, protected species, but catches them alive. The French Government has convinced Brussels that the trapping method is selective in several studies presented to the Commission.

CABS on the spot in the Massif Central

Robin killed in a tendelle. The selectivity of these trapping devices is unacceptably lowRobin killed in a tendelle. The selectivity of these trapping devices is unacceptably low Between December 2006 and January 2009, CABS teams visited several dozen trapping sites with some 2,000 stone crush traps and recorded the trapping results. The aim was to check the figures on which the French government had based their decision to permit their use.

The results are unambiguous: As expected, not only thrushes were found in the traps; almost 20 % of birds trapped were of protected species - some selectivity! The claim that the heavy limestone slabs would trap the smaller protected species alive was also disproved. 75 % of all trapped birds were dead, thrushes and protected species alike.

Those that had survived were usually so badly injured that they could not be released into the wild. Not a single bird of a protected species was found alive.

The trapping quota estimated by the French government was also found to be far too low. The studies they presented to Brussels claimed that each trapper caught only 0.3 birds a day. Over the 92 day period of the legal trapping season this would mean a catch of 27 birds per trapper - a totally implausible figure in respect of the effort involved. Our studies showed that 2.25 birds could be caught at each individual trapping site daily, i.e. 200 birds a season, a more realistic figure.This means that means a total of 50,000 birds are caught annually in the 20,000 legally permitted traps.

In a study of their own, the official French hunting authority OFNCS voiced their considerable doubts over the results of their government’s study. They criticised above all that almost all figures on selectivity and trapping quotas were recorded by the trappers themselves and in many cases hat obviously been doctored by them. The trappers had adjusted their figures to a level that presented a case for authorising the use of tendelles again.

Conclusions of the CABS research

CABS and Forest Police officers carry out a joint check of the stone crush trapsCABS and Forest Police officers carry out a joint check of the stone crush traps. What the French government ‘sold’ to the European Commission as selective, humane and traditional is in fact through and through a barbaric and unnatural custom cruel to the birds (and animals) involved. The traps are unquestionably in contravention of EU legislation and the French government has pulled the wool over the eyes of the Commission with its untrustworthy studies.

With funding from the German Animal Protection Trust CABS has produced a comprehensive report on stone crush traps, which it presented to the European Commission on 10 February 2009. The Petitions Committee of the European Parliament is also considering a CABS petition on the matter.

Protest campaign - thanks for your support

CABS first protested to the European Commission against this cruel trapping method in February 2006. In the framework of an environmental complaint the Commission was asked to demand of the French government an immediate ban on tendelles. In May 2009 a petition with 30,000 signatures was handed over to the German MP Monika Greifhahn in Berlin.

A video clip on the stone crush trapping practice can be seen here together wir other unappetising trapping methods still permitted in France.