Poisoning threatens Vulture Populations in the Balkans

In the last twenty years at least 465 vultures in the Balkans have fallen victim to poisoning. This is the alarming conclusion of a study which has investigated the cases of vultures poisoned in the Balkans. The reality is that the figure for unreported cases must be significantly higher.

Griffon vulture lies dead on the ground

Poisoned griffon vulture - one of countless victims

© Hristo Peshev/FWFF

Although the Balkan peninsula is home to all four species of European vulture, there are serious concerns, to a greater or lesser degree according to species, about their population levels. As well as the dangers of collision with electric power lines and the lack of food because of the decrease in cattle farming, it is poisoning that is one of the main reasons for the decline in vulture populations. These are the findings of a study published by several conservation organisations on 23rd November.

Scientists investigated the cases of poisoning over the last two decades, during which 465 vultures have died of the consequences of poisoning. On the assumption that only 20% of cases have been discovered or reported, scientists project that the actual number of fatalities is significantly higher, namely around 2300.

The poison occurs above all in the form of bait, which is put down by farmers and hunters in order to destroy populations of wolves, jackals and wild dogs. As carrion feeders, the vultures also fall victim to this insidious method of killing. Such high losses in vulture numbers may represent a fatal setback for the populations of these rare birds of prey, as they take a long time to recover, despite the rigorous conservation efforts and reintroduction projects.

In order to resolve this problem in the Balkan states, the study recommends a series of measures, one of which is much stricter law enforcement. Above all, there must be an increased awareness that poisoned bait will risk causing unintended victims amongst the vulture population.

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