In the framework of this project, two Canine Teams (CT) especially trained for the detection of poison baits were created in March 2014 and since then are working in Central Greece and Thrace. Their main objective, in collaboration with local authorities, is to control and clean on time the countryside from poison baits and poisoned animals before they can cause further poisoning.
Patrols cover mainly the territories of last Egyptian vultures in Greece, but not only. In addition, special emphasis, with intense patrolling, is given to sites where a poisoning incident has occurred in the recent past and to areas where new poisoning incidents have been reported by Forestry Services, Management Bodies of protected areas or even civilians.
In 2015, the second year of operation of the CT, 46 patrols were carried out in Central Greece and 21 in Thrace in 64 days and 171 km were covered by the handlers. Totally, 39 dead animals were found poisoned throughout the course of 16 patrols. The most common species found poisoned was the dog (shepherd and/or hunting dogs), with a total number of 24 dead individuals (61.6% of the findings), followed by the fox with 9 dead individuals (23.1% of the findings). Additionally 2 Griffon Vultures, 2 Wolves and 2 domestic cats were found poisoned (respectively 5.1% of the findings). In total, 48 poison baits were found (usually a piece of poisoned meat, but also wax “capsules” containing animal fat and a toxic substance were found in other several occasions). The main suspected reasons for the use of poison baits were the following: fox or wolf extermination, stray dogs control and personal disputes between shepherds and/or hunters.
The toxicological analyses carried out have identified three active ingredients: two of them are pesticides, Phorate and Carbofuran (both banned in Greece), while the third active ingredient was the highly toxic Potassium Cyanide. Some results on ongoing analyses were not available at the time this report was written.
Summarizing the work of the two CT for two years (2014 & 2015) we have the following results: a total of 155 patrols have been carried out covering 376 km (by the handlers). In 35 of them, 66 poisoned animals and 52 poisoned baits have been located. The most common species found poisoned was the dog (shepherd and/or hunting dogs), with a total number of 45 dead individuals (68.2% of the findings), followed by the fox with 13 dead individuals (19.7% of the findings). 77% of the poisoning incidents occurred during the period when the Egyptian Vulture is present in Greece.
In conclusion, the Canine Teams have proved to be an innovative and effective prevention action that has contributed to throw some light on the extent of the illegal use of poison baits. In addition, this action has also potentially saved from certain death many scavenger birds and mammals, including that of the globally threatened Egyptian vulture.
The full annual report for the anti-poison dog units 2015 is available in Greek with English summary here.