TARGET NORTHERN BALD IBIS: ILLEGAL HUNTING STILL CAUSES ONE THIRD OF THE LOSSES IN ITALY
Extensive GPS-monitoring of the Northern Bald Ibis (NBI) release population proves that illegal hunting is responsible for about 30% of bird losses in Italy. This substantially affects the population development and endangers the survival of the population every year. In 2021 alone, there was concrete evidence for seven kills. Since in around half of the cases, the exact cause of death cannot be determined, it must be assumed that the actual number of birds shot in Italy is significantly higher.
The kills happen primarily in areas of traditionally intense bird hunting in Italy. This is a strong indication that the illegal shootings are primarily caused by official hunters who hold a hunting license. This is also indicated by the only case so far in which a perpetrator could be convicted and prosecuted and who was a licensed bird hunter and a member of Federazione Italiana della Caccia. In 2017, a criminal trial with this hunter has been concluded and he was sentenced to a fine and the loss of his hunting license. In 2022, following civil proceedings, he had to pay an additional fine to the project operator. In this way a precedent could be set, with hopefully a deterrent effect.
The cases so far indicate that the perpetrators do not intentionally hunt Northern Bald Ibises. It is much more likely that the shootings are spontaneous and arbitrary. This was also confirmed by the convicted hunter. Thus, it must be assumed that other protected migratory bird species are also killed to a similar extend as the Northern Bald Ibis. This is an alarming realization that requires urgent action in view of the rapidly increasing rate of species extinction.
A significant proportion of Northern Bald Ibis kills happen in a definable area along the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany. The crime scene of the convicted hunter was also in this area, which is known as a heavily frequented migration route for many bird species. We therefore sent a letter to the Italian Ministry of Ecological Transition urgently asking for the implementation of efficient measures against illegal bird hunting in this area. In particular, we consider it necessary to identify a further so-called black spot in Tuscany within the framework of the Italian National Action Plan to combat offenses against wild birds published in 2017.
Photo: Northern Bald Ibises migrating over Tuscany. A significant proportion of Northern Bald Ibis kills happen in a definable area along the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany. Picture M Unsoeld, Waldrappteam Conservation and Research.