While being a small country, Serbia has incredibly diverse landscapes, ranging from flooded forests and reedbed swamps, to arid steppes and dramatic mountain gorges. Situated in south-east Europe and the western Balkans, the different climates and biomes make this landlocked country a heaven for biologists and geologists.
The northern plains of Serbia are marked by the presence of large rivers, marshes, and steppe grasslands with scattered woodlands. The region is also known as the national breadbasket thanks to its rich soils suitable for crop production. Central Serbia is characterized by both lowlands and hills covered by farm and woodland, whilst further west, south, and east, massive mountain ranges cover most of the area.
Sadly, wildlife in Serbia is seriously threatened by local and foreign hunters, who do not shy away from using illegal methods. The most attractive game species for foreign hunters are the Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix) and Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur).
During the summer months, it is estimated that poachers set up and use between 600 and 1,000 illegal calling devices in Serbia causing the death of over 100,000 quail each year.
On top of that, the calling devices also disrupt migration routes by attracting quails to rest in the most unsuitable habitats such as dried-out arable lands that are excessively treated with pesticides. Insufficiently recovered, many quail do not reach their winter destinations, and an extremely small percentage will return to their nesting grounds in spring. Another common activity is the trapping of birds with traps, nets, and glue, which if they somehow manage to escape will most likely still die from injuries and stress.
The Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BPSSS) has been dealing with the topic of illegal hunting for over 20 years. Its Serbian Bird Crime Task Force is specialized in combating wildlife crime. Years of field and advocacy work followed by a big campaign in 2021 resulted in an important change in national legislation. The Rulebook on Declaring a Closed Hunting Season for the Protected Wild Game Species now includes a temporary ban on Turtle Dove hunting, which will last until August 14, 2024. A temporary ban on hunting was also introduced for Grey Partridges (Perdix perdix) and will last until October 14, 2024. The amendments also included the shortening of the hunting season for the Common Quail.