German Raptors Under Threat

The original article detailing the poisoning of the four German White-tailed eagles in Schleswig-Holstein was published in short form last week but now RP have been able to publish the complete English translation kindly provided by Anne Schmidt with the approval of The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, (NABU) Schleswig-Holstein/Germany. We are also taking this opportunity to include additional information detailing raptor persecution throughout  other regions of Germany, in particular in the state of Nord-Rhein Westfalen (NRW).It may come as a complete surprise to most readers of this article to learn all raptor species in Germany (an EU member) are still officially categorised as “huntable wildlife”. Federal law and international legislation however forbids the persecution of raptors throughout the country. Some hunting organisations are far from happy with this situation and miss no opportunity to label raptors as alleged pests for small game. They win support from the ranks of the pigeon-fanciers, for whom the recovery of  the Peregrine Falcon and Goshawk populations has long been a thorn in their side.

[singlepic id=286w=300 h=219 float=left]Between 2005 and 2009, there were 180 confirmed crimes directed against raptors in NRW, but these crimes are described as just the tip of the iceberg.  The majority of these incidents occur between January and May, and most perpetrators are hunters or pigeon fanciers. Penalties handed out include removal of hunting licenses and the use of cross-compliance rules to suspend agricultural subsidies, but these are not always imposed. As in the UK, carbofuran is the most popular poison used, even though it is illegal to use and possess it in Germany. Mevinphos, strychnine, chloropyophos and zinc phosphate are also additional substances used illegally in Germany.

Baviarian Hunters  blatantly ignoring the EU Bird Directive- and getting away with it!

Only Germany’s southern most state Bavaria continues to blatantly ignore the EU bird protection guidelines and permit the annual killing of hundreds of Goshawks and Buzzards. Elsewhere the perpetrators find their own ways to get around these laws. Members of the Committee against Bird Slaughter (CABS) still continue to descover traps, poisoned bait and shot raptors in the lowlands north of the central German mountain range, which are rich in small game. Steel plate traps (pole traps), usually mounted on fence posts and baited with pieces of meat, are a common method used for illegal raptor trapping. When a Raptor tries to snatch the meat with its talons the trap snaps shut, often cutting off the bird’s feet completely.

Poisoning is an equally cruel method of killing birds. Goshawk cage traps at least catch the birds alive and mostly unhurt; although instead of being released they are more likely to be killed by the trapper.

Offenders in Germany can be pretty sure of not being caught. Even when poisoned bait and traps are put out directly adjacent to the pheasant runs, the owner denies any knowledge of them. The persecution of raptors has however decreased significantly in many areas since CABS began investigating these practices. Detection rates have improved after large finacial rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of offenders were introduced.

Four White-tailed eagles poisoned in Schleswig-Holstein

The original German article can be obtained by following this attached link.

Test results obtained from four White-tailed Eagles which were all found dead in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany last year have now confirmed each of the birds had been poisoned by the banned insecticide Mevinphos. German conservationists regard these incidents as a very serious setback for White-tailed eagle protection in this region. Otto Klose, the local chairman of The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) in Eutin, expressed his horror at the use of banned poisons for predator control. Mevinphos has been banned in the EU since 2007, and in Germany since 1990

According to the NABU, the number of poisoning incidents which have taken place at the edge of a wooden copse west of the village of Gothendorf points to target actions directed against protected predators in this region. Three poisoned White-tailed Eagles were found last year, one in January, a second bird was recovered in June between the villages of Güster and Fitzen, and two additional birds were found in September. Poisoned baits not only attracts foxes, ravens and crows but also scavenging eagles. All four eagles poisoned last year are known to have died instantly after ingesting the poisoned baits.

[singlepic id=193w=314 h=235 float=right]Otto Klose said “This is a bitter setback for the White-tailed Eagle protection in the region”. He explained “these eagles were all well known in the region and one particular bird had recently established a new breeding territory nearby.” The birds were all regular visitors to the lakes in the region. One particular adult eagle which had been poisoned had been a recurring visitor at Lake Klenzau where local residents and ornithologists had watched the bird catching fish on a regular basis. Due to the loss of this single adult eagle we will probably see no eagle offspring here this year. We hope the prosecuting authorities will stop these criminal activities soon.”

One reason for the illegal persecution of predators is, according to NABU Schleswig-Holstein, old and established hunting traditions in regional areas of Germany still persist with many hunters believing they have a right to control the numbers of birds of prey together with mammalian predators, irrespective of whether these species are protected or not. German game laws are applied differently in one regional area compared to another region. The law supports attempts of “predator control” in a way, because it allows for example hunters to control species like  the weasel, badger and raccoon dog. What many conservationist feel is needed is one game law which should be applied throughout the whole country.

According to a ministry spokesman, the number of individuals using poisoned baits laced with Mevinphos to control foxes and other predator species is unknown. The use of poisoned baits resulting in the deaths of birds of prey together with additional carrion feeders in this way is regarded as reckless. The ministry has now confirmed that it will use all their legal authorities and the environmental authorities to stop these criminal activities.

The intentional poisoning of animals is not regarded as a trivial offence in Germany. A complaint against the unknown perpetrator resulting in the deaths of four White-tailed Eagles in the districts of Ostholstein and Herzogtum Lauenburg has been filed with the police (Note: both districts are part of the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein) in Northern Germany. Capital of the federal state is Kiel). The World Wildlife Fund has now offered a reward of 5000 Euro ( approx £4600) for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of those perpetrators responsible for the deaths of the 4 eagles.

All eagles were examined in the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Berlin). At the End of December 2010 it was confirmed that the four eagles had all been poisoned by Mevinphos. The corpse of one of the eagles examined was also found to contain four lead shot pellets in his body, however this was not the cause of death.

The police have now asked members of the public having any information regarding these incidents to contact any police station, or to the Projektgruppe Seeadlerschutz (Protection of the White-tailed Eagle Project Group from Schleswig-Holstein), the telephone numbers to use are as follows: 0431 / 880-4501 (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) or by mobile phone number 0171 / 9206562.

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