We recently published a groundbreaking study on the use of illegal wildlife poisoning across the Balkan Peninsula that found around 2,300 vultures have died over the last 20 years due to this practice. As part of the Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project we've been working with our partners to investigate the historic and current situation of the use of poison in each of the countries involved in the project. Today our Country in Focus is Albania.
The use of poison in Albania
Unlike the majority of countries across the Balkan Peninsula, where poisoning and incidents of suspected poisoning related to vulture mortality are relatively well documented, Albania has no official records related to wildlife poisoning.
With the ratification of the Bern Convention in the 1990s Albania agreed, like the other signatories, to prohibiting the use of poison to kill wildlife. However, the practice is not precisely defined in the country's current legislation relating to the protection of the environment and is in fact not mentioned as an illegal activity in any existing laws in Albania. Officially the practice is not a conservation issue in the country.
As a result of this there are no official records, documentation or relevant database exists, neither within governmental organisations or non-governmental nature conservation organisations.
Why is poison used in Albania?
According to very limited information available the single largest driver of the use of intentional poison is resolving conflict between livestock owners and wild predators such as wolves, jackals and foxes. With a wild wolf population increasing in the country hunters anecdotally report that since the national hunting ban came into force in 2014 and with no other effective method of population management the number of poisoning incidents by livestocks owners is increasing.
Livestock owners are also using poison to also control stray and feral dogs as well as resolve conflict with neighbouring livestock owners. The poor application and misuse of agrochemicals, pesticide and rodenticides is also responsible for poisoning incidents in the country.
Fighting poison in Albania
As the practice of illegal wildlife poisoning is not officially recognised as a conservation issue there exists no procedures or protocols relating to poisoning incidents and the responsibilities for enforcement of governmental organisation relevant to wildlife crime are unclear, leading to little or no enforcement actions.
Vultures in Albania
Widely known as the “Land of Eagles” due to its mountainous landscape and suitable habitat for raptors, the population of all birds of prey are in decline with vultures the most threatened group. The only species of vulture remaining in Albania today is the Egyptian Vulture. Like the other states on the Balkan Peninsula the population of all four species dramatically declined as a result of the use of poison in the environment. This practice led to the extinction of the Bearded, Cinereous and Griffon Vultures. The last remaining population of Egyptian Vultures in Albania is small and decreasing comprising of around 10 breeding pairs and a number of individual birds.
The Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project
The use of poisonous substances such as the banned toxic pesticide Carbofuran and baits laced with these substances in the environment is one of the most widely used predator eradication methods worldwide as highlighted in the Vulture Multi-species Action Plan. During the last 20 years a total of 465 vultures were found poisoned in 227 separate incidents, in total an estimated 2,300 vultures have been the victim of poisoning since 1998.
The Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project is a cross-border initiative bringing together wildlife conservation organisations, governmental agencies and other stakeholder such as; hunting associations, farmers and scientists, in five Balkan countries to tackle illegal wildlife poisoning.
Funded by the Mava Foundation we aim to secure real and continued engagement of the relevant national governmental authorities in the Balkan region against illegal wildlife poisoning and increase their capacity to counteract it and working together to take positive steps to protect vultures.
The Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project is a partnership between us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation and the Albanian Ornithological Society-AOS, Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania-PPNEA, Ornithological Society “Naše ptice”,Association BIOM, Hellenic Ornithological Society-HOS, Macedonian Ecological Society-MES.
The Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project also contributes directly into the implementation of the Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan by carrying out anti-poisoning actions in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Macedonia, and is building on our work for the last decade in the Balkans thorugh the Balkan Vulture Action Plan.