Every year, doles of European Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur) fly over Greece’s Ionian islands during their spring migration. While that may sound like a lovely place to spend your holidays, for birds, it’s actually very dangerous – the Ionian islands are one of the worst illegal bird killing blackspots along the entire African-Eurasian flyway.
At HOS/BirdLife Greece, we are speaking up for the globally threatened European Turtle Dove. We have made a public plea to the state and local authorities to take appropriate measures to end the slaughter of this vulnerable bird species and prevent acts of illegal killing during spring migration in the area.
Considered an illegal activity in Greece since 1985, so-called “spring hunting” is nothing more than a vicious crime committed against thousands of exhausted European Turtle Doves that are passing over the Ionian archipelago on their way to their breeding grounds.
Zante, Corfu but also Paxoi and Othonoi Islands host most of the poachers’ hotspots, and that is also where the illegal killing of birds is more openly defended as a “tradition” to be cherished.
Despite the fact that spring hunting was outlawed more than twenty-five years ago, poachers continue to kill innocent creatures every spring. Even COVID-19 restrictions don’t stop them.
Under the “LIFE Against Bird Crime” project, we have repeatedly and emphatically called on the government and state authorities to take urgent action to control and eventually put an end to spring hunting.
In 2020, under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy, we led an initiative to develop anti-poaching Local Action Plans, with a special focus on islands that are particularly unsafe for birds.
The official response to this initiative gave us hope – we felt that steps were being made for the prevention of spring hunting. Alas, one year later, spring IKB is still business as usual and it remains unclear whether or not the local authorities are implementing the Local Action Plans.
To fail to act in the face of such despicable crime is unacceptable. It sends the message that slaughtering birds is OK, never mind the impact on a globally threatened species, or even the reputation of the Ionian Islands as a world-class tourist destination.
Nonetheless, we will continue to fight for the feathered. We will keep stressing the need to take urgent action and raise awareness about the devastating effects of spring hunting.
If we want our country to be a safe haven for European Turtle Doves and other migratory birds, instead of the death trap it is today, these atrocious crimes must be stopped, and their perpetrators prosecuted.
European Turtle Doves are disappearing. In the past forty years, they have suffered an 80% decline in Europe alone. The time to act is NOW!