Poaching is jeopardizing conservation efforts in Greece
An adult lesser white-fronted goose named Mánnu was found dead at Lake Kerkini, south of the Greek-Bulgarian border, in an area where hunting is prohibited. An autopsy confirmed a poacher killed the bird with a shotgun.
The death represents some 5 per cent of the Fennoscandian (Northern Europe) breeding males, according to Scandinavian partners in a project to protect the birds which breed in northernmost Norway. “This is dramatic, because loss of adult reproductive birds has significant negative impact on the recruitment of the small population”, said Dr. Ingar Jostein Øien from BirdLife Norway.
“So much effort has been invested in the conservation of the species in Norway and internationally, and now it seems that poaching is jeopardizing our conservation efforts.”
“In 2006, we lost another adult male in Russia, so this is already the second bird confirmed shot out of the seven individuals monitored by the EU Life project.”
Since being ring-marked in May 2006, Mánnu and his mate Máddu had been monitored along their migratory route form their breeding grounds in northernmost Norway to the regular wintering sites in Northern Greece.
For Yannis Tsougrakis, coordinator of the Life project in Greece, “this is probably the most serious case of poaching in Greece in the recent years, but also one of the most alarming cases in Europe.”
The EU Birds Directive put an obligation on the Greek state to effectively protect the Lesser White-fronted goose from poaching and accidental shooting.
“In practice this will require a ban on goose hunting, regarding all goose species and effective control of poaching, at the wintering sites at Lake Kerkini and in the Evros Delta.”
“The national Action Plan for the conservation of the Lesser White-fronted goose has been completed, but it has never been implemented,” said Tsougrakis. “We are calling on Greece to fulfil their obligations under the agreement as a matter of urgency.”
Lesser White-fronted geese are protected under the EU Birds Directive and also by national legislation in Greece. The main part of Fennoscandian birds’ populations’ spends the winter in Greece.
Various conservation actions are being implemented in Norway, Finland, Estonia, Hungary and Greece as an ultimate effort to rescue the species. They are part of the EU Life Nature project “Conservation of the Lesser White-fronted goose on the European migration route” lead by WWF Finland.
“Greece could be a safe winter refuge for the species and an essential contribution to its rescue. However, the inability to prevent illegal hunting even in protected areas, the lack of law enforcement and the lack of training for hunters make the species vulnerable to hunting, which is the main cause for the population decline in Europe and globally”, said Petteri Tolvanen, WWF-Finland’s conservation officer.
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