GERO’S CASE: A shot out of the blue
Numerous partners support the reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis in Europe. After successful implementation of the first project supported by the EU from 2014 to 2019, a second LIFE project started in 2022, with 10 partners in four countries under the direction of Zoo Vienna. The project LIFE Northern Bald Ibis aims to establish a self-sustaining European population with more than 360 individuals.
The Northern Bald Ibis is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List and therefore under international protection. However, about one third of the losses in the European population are caused by illegal hunting in Italy. This substantially affects the population development and endangers the survival of the population. So far, these illegal shootings have happened almost exclusively during hunting season in autumn and early winter. But the case of Northern Bald Ibis Gero is a disturbing exception.
Gero belonged to the breeding colony Überlingen at Lake Constance. She hatched in 2019 and was hand-raised in the course of the release program during the first LIFE project. She was then taken to the common wintering site WWF Oasi Laguna di Orbetello in southern Tuscany as part of the human-led migration. After she reached sexual maturity, Gero started the first spring migration north on April 19 2022, together with three conspecifics. GPS devices on the backs of the birds allowed the animals to be tracked almost in real time. The squad flew to Trentino, from where Gero took on alone to Mantua and stayed near the river Canalbianco Po di Levante for a while. On April 26 the GPS data indicated Gero’s death in the evening near her night roost. Thanks to this data, the body could be found and recovered. The forensic examination was able to establish death by shotgun pellets without a doubt.
This is proof of just another case of illegal hunting, but this time, disturbingly, outside of the hunting season. As in each of these cases, the public prosecutor’s office was immediately notified in order to initiate investigations. We also sent a letter to the Italian Ministry of Ecological Transition with the urgent reference to the necessity of measures against illegal bird hunting in this area.
Photo: Female Northern Bald Ibis Gero in March 2022, Picture A. Focke