The use of poison against predators or carnivores is a common illegal practice worldwide, and it is seriously threatening endangered wildlife – it is also extremely dangerous for the human health as well!
Poisoning is the most serious threat affecting vultures worldwide – they are not usually the intended recipients, but die after eating carcasses laced with poison put for some other targets (usually carnivores).
The practice is illegal, but still widespread, as poisoning was legal until a few decades ago and it is still ingrained in the traditions and mind-set of a whole generation.
The Junta de Andalusia started to work on the illegal use of poison in 2000, as part of the conservation programmes of several endangered species, including the reintroduction project of the bearded vulture in Cazorla. It was clear that eliminating or reducing the main threats was fundamental for the successful conservation of several species. In 2004 the Junta developed a comprehensive Anti-poison Strategy, which is being implemented.
During the last 15 years more than 1700 cases of poisoning have been recorded in the province. Police officers, environmental agents, a purposely-established Supporting Forensic Unit and a reference lab (CAD) have been working hard. All this work has resulted in 17 criminal convictions, which is the tip of the iceberg but nonetheless an important dissuasion weapon
“The number of recorded cases or the legal convictions are not the ultimate aim of our work, the real result are the increasing populations of the scavengers species in Andalusia”, explains Iñigo Fajardo, the Director of the Anti-poison Strategy, and a VCF board member.
Indeed, several species of scavenger birds have reached recently their historical maximums in the region, showing that all the effort has started to pay off. As part of the continuing work, a training course for police and forensic investigators took a place last month in Villafranca de Cordoba, Andalusia. This was part of a regular series of courses organized by the Junta de Andalusia since 2009, covering more than 350 environmental agents and police officers. These were trained on the identification of presumably poisoned animals in the field, the illegal use of poison baits and proper investigation of poisoning cases.
The VCF has a strong strategic partnership with the Junta de Andalusia and was present in this latest course. We are trying to spread this best practice and successful example in other countries. The VCF would like to thank the Junta de Abdalucia, their staff, and all enforcement agencies for their significant effort to minimize this threat.