“We are horrified by this barbaric, mass killing of endangered species. These actions can lead to the complete extinction of a species in our country,” says Stoycho Stoychev, the Conservation Director at the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). ”We have no recent data for the confirmed breeding of the Red-footed Falcon, for example, and it may turn out that this man has shot some of the last pairs in Bulgaria.”
In a joint action by the representatives of Regional Police in the town of Razgrad and State Hunting Area “Voden-Iri Hissar”, the poacher “R.K.” got arrested and detained late in September 2021. While inspecting the offender’s house, authorities found frozen carcasses and stuffed exemplars of over 20 protected bird and mammal species.
The macabre collection featured key species for conservation in Europe such as the Lesser Spotted Eagle (Clanga pomarina) and the Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), as well as protected species including the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) and the Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops).
On top of that, the police found species included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria – like the Otter, the Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), the Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmaeus), the Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), as well as body parts of an illegally-shot red deer. BSPB suspects the main motive of stuffing these animals was to sell them on the black market.
The damage caused by the poacher is believed to extend way beyond the Bulgarian borders, as many of the killed birds most likely belong to migratory populations from other European countries.
The BSPB say that poaching is the very reason Egyptian Vultures are being driven towards extinction. Considered one of the most endangered birds in the whole world, this population only numbers 25 pairs in the country. This means that shooting even a single bird of this critically endangered species can cause disastrous damage to its population and contribute to its complete extinction.
“R.K.” is known throughout Northeast of Bulgaria for his poaching activities, but so far, he has not been caught. While searching the area, two red deer carcasses were found. We suspect that there are other killed animals, but we will only be able to confirm it if we find their remains,” commented Kiril Kolev, Director of State Hunting Area “Voden-Iri Hissar”. “In my opinion, what happened is an act of vandalism and a crime against wildlife. This is a gross interference in game populations and creates imbalances.
Wildlife crimes, including poaching, wildlife trafficking, and illegal poisoning, cause a significant decline in biodiversity and quickly undo years of conservation work. These activities are illegal and subject to severe sanctions – including imprisonment. According to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Bulgaria: “whoever destroys, catches, keeps or sells a specimen of European or globally endangered wild vertebrates without the necessary permission, shall be punished by imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of 1,000 to 5,000 BGN and with compensation for the damages caused”.
Pre-trial proceedings have begun, and an investigation is still underway.