The illegal killing of birds, even protected species, has become rife in Montenegro. This year, a Eurasian Eagle-owl (Bubo bubo) and a Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), as well as a female bear, have already fallen victim to wildlife crime.
Enough is enough. Alongside over 80 Montenegrin civil society organisations, CZIP, BirdLife’s partner in Montenegro, has submitted an initiative to establish a five-year hunting moratorium. The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water has promised to deliver a strategy that will put an end to bird poaching in Montenegro once and for all.
How will a hunting moratorium stop illegal killing?
Let’s start from the beginning. Those who manage Montenegro’s hunting grounds are the Hunting Association and hunting organisations affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture. The problem is, these organisations monitor wildlife by themselves following very poor protocols, or even no protocols at all. This is clearly shown by the inconsistent and unreliable wildlife data that is displayed every year, and on which hunting plans and management are based. In view of this catastrophic situation, there’s only one conclusion: the system needs complete reform.
Another major problem is that the hunting guard service and the inspectors do not have sufficient resources to do their work properly. Gamekeepers are underequipped and understaffed.
The Forestry and Hunting Inspectorate employs 11 inspectors, based mainly in the capital city, Podgorica. Most of them cover multiple areas and are almost never in the field.
A core issue is that the hunting organisations simply lack the will to solve the problem. During 2013 and 2018, the entire amount of misdemeanour complaints filed by the inspection service was… 39. That’s not even one per month.
This worrying situation is made worse by the intensive development of hunting tourism in the country, which is flourishing without any reports or registrations.
Attempts to amend the Law on Hunting and Wildlife were made in an extremely untransparent manner, both in terms of drafting the document and in terms of public consultation. Coalition 27 – a network of NGOs monitoring the issue – was not informed or involved in the process. Thankfully, these changes have been suspended by reason of our timely notice to the European Commission about the Montenegrin government’s non-compliance with EU law (which matters because Montenegro is applying to join the EU).
The prohibition of hunting, on which CZIP insists, is the only way to allow enough time to, on the one hand, protect bird populations; and on the other hand, implement an effective legislative and institutional reform of hunting and strengthen the country’s capacities to tackle environmental crime regarding inspection, prosecution and the overall judicial system.
Music against the massacre
The alarming rise of illegal killing in Montenegro pushed CZIP to cooperate with Montenegrin hip-hop duo “Who See”. Thanks to this cooperation, they presented the issue of illegal killing of birds to Montenegrin people in a different way, mixing music, art, and nature protection.
The song and music video show the perspective of a poacher, Luka, and a Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix). It points out how the killing of protected species and using calling devices (tape lures), nets and other decoys for birds should be reported and prosecuted to protect nature and biodiversity.