Slaughter of endangered blackbirds in Zakynthos, recorded by groups of CABS, the Committee Against the Slaughter of Birds.

Every spring, thousands of protected plovers and other rare migratory birds are killed by irresponsible poachers on the island of Zakynthos, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said today.

Although spring hunting has been banned in Greece since the 1980s, CABS recorded widespread mass shootings of terns and other protected species on the island, which is centrally located along one of the most important migration corridors for birds between Africa and Europe.

“After receiving numerous reports of bird poaching in Zakynthos, we decided to send a team to monitor and document the situation in April and early May,” says CABS wildlife crime officer Bostjan Debersek.

“The countryside was littered with hundreds of newly renovated posts, the ground covered with spent shotgun shells and the remains of recently shot birds such as starlings, grebes, swallows, hawks, bee-eaters and a hawk,” Debersek continues, adding that the environmental organization monitored less than 25% of the island’s huntable area and found more than 100 posts, all in use in April, while logging thousands of shots throughout the peak migration season.

CABS has also observed the widespread use of illegal acoustic devices used by poachers to attract birds in front of their hiding places. “In a single area near the village of Ammoudi we heard four different acoustic devices, all of which are used by poachers to attract Sycophagus,” he added.

CABS highlighted its concerns that its experts were under the impression that illegal bird hunting is largely tolerated by local authorities, with no system or tactics in place to stop the perpetrators. However, persistent phone calls and reports made to the forest service and police eventually led to the prosecution of three poachers. In addition, CABS has provided police with video evidence that is “expected” to lead to the identification and conviction of at least 18 more poachers, the organization said.

CABS urges the Greek authorities to do more against this form of wildlife crime and to introduce proactive enforcement measures to bring poachers to justice. It also encourages tourists and locals to record and report illegal incidents to the police.

According to CABS, the situation in Zakynthos is of particular concern for plovers, one of the fastest declining bird species in all of Europe. Especially since illegal hunting in the spring is widespread on other Greek islands as well. A study published by the Forestry Research Institute and the Hellenic Ornithological Society as part of the European LIFE Against Bird Crime program estimates that 57,000 birds are killed every spring in the Ionian Islands.

“These birds already face multiple other threats, such as habitat loss and extreme drought in their breeding and wintering areas. Shooting them in large numbers before they have a chance to reproduce can be the finishing blow,” points out Bostjan Debersek.