A few months ago, some Spanish enforcement agents discovered a bird of prey graveyard in a hunting reserve in the province of Castilla y León. Following the troubling findings, however, the competent authorities took urgent and decisive action, not only to deter more wildlife from being poisoned but also to prosecute the ones responsible. Now, the competent authorities have suspended hunting activity in the estate and launched criminal proceedings.
Discovering and investigating wildlife carcasses
The Guardia Civil of Avila (Seprona) and the Castilla y León environmental agents carried out a coordinated search in 2020 in a hunting estate in La Moraña. The search team carried out raids and used a dog unit specializing in detecting poisoned baits after suspicions of illegal activities there.
Following their search efforts, the team discovered many animal carcasses of protected species. The species found included four Spanish imperial eagles (Aquila adalberti), a Common buzzard (Buteo buteo), a Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) and two Red kites (Milvus milvus). In addition to the birds of prey carcasses, the team also detected one fox (Vulpes vulpes) and one dog. Worryingly, the Guardia Civil have stated that they do not rule out that there could be more animals buried than the ones found to date.
The animal remains were swiftly sent to the competent laboratories of the Junta de Castilla y León and the Criminalistics Department of the Guardia Civil to perform necropsy and toxicology tests to determine the cause of mortality. The results confirmed that the animals were illegally poisoned and shot. Given that almost all the specimens were buried or hidden by the existing vegetation in the area, the Guardia Civil emphasized that the perpetrator(s) responsible were aware of their actions' illegality and deliberately hid these animals.
Taking measures to deter similar occurrences in the future
Following these events, the Junta de Castilla y León adopted precautionary measures by suspending hunting in the specific estate for five years to facilitate the regeneration of the area's wild fauna. Furthermore, as the estate in question is located within an area classified as a Natura 2000 Special Protection Area for birds (also important for the recovery plan for the Spanish imperial eagle) and due to the intentionality of the illegal actions, the Guardia Civil has instructed police criminal proceedings that were referred to the competent judicial authority for a crime against wild fauna and flora.
These illegal actions have led to a critical loss of important wildlife like the Cinereous Vulture and Spanish imperial eagle. Poisoning and persecution of wildlife are severe environmental crimes, and they should be penalized accordingly. We welcome the actions taken by the competent authorities and hope that the perpetrator(s) responsible will be brought to justice. Our Spanish colleagues are leading the way in combating illegal wildlife poisoning and other wildlife crime, and other countries elsewhere should follow suit in dealing with these crimes accordingly.
Source: Diario de Ávila
Fighting illegal bird killing
We here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation are working alongside multiple partners to minimize illegal bird killing along key migratory flyways. 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. Furthermore, we are actively combating the threat of illegal wildlife poisoning through raising awareness and building capacities across seven Balkan countries with our newly launched LIFE project, BalkanDetox LIFE, which precisely includes the transfer of Spanish best-practice experience to southeastern Europe.