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Poisoning incident in North Macedonia tests new protocols to fight the crime

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An Imperial Eagle, the victim of suspected illegal wildlife poisoning in North Macedonia (c) Emilian Lisichants
An Imperial Eagle, the victim of suspected illegal wildlife poisoning in North Macedonia (c) Emilian Lisichants

Following the suspected poisoning of two Cinereous Vultures in February in Greece, including Ostrava, one of the three birds reintroduced to Bulgaria, we have received another report of wildlife poisoning near the city of Negotino, North Macedonia at the end of February. This incident continues to highlight the real and serious threat this illegal practice continues to pose to vultures and other wildlife in the region.

Victims of wildlife crime

The remains of Imperial Eagles and Golden Jackals the victims of a suspected illegal wildlife poisoning in North Macedonia (c) Emilian Lisichants

After the GPS data from an Imperial Eagle fitted with a GPS transmitter by our colleagues from BirdLife Hungary highlighted that the bird had been in the same location for several days a patrol was dispatched by NCA Aquila. Arriving at the scene the team found two Imperial Eagles and a Golden Jackal dead. The protocol when poisoning is suspected was quickly put into place with a patrol conducted by the police, veterinary inspector and Aquila to find the poisoned bait, but they failed to locate it. The next day, a team from the Macedonian Ecological Society continued to search the vicinity and found another dead Jackal with a piece of meat in its mouth. The circumstances suggested that the second Jackal died as a result of poisoning within the last 12 hours.

Investigating the poisoning

The dead animals were taken to the Faculty for Veterinary Medicine for autopsy and the piece of meat from the Jackal’s mouth that is suspected to be a part of the poison bait was sent for analysis to the Department for Criminal Techniques at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The implementation of the activities foreseen in the new National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Poisoning will contribute towards enhancing both the prosecution and deterrence of using poison as a mean of controlling the populations of predators and stray dogs. The Strategy was drafted under the National Anti-Poisoning Working Group and was one of the main activities under the Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project.

This is the first registered incident in North Macedonia since the Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project began and already the results of the process put in place and the protocol followed are reassuring. The public institutions showed good communication and cooperation and all the procedures were done according to the outlined protocol.

North Macedonia was one of Countries in Focus that looked in a little more detail the situation of illegal wildlife poisoning as part of our groundbreaking study on illegal wildlife poisoning. As part of the study we found that poisoning incidents peak around February to April and we urge all our colleagues to be vigilant in reporting any incidents. We will carefully monitor the outcomes of this case and we hope to have the first ever court proceedings for wildlife poisoning in the country.

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-AOSProtection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania-PPNEAOrnithological Society “Naše ptice”,Association BIOMHellenic 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.

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