In France, the Ortolan Bunting may soon be off the menu

02 October 2017

The French Minister of Ecology, Nicolas Hulot has committed to ending the large-scale trapping of Ortolan Bunting, which takes place to meet demand for a cruel dish where the songbird is blinded, plumpened and drowned in brandy. It's a practice that has driven population declines of up to 84% in Europe since 1980.

Around 30,000 Ortolan Buntings are captured every year during the autumn migration, as their flightpath from eastern Europe to west Africa takes them across France. BirdLife estimates around 500,000 birds are illegally caught every year in France. Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs and Brambling Fringilla montifringilla are also targets for poachers, and many other species, such as European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis become collateral victims in the annual slaughter.

While the Ortolan Bunting is listed as Least Concern by BirdLife because of its vast range (it can be found throughout Europe and Central Asia), the tales of the Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius and Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola should guard conservationists against complacency. Indeed, no other European passerine has declined as rapidly in recent years, with an overall decline of 84% since 1980 due to practices such as poaching and intensive agriculture – this, despite hunting of the species being forbidden by French law since 1999, when it became a protected species. However, because the Ortolan dish is considered a cultural tradition, authorities are often keen to turn a blind eye to the activities of poachers.

France’s national agency for hunting and wildlife (ONCFS) has been conducting inspections, which has strengthened LPO’s work and raised hopes that cases against hunters will be pursued instead of shelved. LPO (BirdLife in France) has repeatedly provided the European Commission with evidence that the French government has done little to combat the capturing and killing of wild birds in their country, and in December 2016, the European Commission announced that it was taking France to the EU Court of Justice for failing to address violations of the EU’s Birds Directive - with a potential fine running into millions of euros.

On 8th August 2017, with a tweet and a press release, the French minister of ecology, Nicolas Hulot, stated his intentions to put a definitive end to the poaching of Ortolan Bunting. In the statement, Hulot says: “Preserving biodiversity is essential to the future of our humanity, and it is the protection of a natural heritage that we have received as a legacy and that we must pass on to future generations for ethical as well as scientific reasons.”

"The practice of poaching Ortolans is illegal, it must stop….it poses a significant risk to the survival of the species, while the natural environment of this bird is threatened by climate change and urbanization which destroys its habitat".

For the complete article written by Alex Dale, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, please click here: http://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/news/france-ortolan-bunting-may-soon-be-menu

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