The practice of illegal wildlife poisoning is the single biggest factor preventing the return of vultures across the Balkan Peninsula and as a recent incident in Montenegro shows wildlife across the region face a real threat from the use of poison in the natural environment.
Peak time for wildlife poisoning
Our groundbreaking Balkan Vultures Poison study highlighted between February and April is the peak time for poisoning incidents. Sadly, over the last few weeks we have received several reports of poisoning from across the region including two Cinereous Vultures in Greece, one of which was Ostrava, the vulture reintroduced to Bulgaria as part of the Vultures Back to LIFE project.
Poisoning in Montenegro
Colleagues at CZIP/BirdLife Montenegro were informed by locals in the town of Plave made the sad discovery on 25 March of the remains of a breeding pair of Golden Eagles, a strictly protected species in Montenegro. The loss of this pair is a significant blow to the species in the country, as it represents the loss of 2 percent of the entire breeding population. It is suspected that the substance used was Furadan (Carbofuran), an illegal pesticide, which is already proven to be one of the most commonly used substances for wildlife poisoning in the Balkans, and that the poison bait was set originally intended for wolves.
Golden Eagles and dog poisoned in Montenegro (c) CZIP/BirdLife Montenegro.
This incident follows a few other reported in 2018 where Carbofuran was used and resulted in the death of one Peregrine Falcon and Eagle Owl. In both cases this pesticide was smeared on live pigeons who were offered as bait, a method commonly used by pigeon fanciers in Montenegro and other neighboring countries (notably Serbia) to eradicate primarily falcon species, who often prey on racing and competition pigeons.
Our colleagues from Montenegro, who are very vigilant on all incident with illegal killing of birds, informed the Environmental Inspection straight away and the animals were collected the and transported to the Center for toxicological research for official confirmation of the substance used for this poisoning incident.
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.