Illegal Killing of Raptors

Use of poison-baits in the countryside is one of the most widely used predator eradication methods worldwide (Márquez, et al. 2012) and is a significant threat to biodiversity in the European Union. Poison is used to kill wildlife considered to be harmful to certain activities, in particular game management for hunting, livestock farming and other agricultural practices (Graham, et al. 2005; Sotherton, et al. 2009). Illegal use of poison is considered one of the most important issues regarding illegal killing of birds due to the serious conservation impacts (Margalida, et al. 2008; BirdLife, 2011) and is confirmed to be among the most important direct threats in Europe to the Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti), Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), Red kite (Milvus milvus), and Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Poison-baits have been identified, for example, as the primary limiting factor in the expansion of the reintroduced population of Red kites in northern Scotland (Smart et al. 2010) and of the UK Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) population (Whitfield et al. 2008). In addition, poison- baits suppose a serious impacts on carnivore mammals (Virgós & Travaini 2005), by causing population decline and/or regional/national extinction of some species of bears, lynxes, wolves, mustelids or wild cats (Council of Europe 1993; Breitenmosser 1998; Lozano & Malo 2012; Ripple et al. 2014). Indiscriminate use of poison-baits also presents a risk to other wildlife, working animals (shepherd and hunting dogs), pets and human health, with potentially lethal consequences.

Very large numbers of birds are killed annually as a result of deliberate misuse or otherwise illegal use of poisons (Brochet et al.2015; Bodega Zugasti, D 2014; Birdcrime, RSPB). This unnecessary mortality can severely affect the conservation status of vulnerable species, including species protected under national, EU and wider international law. A transboundary approach at EU level is needed to address this problem in the case of migratory species.

Use of poison-baits commonly involves lacing a food item in a toxic substance, normally phytosanitary products like insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides or molluscicides (snail and slug pellets). The prepared bait is left in a spot accessible to the target animals and often to other non-target species, which may also be affected. Deliberate poisoning is therefore a large-scale, non-selective and destructive method of control that has a huge knock- on effect on non-target species; it may even pose risks to human health.

Illegal poisoning can involve legal everyday compounds which are used in an illegal manner, as well as substances which are illegal (e.g. Carbofuran or Aldicarb). The most common substances used in poison-baits are insecticides and, to a lesser extent, rodenticides, usually those that are known as highly toxic by users. Carbamate insecticides, such as carbofuran and aldicarb, are often used in poison-baits for predator control in numerous areas around the world. For example, in Spain, between 2005 and 2010, 50 % of cases of poisoning were caused by aldicarb and 22% of them by carbofuran (Bodega Zugasti, 2012). In Hungary carbofuran was detected in 85% of the 476 birds found poisoned by baits to illegally control predators between 2000 and 2015. The other commonly detected chemicals in this country were terbufos (9%) and phorate (7%) (BirdCrime database of MME BirdLife Hungary).

Finally, many of the Species Action Plans (around 50 bird species) developed by BirdLife International and funded by the EU, recognises poisoning as a threat and recommended anti- poisoning actions in most of the plans for raptors (e.g. both imperial eagles, all vultures or red kites).

Source: CMS



Selected wildlife crime projects:

Reference Project Title
LIFE97 NAT/NL/004210 Black vulture Conservation in a European Network
LIFE98 NAT/E/005351 Conservation of the european black vulture in the SPAs of Madrid
LIFE00 NAT/E/007340 Black vulture conservation in Mallorca and in other ZEPAs in Spain
LIFE00 NAT/IRL/007145 The re-introduction of Golden eagle into the Republic of Ireland
LIFE02 NAT/GR/008497 Conservation of birds of prey in the Dadia Forest Reserve, Greece
LIFE03 NAT/F/000103 Recovery plan for the Egyptian vulture in South-Eastern France
LIFE04 NAT/ES/000056 Preliminary actions and reintroduction of the bearded vulture
LIFE04 NAT/ES/000067 The conservation of guirre in Spas of the Fuerteventura island
LIFE07 NAT/E/000742 Conservation of Mediterranean priority species in Castille-La Mancha
LIFE07 NAT/IT/000436 A new strategy against the poisoning of large carnivores and scavengers raptors
LIFE08 NAT/E/000062 Action to fight illegal poison use in the natural environment in Spain
LIFE08 NAT/P/000227 Enhancing Habitat for the Iberian lynx and black vulture in the Southeast of Portugal
LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152 Urgent measures to secure survival of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Bulgaria and Greece
LIFE10 NAT/ES/000570 Recovering the historic distribution range of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Spain and Portugal
LIFE10 NAT/HU/000019 Conservation of imperial eagles by managing human-eagle conflicts in Hungary
LIFE12 NAT/ES/000322 Conservation of the bearded vulture and its contribution to eco-system services
LIFE12 NAT/IT/000807 Implementation of coordinated wolf conservation actions in core areas and beyond
LIFE13 NAT/ES/001130 Natural feeding habitat restoration for cinereus vulture and other avian scavengers in central Spain
LIFE13 NAT/FR/000093 Reduction of the human threats affecting the bearded vulture
LIFE13 NAT/IT/000311 Italian emergency strategy for fighting illegal poisoning and minimize its impact on bear, wolf and other species
LIFE13 NAT/PL/000060 Conservation of nest zone protected birds in the selected Natura 2000 sites in Lubelszczyzna region
LIFE13 NAT/PT/001300 Conservation of the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) in Portugal
LIFE14 NAT/FR/000050 Restoration of connections between the Alpine and Pyrenean populations of bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)
LIFE14 NAT/IT/000484 Implementation of best practices to rescue griffon vultures in Sardinia
LIFE14 NAT/NL/000901 Conservation of black and griffon vultures in the cross-border Rhodopes mountains
LIFE14 NAT/PT/000855 Egyptian vulture and Bonelli’s eagle Conservation in Douro/Duero Canyon
LIFE15 NAT/HU/000902 Conservation of the eastern imperial eagle by decreasing human-caused mortality in the Pannonian Region
LIFE18 NAT/AT/000048 LIFE EUROKITE-Cross-border European conservation project for the red kite and other raptor species