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Harshest wildlife poisoning penalty in Spain’s history

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dead egyptian vulture harshest wildlife crime conviction in Spain
Dead Egyptian Vulture in one of the reserves © Nursery Forestry of Navarra

Three men receive the highest jail time imposed in Spanish history for wildlife poisoning. These criminals are responsible for poisoning 138 birds of prey and 4 crows, including endangered species.

Spain’s harshest wildlife poisoning conviction

A Pamplona court sentenced two years and eight months in prison to each criminal responsible for these atrocities. These include two presidents of hunting reserves and a gamekeeper guard. The jail time imposed is the longest ever in Spain for a wildlife poisoning crime. Because the sentence is longer than two years, they will have to enter jail, as they cannot get the conviction automatically suspended. In addition to jail time, they are banned from managing hunting reserves, hunting and acting as gamekeepers for five years and four months. They also have to pay €67,538.65 to Comunidad Foral de Navarra and take measures to recover the damage they caused. This punishment would not have been possible without the role of the Guarderío Forestal and the Policía Foral de Navarra for clarifying the facts and for obtaining the incriminating evidence.

The mass poisoning incident

The events took place in 2012 at the hunting grounds of Tudela and Cintrúenigo (Navarra), where 138 raptors and 4 crows died from eating poisoned bait. Some of the birds of prey killed include, 108 Black Kites, a Marsh Harrier, two Griffon Vultures and an Egyptian Vulture. These are protected species that, in some cases, are listed as endangered. The court recognised that the poisoning was planned by the management of the companies managing four hunting reserves, two of them in Tudela (Montes del Cierzo and Monte Alto) as well as the Cintruénigo and Fitero reserves.

Wildlife poisoning in Spain 

Research reports in Spain indicate that the illegal use of poisoned baits is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. These reports reveal that there have been 8,324 cases of poisoning, killing 18,503 animals. But Spanish NGOs estimate that wildlife poisoning in Spain is even worse and could reach 185,000 cases, since about 85 to 97 percent of the cases are not detected. Even though the use of poisoned baits is illegal in Spain and other European countries, it continues to be widely used to kill predators, endangering threatened birds and mammals. We hope that the harsh legal consequences of this sentence will reduce the number of people using bait poisoning as a way to control predators in Spain.

Vultures’ biggest threat

Poison is the biggest threat to vultures worldwide – this was indeed the main conclusion of the Vulture Multi-species Action Plan, co-developed by us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and endorsed by the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS). A significant part of this global action plan for vultures focuses on the actions needed to fight this threat.

In Europe the we are actively pursuing different lines of work to fight this threat, among which is the Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project, funded by the MAVA Foundation, where we are working and funding local partners in five counties (Croatia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Greece) to try to eradicate this illegal and highly damaging practice.

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