Poison baits are killing Greece’s wildlife: three Griffon vultures poisoned

11.06.2018

A few days ago, the Hellenic Ornithological Society/BirdLife Greece was informed by the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna that one of their Griffon vultures fitted with a GPS transmitter had remained in the same location in southwest mainland Greece, at the Agrafa Mountains, for a several days, a highly abnormal behavior for this species usually linked to the death of the individual.
 
Immediately, the Hellenic Ornithological Society's Antipoison Dog Unit together with a warden from the Tzoumerka National Park conducted an on-site investigation of the incident. During the survey, apart from the transmitter-fitted vulture, two more dead Griffon vultures with obvious signs of poisoning were discovered. A dead calf is suspected to be the poison bait in this incident, as it was found very close to the two dead vultures, as well as to a plastic bottle with a white powder residue and a strong smell of pesticide.

The Griffon vulture is one of the four species of vultures that occur in Greece and is a strictly protected species. In Greece, the population of Griffon vulture, which was formerly in abundance, collapsed after the 1990s in the mainland, and is thus classified as "Critically Endangered" in the Red Book of Endangered Animals of Greece. The use of poison baits, although banned since 1993, is still a widespread and extremely damaging practice in the Greek countryside. In less than three decades, the populations of vultures, mainly in mainland Greece, collapsed due to the illegal use of poison baits, while in some areas they disappeared completely.

Agrafa is one of the most important Griffon vulture’s foraging areas in central Greece. Data from satellite transmitters as well as regular observations, show that a significant number of vultures, including birds from neighboring countries, visit the Agrafa Mountains. Maintaining the quality of the habitat and continuing the extensive livestock traditionally practiced in the region is a decisive factor for the survival of the remaining populations of Griffon vultures in mainland Greece.

However, apart from the illegal use of poison baits, the birds of prey have to face another oncoming threat in this area: the construction of windfarms on the -until now- untouched peaks of the Agrafa Mountains, that will irreparably damage one of the most important shelters for birds of prey in Greece.

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