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Illegal killing of birds remains a major threat in Europe – new report

The BirdLife Partnership presents The Killing 2.0, A View to a Kill [1]. Led by BirdLife International with input from experts from the region, this layman’s report exposes the scale and scope of the illegal killing of birds across critical regions. It is estimated that 0.4 – 2.1 million individual birds per year may be killed illegally in Northern and Central Europe and the Caucasus region – mainly for sport or ‘pest’ control.

he Killing 2.0 shows that illegal killing of birds remain a major threat in Europe, despite the fact that 28 of the countries recently assessed by BirdLife are parties to the legally binding Bern Convention (on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats), and 19 are also Member States of the European Union, obliged to implement its benchmark nature laws, the Birds and Habitats Directives [2].  

The bird groups most affected (in terms of absolute numbers) are waterbirds followed by passerines. In Azerbaijan alone between 160,000 and 900,000 waterbirds are estimated to be killed illegally per year. Raptors, as well as pigeons and doves are also badly affected. The bird group with the highest percentage of species affected are the raptors – 51 of 52 raptor species are affected by illegal killing.

In both Central Europe and the Caucasus, the lead driver behind illegal bird killing is sport. In Northern Europe, the main motivation behind illegal bird killing is predator and so-called ‘pest’ control. The 20 worst locations reported for the illegal killing of individual birds in Northern Europe, Central Europe and the Caucasus are found in six ‘hotspot’ countries (alphabetically) Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany and the Netherlands. The top 6 kill zones all fall within Azerbaijan. At the Greater and Lesser Gizilagach Bays, on the country’s south-east coast, the number of birds killed each year represents a staggering 18% of the mean estimated annual total of birds illegally killed across the region, and for all species combined.

The new report The Killing 2.0 offers a first scientific baseline on illegal killing of birds in Northern Europe, Central Europe and the Caucasus. However this is only the beginning, we need to collect more data and increase monitoring to be able to track progress on tackling this issue.

BirdLife International CEO, Patricia Zurita, stated: “You, me, all of us, have to stop this massacre and realize there are rules and regulations in place for a reason. Birds are part of our common heritage, one that we are responsible to take care of and pass on to new generations in better shape. BirdLife’s data is showing how poorly we are doing and how much room for improvement there is. The Killing helped us two years ago enact important changes in countries like Cyprus and Italy. BirdLife International as the global champion for safe flyways continues to use science to underpin our conservation action and we hope the shocking results of The Killing 2.0 help galvanise action to end illegal killing across Europe, the Caucasus and the rest of the flyway.” 

“THE KILLING” / Unlawfully shot, trapped or glued. Every year around 25 million birds are slaughtered in the Mediterranean. Read our first review of illegal killing of birds in the region


[1] The Killing 2.0, A View to a Kill is available online 

[2] The Birds and Habitats Directives are the EU’s flagship nature laws that represent the cornerstone of EU-wide efforts to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. These laws are responsible for the creation of the largest and most coherent network of protected natural areas in the world – the Natura 2000 network.

All numbers in The Killing 2.0 are rounded, mean estimates. For non-rounded, mean numbers and minimum/maximum estimates, see the scientific papers: Preliminary assessment of the scope and scale of illegal killing and taking of birds in the Mediterranean
(Brochet et al., 2016)
and Illegal killing and taking of birds in Europe outside the Mediterranean: assessing the scope and scale of a complex issue (Brochet et al., in revision).


BirdLife International 2017

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