About ten days ago some hunters discovered carcasses of two sheep laced with a strange substance –a suspected poison – in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria, just across the border with Greece. Near the sheep there were three dead wolves and a dead dog.
The Rhodope mountains are one of the main areas for vultures in Bulgaria-Greece, a stronghold for the Egyptian vulture (now fortunately departed to Africa), home to Bulgaria´s main griffon vulture colony and also close to the Balkans only black vulture colony (in nearby Dadia, Greece).
The area is also within two life projects under implementation, in which the VCF is participating: the Vultures Back to Life, which aims to reintroduce black vultures in the Balkan mountains, and the Re-Vultures, which aims to enhance vulture conservation within the Rhodope mountains – precisely where the latest poisoning incident occurred. Both these projects include anti-poisoning actions.
Our partners Green Balkans and the Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds (BSPB) quickly moved on and went to the site to investigate the area and collect the dead animals, together with the relevant authorities. All the dead animals were broth to Green Balkans´ wildlife rehabilitation centre in Stara Zagora for autopsies and to extract samples for toxicological analyses.
The site and the surrounding area were well checked, in a first real life case for the BSPB new anti-poison dog unit, who had started to work only a few days earlier, within the Re-Vultures LIFE project. The dog has quickly found rests from other wolf, foxes, one hedgehog and some other poison baits, presumably disposed by the culprit. Some of these poisoned animals had been eaten by other animals, so the poison has probably claimed more secondary victims. So far no vultures have been found dead.
Samples taken from the dead animals will be analysed in Bulgaria and Spain, within the Vultures Back to Life project. The dog search for poison will continue in the area.
Use of poison baits is illegal in Bulgaria. While the situation in the country is perceived to be be better than in neighbouring Greece, where poisoning seems to be widespread, unfortunately this illegal practice is still occurring in this key are for vultures. Just imagine if this happened in the summer when Egyptian vultures would be present!
Photos: Green Balkans