Illegal poisoning of EU wildlife remains a challenge for Member States and LIFE’s capacity for funding different types of conservation support offers opportunities to implement the mix of practical actions that are needed for tackling this unacceptable problem.
The Habitats Directive is now nearly 20 years old and many important steps have been made during the last two decades to help conserve EU wildlife. Establishing and developing the Natura 2000 network stands out as a prominent example of the Directive’s key achievements, which continue to bring environmental, economic and social benefits to all parts of the Union. Nevertheless, despite the considerable protection offered by the Directive and its support instruments, EU biodiversity continues to experience threats and certain species remain in decline. More therefore needs to be done to enforce legal protections provided to EU species and human factors have a significant part to play here.
Raising awareness among stakeholders about the short, medium and long-term relevance of nature conservation actions will help to improve understanding and appreciation of the Habitat Directive’s goals. This in turn has positive multiplier effects among the authorities from national, regional and local levels with responsibility for implementing wildlife laws. Broadening know-how about the benefits from nature conservation can also help to change behaviour among other crucial stakeholders, so that they switch from being the source of a species’ problems to becoming the solution for safeguarding that same species’ future. Such multi-pronged human approaches to nature conservation are still needed on a variety of fronts, and none more so than in the push to halt illegal poisoning of EU wildlife.
Annex VI of the Habitats Directive prohibits the killing of protected species by poisons. The legislation applies to both deliberate and indirect acts of poisoning. Rural areas remain a particular source of this problem as poison baits have traditionally been used by farmers to control livestock predators like foxes or feral animals. Some techniques used by hunters also kill their quarry using poison. Birds of prey are among the types of protected species that suffer badly from such poisons since many raptors are scavengers and so can easily be killed by feeding on poisoned carcasses.
Efforts to reverse rural ‘ways of life’ involving the use of poisons can be hampered by indifferent attitudes from authorities responsible for policing illegal poisoning. What's more, perpetrators of poisoning incidents are often either unaware of laws concerning baits, or have a disregard for the laws. LIFE however has been involved with addressing these different poison-related problems through multi-pronged project work. Results from LIFE’s interventions have helped to build capacity and commitment among enforcement bodies and also help change the behaviour of farmers and hunters. Examples of LIFE project outcomes tackling illegal poisoning include: