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Bringing partners together in Greece to discuss illegal wildlife poisoning

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In the latest national meeting as part of our Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project, along with our national partners we brought together government and non-governmental wildlife organisations together to discuss illegal wildlife poisoning in Greece and the future direction of actions to protect vultures and wildlife. 

Coming together to tackle wildlife poisoning 

A meeting with national governmental and other relevant authorities, responsible for the tackling of the illegal use of poison baits and the management of wildlife poisoning incidents was organised within the Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project (BAPP) and the  Egyptian vulture New LIFE (LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874) on Tuesday 27 November 2018 in Athens by our colleagues from Hellenic Ornithological Society/BirdLife Greece, in joint cooperation with and hosted at the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Greece.

The meeting brought together some of the most important stakeholders in the country, including representatives from the Department of Agrochemical Pesticides from the Ministry of Rural Development and Food, the Athens Centre of Veterinary Institutions, the Management Body of the National Park of Tzoumerka, Acheloos Valley, Agrafa and Meteora, the Police, and the Hellenic Hunters Confederation.

This meeting aimed to understand the current situation and issues related to the illegal use of poison and poison baits in the country, but also share with everyone the implementation of the Ministry of Environment and Energy’s policies against wildlife poisoning and tender regarding a five-year project for tackling wildlife poisoning.

Anti-poisoning efforts in Greece

A Greek anti-poison canine unit (c) HOS/BirdLife Greece
A Greek anti-poison canine unit (c) HOS/BirdLife Greece

The situation with wildlife poisoning in Greece differs significantly in comparison to other countries in the Balkan Peninsula. As a result of sever LIFE funded projects in the country LIFE The Return of the Neophron (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152) and the LIFE Innovative actions against illegal poisoning in EU Mediterranean Pilot Areas (LIFE09 NAT/ES/000533) there has been significant investment in anti-poisoning work. The  Ministry of Environment and Energy of Greece have recently adopted the Local Anti-poisoning Plans at regional unit level for the whole country and invested €400,000 in a strategic project regarding the mitigation of illegal use of poison baits at key point study areas. 

Formed in 2012 the Anti-Poison Task Force is made up of environmental non governmental organisations and the Natural History Museum of Crete, and it is coordinated by the Hellenic Ornithological Society operates the Poison Incidents Database, a vital resource to help track and understand the use of poison. 

A significant part of anti-poisoning efforts in Greece is the use of five Canine Teams for surveillance of the countryside for possible placed poison baits and poisoned animals. One of the most important results of previous anti-poisoning efforts invested by the Anti-poison Task Force is the production of a national anti-poisoning strategy for Greece which now awaits for its official approval. 

Future direction

During the meeting the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Greece were positive about the future improvements of anti-poisoning work in Greece by the recent policy initiatives. This is a great start and the aim is to further develop this initiative towards the approval of an integrated National Strategy for the entire territory of Greece. The need of a unified plan is also necessary to better coordinate and implement future anti-poisoning initiatives and projects that were announced at the meeting. 

Also, it is of strategic importance to work towards the inclusion of relevant governmental authorities into the Anti-poison Task Force, which is crucial for long-term success in combating wildlife poisoning. Additionally, detailed protocols describing responsibilities in reporting, collection of samples, investigating and prosecuting cases of wildlife poisoning need to be developed and distributed within all responsible institutions to precisely define competences of each agency within national legislation, and avoid overlaps. With the positive and very concrete feedback that we’ve received from the meeting, we strongly believe that much better days are coming for vultures in Greece. 

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