THE HEAD of the Protection of Birds of Prey organisation in Slovakia, Jozef Chavko, found 20 dead birds during an inspection of localities near Jaslovské Bohunice in western Slovakia on March 19. The deaths of a pair of saker falcons, 16 common buzzards (referred to as hawks in America), a rough-legged buzzard and a common kestrel (also known as a European kestrel) were probably caused by poisoned baits.
The ornithologists have filed a complaint against an unknown offender who is accused of the crimes of poaching and violating the protection of plants and animals. The offender could face a sentence of up to eight years. The remains of hares and town pigeons were also found in the field among the dead birds of prey.
“Based on our current experience, one can say that the pigeons and hares were used as deadly baits in which the offender put poison,” Chavko told the TASR newswire. For that reason the poisonous bait spread in several dozen places in an area of about one square kilometre was probably fatal for all the birds found. “The clenched claws of the birds show that they also died slowly, in great pain and probably by the poison,” Chavko concluded.
He later said that another saker falcon had been found dead. This species is among the most endangered birds of prey in Europe and in Slovakia only 28 pairs nested last year. Since 2007, Slovak and Hungarian partners have been implementing the biggest project to date to protect the saker falcon. Its aim is to support the stability and number of pairs in Slovakia and also to minimise the hunting of birds of prey by humans. As part of the project, ornithologists are monitoring young offspring with satellite communication systems.
The protected birds of prey in Slovakia are threatened by shooting, poisoned baits, traps called “shackles” or by the shooting down of their nests. In spite of strict legislation and severe punishments, ornithologists each year record dozens of cases of birds of prey birds like the common buzzard, saker falcon, Western marsh harrier, goshawk, and the imperial eagle being killed or injured by offenders trying to reduce the population of the predators, mainly in the lowlands.
Power pylons and electricity distribution lines are also dangerous for rare birds of prey and also other birds. Several thousand birds die each year after colliding with them according to data from the Protection of Birds of Prey organisation.
Local police have started to investigate the poisoning case, Ľuboš Homola of the Regional Police Corps in Trnava told TASR. The value of these birds for the whole of society is assessed to be more than €20,500. Police in Jaslovské Bohunice have taken steps against the as-yet unknown offender for the offence of violating the protection of plants and animals, with a possible prison sentence of up to two years.
6. Apr 2009 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports