New paper exposes the scale of illegal killing and taking of birds in Northern & Central Europe and the Caucasus

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paper with title “Illegal killing and taking of birds in Europe outside the Mediterranean: assessing the scope and scale of a complex issue” has just been published in the Bird Conservation International journal. 

Led by the BirdLife International partnership with input from experts across the region, the paper exposes the scale and scope of the illegal killing of birds across these regions. It is estimated that 0.4 – 2.1 million individual birds per year may be killed illegally in Northern and Central Europe and the Caucasus region – mainly for ‘sport’ or ‘predator/pest’ control.  
 
Illegal killing of birds remains a major threat in Europe, despite the fact that 28 of the countries recently assessed by BirdLife are parties to the legally binding Bern Convention (on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats), and 19 are also Member States of the European Union, obliged to implement its benchmark nature laws, the Birds and Habitats Directives (often referred to as the Nature Directives).
 
This new paper offers a first scientific baseline on illegal killing of birds in Northern Europe, Central Europe and the Caucasus. The bird groups most seriously affected (in terms of absolute numbers) are waterbirds and seabirds, followed by passerines. Of the worst 20 ‘blackspots’ for illegal killing identified in these regions, 10 are in Azerbaijan, but EU countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Bulgaria also feature.
 
This study shows that despite good protection on paper we are a long way from achieving ‘zero tolerance’ on illegal killing of birds across the Africa – Eurasia migratory flyway. However there is hope and BirdLife partners are working hard in collaboration with others to tackle illegal killing of birds throughout this area, in order to face this difficult issue head on, take action, share information and ideas and measure progress.
 
The findings of this study highlight that illegal bird killing is a wider problem across Europe and it is the expansion of a previous one, published in March 2016, which assessed the extent of illegal killing & taking in the Mediterranean. In the previous study it was estimated that 11–36 million individual birds per year may be killed/taken illegally in the Mediterranean, many of them on migration, and Cyprus had ranked and still is one of the worst countries regarding illegal bird killing. Based on BirdLife Cyprus’ systematic surveillance programme, hundreds of thousands of birds are illegally killed every year in Cyprus (read relevant reports εδώ), an issue that for many years the Cyprus government has not taken serious measures to address it. Cyprus has an obligation to protect these birds and BirdLife Cyprus will continue to lobby until this slaughter is stopped.    

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