© Günter Bachmeier

The scene of the crime: the Adriatic – bird hunting in the Balkans

Redshank with shot wounds, Saline Ulcinj in Montenegro.
Redshank with shot wounds, Saline Ulcinj in Montenegro.

As long as the routes along which migrating birds travel are unsafe not even the most extensive protection measures in the breeding area can hope to have any long-term success. Hardly anyone in Northern Europe is aware of the the problem of bird hunting in the Balkans. But it is particularly there that the situation is extremely critical: altogether in the five countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and Montenegro) along the Adriatic Flyway it is estimated that well over two million birds are shot every year.

When the shots ring out along the Adriatic our fields will soon fall silent!

Among the victims are not only rare waders and water birds such as Cranes and Spoonbills. Among those that lose their lives are also birds of prey which are threatened world-wide and species such as skylarks and quails, which we can hardly imagine disappearing from our cultivated landscapes.


On the wing without a break

After an flight over the Mediterranean that costs them all their strength the birds arrive on the coast completely exhausted to find not rest but a battery of hunters lying in wait for them. Non-sustainable hunting laws, a lack of provisions to protect important bird habitats and a general disregard for law. There is even hunting inside protected areas. These are all the order of the day in nearly all the countries along the Adriatic Flyway.

Photo gallery

© Joachim Mahrholdt © EuroNatur © Martin Schneider-Jacoby

Please click on one of the pictures to open the gallery.

What actions are EuroNatur and its partners taking?

  • Creating oases to rest in: we are putting our energies into getting further important wetland and resting places along the Adriatic Flyway under legal protection.
  • Improving the legal underpinning of conservation: we are fighting for an improvement in the hunting laws in the countries along the Adriatic Flyway. One tactic is to set up campaigns such as “The scene of the crime: Bird Hunting in the Balkans”, using television to increase the international pressure on hunters, ministries and law courts in the countries concerned.
  • Building up a network of bird-watchers: we are making sure of far stricter observation in the important resting places – this means monitoring both the bird population and also any hunting activities as a way of tackling poaching.
  • Running educational outreach: the goal is to get the hunters on board. We are working on getting the help of organized hunting groups to combat illegal hunting.
  • Offering hands on nature conservation: we are showing people practical alternatives to bird hunting using study trips undertaken with hunters and staff of  responsible authorities. The trips take us to model areas such as Slano Kopovo or the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, in which the  cooperation of hunters is already functioning in an exemplary manner.

What we have so far achieved - a selection of important successes

  • With a comprehensive Study of the bird hunting situation in the Balkans for the first time we have exposed the enormous size of the problem of bird hunting on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. This is a basis for concrete protection measures.
  • In the course of the First Adriatic Flyway Conference in Ulcinj in 2009 we first raised awareness among the hunting associations and experts of the urgent need to tackle the problem.  The Second Adriatic Flyway Conference in 2014 created opportunities to dovetail existing initiatives for protecting migrating birds with each other.                    
  • EuroNatur caught attention of the public in Germany with the campaign “Scene of the crime: Adriatic – bird hunting in the Balkans”. Important media reported it.
  • Meanwhile in Montenegro, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina there are local bird protectors regularly on the watch – much to the chagrin of the poachers.
  • Montenegro and Croatia have revised their hunting laws. For the first time since EuroNatur began its campaign in the spring of 2010 there was no organized bird hunting on the wild beach of Velika Plaza in the Bojana-Buna Delta on the Montenegrin coast.
  • Numerous new nature conservation areas and no-hunting areas have been established.
  • Supported by EuroNatur since October 2014 rangers have been going on patrol on a regular basis. The positive effects are obvious: The numbers of resting migratory birds soared. And there’s reason for hope that the region will see a lasting improvement of the situation for migratory birds. In September 2015 an official declaration of intent to protect the avifauna in Hutovo Blato Nature Park was signed by EuroNatur and local conservation NGOs as well as by the local hunting organisation and the Nature Park administration.

Partners: Partner organisations in Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania

Sponsoring: Mava Foundation, Ludwig Raue Memorial Foundation, EuroNatur donors and sponsors


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