A 54-year-old man from Šabac, Serbia was arrested and detained under suspicion of capturing and injuring a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), a bird of prey which is strictly protected in the Republic of Serbia. He is charged with a criminal offence of harming and killing animals, as well as the destruction and damage of a protected natural asset.
On the 28th of December 2022, Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia – BirdLife Serbia (BPSSS) received a call from a concerned citizen and learned that in the village of Skupljen, some 20 kilometres south of the city of Šabac, a Common Buzzard had been caught in an illegal bear trap. A crew from the Bird Crime Task Force that acts under the wings of BPSSS immediately informed the newly-founded Unit for suppression of ecological crime and protection of the environment, which operates under the Ministry of internal affairs of Serbia and headed towards the location to assist the police officers.
It was found that the accused person placed an iron cage, containing two high-flying pigeons, some 50 meters off the main road on an unmarked parcel. On top of the cage, he placed a bear trap – an illegal device that was in the past used for hunting of a large game. The buzzard was found in a bad condition, with an open fracture of the left leg, which was held together only by sinew and fragments of skin. However, in spite of the massive trauma, the bird was still alive. A rapid police investigation ensued under the supervision of the aforementioned Unit for suppression of ecological crime and within hours the perpetrator of this heinous crime was discovered and detained under suspicion of two felonies: ‘Harming and killing animals’ as well as the ‘Destruction and damage of a protected natural assets’. In Serbia, the sentence can vary from a fine or incarceration of up to 3 years for ‘Harming and killing animals’ and between 6 months to 5 years jail time for the ‘Destruction and damage of a protected natural asset’.
After the police investigation, the buzzard was placed under the care of a local veterinary station and on the following day, the bird was transported to a rehabilitation centre of the Belgrade city zoo, where it was placed under the supervision of a biologist and a veterinarian. The leg had to be amputated and the bird is now recovering and learning how to live with one leg. It is worth mentioning that a single buzzard can hunt down hundreds of rodents on a yearly basis, so with each crime against this species considerable damage is inflicted upon the farming community as well.
“Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia is working on these issues for more than 20 years now. We have a large number of poachers, illegal trappers and poisoners on our radar and I guarantee that they will be caught and brought to justice.”Davor Markovic, Wildlife crime officer from BirdLife Serbia.
He adds: “ By founding the Unit for suppression of ecological crime and protection of the environment, Serbia made a huge leap in biodiversity conservation and protection. This unit is using sophisticated methods in discovering the offenders who practice poaching, regardless of whether they are resorting the firearms or other prohibited methods, such as traps, nets or limesticks. These methods are prohibited not only by several national laws in Serbia, but also by the numerous international treaties, of which Serbia signed and ratified many.
He continues: “We are receiving assistance from the citizens on a regular basis, who recognize these types of crimes and who provide us with information. We have eyes and ears everywhere, in every corner of our country and nothing goes unnoticed. If someone thinks they can capture, harm and kill wild birds with impunity – they are gravely mistaken. We are investing a lot of time into improving the position of the police and prosecution institutions towards this issue and we are very persistent in it. A day draws near when all those who think that violate the law and harm birds will be brought to justice.”
Many endangered species were represented in the recently published Red Book of the Fauna of Serbia. The collected data contains 352 species, of which 255 were susceptible to analysis. The results were alarming as up to 123 species of birds are facing the threat of regional extinction. The main factor of endangerment is the hunting and collection of individual birds (40 species), as well as pollution derived from agriculture, especially poisoning and use of pesticides (44 species).
BirdLife Serbia appeals to the citizens of Serbia to help in the conservation of natural assets by learning how to recognize the cases of bird crime, report them and assist in our mutual efforts to keep the skies of Serbia safe for all its inhabitants. More info on this can be found here.