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The problem of poisoning in the Balkans and its impact on vulture conservation debated at a workshop

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The VCF has recently participated in a two-day workshop organized in Papingo – northern Greece, that aimed to discuss the existing know-how on the matter of illegal use of poison baits, focussed on the conservation of the last pairs of Egyptian vultures in the Balkans. The problem of poison has been identified as the number one threat for the survival of the species in Greece, and it is also known to be an important threat in the rest of the Balkan countries were Egyptian vultures can still be found.

The workshop was organized by the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS), together with WWF-Greece and the Bulgarian Society for the protection of Birds (BSPB) within the LIFE+ Project “The Return of the Neophron” (see here ).

During the meeting representatives from most of the Balkan countries presented the situation in their countries, while LIFE+ project partners (HOS, WWF, BSPB) presented the anti-poison actions implemented throughout the project. Best practice on wildlife poisoning in the UK was also shown, while the NGO representatives spent a good deal discussing future plans and needs to tackle the problem in a significant and adequate way.

On the second day of the workshop the NGO representatives presented the critical situation to local authorities and statutory organizations (forestry services, municipalities, hunting associations), and discussed with them possible solutions to tackle this serious problem.

HOS also made a field demonstration of their poison dog unit. These dogs were brought from Spain within this Life + Project and they are specially trained to detect poison baits in the field. Only with two dogs (one working in the Meteora area and the other for Dadia) the Greek anti-poison team manage to detect hundreds of poison baits in one year.

The main conclusions from the workshop are as follows:

  • Poison is still widely used in the Balkan region, manly to combat wild predators (wolves, foxes of feral dogs), put mostly by livestock breeders of hunters, even though the practice is illegal since the 1980s .

  • Most of the poison products used are banned for more than 10 years in the region.

  • The illegal use of poison in the Balkans have led to extinction of the Black and Bearded Vultures, and radically depleted the Griffon and the Egyptian Vulture populations. The Egyptian Vulture population was reduced by 80% during the last 50 years.

  • The future anti-poison actions must be based on strong collaboration with the authorities and theirs direct implication.

  • The actions need to be implemented on a regional level.

(Photos VCF)

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