After illegal wildlife poisoning, the persecution and illegal killing of vultures is the single biggest threat to Europe's four species across the Balkan Peninsula. A recent report from the Albanian Ornithological Society as part of the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project outlines the extent of illegal bird killing in Albania highlighted the threat to vultures in the country.
Persecution and poaching
A BirdLife International assessment of the issue revealed Albania as being one of the 10 Mediterranean countries worst hit by the Illegal Killing of Birds with around 270,000 birds illegally killed every year between 2004 and 2014. Following the publication of the assessment hunting was banned in 2014 for two years and was later extended in 2016 to 2021.
The most problematic areas were located at the coastal part of Albania while the species persecuted the mos were the Eurasian Skylark, Eurasian Goldfinch, Eurasian Blackbird, Common Teal and Common Coot.
Using the same methodology, the Albanian Ornithological Society carried out an updated assessment of the situation for 2010-2018.
In the findings, even though Griffon Vultures are only visitors to the country they have been the subject of trapping and poaching in recent years.
Some notable examples of this follow the 2008 poaching and subsequent mounting of a Griffon Vulture for display in a restaurant in 2008 in Kukes, in northen Albania. In 2013 another Griffon Vulture was trapped and kept as a pet before being released and suffering a fatal electrocution shortly after being released in 2015. A tagged bird from Serbia was trapped in a town near the city of Tirana and died from suspected poisoning.
The persecution of vultures, a practice once common across Europe, that contributed to their widespread decline in the 19th and 20th centuries, is thankfully now a rare occurrence in Europe. However, cases such as these in Albania and the recent killing of a Griffon Vulture in Montenegro recently illustrate that illegal killing such as this is still a very real and current threat for vultures in the region.
Fighting illegal killing
We are working actively with Albanian Ornithological Society alongside other Balkan partners are working with Euronatur, BirdLife International to try to minimise illegal killing of birds throughout the region. One large-scale project funded by the MAVA Foundation is now underway, with actions in many countries, including communications campaigns, increased enforcement on particular black spots, training of enforcement agencies, and lobbying for strengthening environmental protection legislation and regulations.
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 Vultures 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.