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Poaching Decimating Rarity

Lesser White-fronted Goose shot in Greece

A serious case of poaching of one of Europe's most threatened bird species has been confirmed in Greece. An adult male Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus was found dead at Lake Kerkini - a protected area in Greece where hunting is strictly prohibited. An autopsy confirmed that the bird was killed with a shotgun. The species is protected under the EU Birds Directive, and by national legislation within Greece. The bird - known as Mánnu - had previously been individually colour-marked by scientists close to its breeding area in northern Norway. The main part of the Fennoscandian population winters in Greece, in the protected areas at Lake Kerkini and in the Evros Delta.

Loss of one adult male represents about 5% of all Fennoscandian breeding males. "This is dramatic, because loss of adult reproductive birds has a significant negative impact on the recruitment of the small population", says Dr Ingar Jostein Øien (BirdLife Norway)."So much effort has been invested in the conservation of the species in Norway and internationally, and now it seems that poaching is jeopardizing our efforts. This is the second bird confirmed shot of seven individuals colour-marked. In 2006, another adult male was shot in Russia". As an ultimate effort to rescue the species, various conservation actions are being implemented in Norway, Finland, Estonia, Hungary and Greece as part of the EU LIFE project entitled: ‘Conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose on the European migration route’ lead by WWF Finland.

“Greece should be a safe winter refuge for the species and be contributing to its rescue. However, the inability to prevent illegal hunting even in protected areas, the lack of law enforcement, and the lack of training for hunters make the species vulnerable to hunting, which is the main cause of the population decline”, said Petteri Tolvanen (Conservation Officer - WWF Finland).

“This is probably the most serious case of poaching in Greece in recent years and one of the most alarming cases in Europe”, commented Yannis Tsougrakis (Coordinator of the LIFE project in Greece). Greece has an obligation, based on the EU Birds Directive, to effectively protect the Lesser White-fronted Goose from poaching and accidental shooting. "In practice this will require a ban on all goose hunting at the wintering sites of Lake Kerkini and the Evros Delta”.

HOS is appealing to Greece to take immediate measures for effective wardening against poaching. In Greece, the National Action Plan for the conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose was completed by another EU LIFE project in 1999. It has never been implemented due to negligence by the Greek State.

The Greek LIFE project partner is the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS; BirdLife in Greece). In Norway, the project is being implemented by the Norwegian Ornithological Society (NOF; BirdLife in Norway) and the Directorate for Nature Management (DN).

4th July 2014