Safe Haven for Wild Birds - A safe haven for wild birds: Changing attitudes towards illegal killing in North Mediterranean for European Biodiversity

LIFE11 INF/IT/000253

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Illegal killing of wild birds is a significant threat affecting the viability of populations. Hunting in the EU is regulated according to the provisions of the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC). The term ‘illegal killing of wild birds’ refers to any form of deliberate action, such as catching, trapping, injuring, removing or persecution of birds and their eggs, outside the legal regulations of the aforementioned law. The urgent issues to be addressed are illegal killing of wild birds outside the legal hunting season; illegal killing or capturing of wild birds using indiscriminate trapping methods; and the illegal killing of species that must not be hunted. Awareness and the capacity of law enforcement agencies must be increased in order to mitigate such problems.


The overall objective of the Safe Haven for Wild Birds project was to reduce illegal killing of protected wild birds in three EU Mediterranean countries: Italy, Greece and Spain.

Specific objectives were to:

  • Raise awareness in key stakeholder groups about the migratory flyways of the species affected by illegal activities, and the effects of illegal bird killing on local and European biodiversity;
  • Change socio-cultural attitudes towards illegal killing in the younger generation; and
  • Improve law enforcement, through increased awareness and better coordination among law enforcement authorities.


The Safe Haven for Wild Birds project was implemented by three ornithological associations aimed at protecting birds (LIPU, SEO and HOS), in Italy (Sardinia), Spain (Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon) and Greece (Ionian Islands). They conducted an effective awareness-raising campaign, focused on three hot spots for the illegal killing of wild birds, in collaboration with the advertising company and associated beneficiary JWT Italy.

The project’s awareness-raising campaign, entitled ‘Leaving is living’, involved radio and press advertisements, and content on the internet (website, video and social networks). The campaign reached a large number of people, estimated at 72.8 million people informed during the three years of the project in the three countries. By means of local public events, mobile exhibitions and nature walks and talks, it brought to the attention of the local populations the problem of poaching and other illegal activities against wild birds occurring in their territories. Project staff produced educational teaching kits for each of the three countries, which focused on the migratory journeys of birds and the threats they face. These kits were sent to around 300 schools, with feedback confirming their use in at least 165 schools and in environmental educational centers, reaching almost 15 000 students, where these kits were highly appreciated and are likely to be used for several years to come. The project made a documentary film (‘Leaving is living’) that was screened at events and watched online by a large audience.

The project trained local information officers and volunteers in Italy, to help monitor and report to law enforcement agencies illegal bird killing activities. Reportedly for the first time in Spain, the project organised a meeting among hunters associations, parany associations (parany being a non-selective – and therefore illegal - method of trapping birds using sticky birdlime) and local administrators. Meetings involving hunters’ associations took place also in Greece and Italy. A decrease in the crimes linked to illegal killing of birds was recorded in Spain and Italy, as well as an enhanced collaboration with local authorities and hunters associations in Greece. The monitoring of the extent of illegal activities was conducted through specific protocols, such as recording the number of traps removed. This overall positive trend might continue in the future, considering the possibility of replicating the project's activities at other sites in the same countries and also in other countries through BirdLife International partners.

Project beneficiaries improved levels of collaboration and coordination with law enforcement agencies. The project organised an international conference in Greece in June 2014 on bird crime in the Mediterranean, focused on raising awareness of law enforcement agencies, hunting associations, and local port and forest authorities. This led to the project defining a common and shared plan to tackle the problem of the illegal killing of birds. An improved collaboration was also obtained with local forest authorities in all countries by involving them in project activities, such as public events and workshops in Italy and Spain, and field monitoring activities. The project’s international final conference in Rome in May 2015 further raised awareness of national decision-makers, on the commitment of law enforcement agencies, regional authorities and key stakeholder groups.

The project contributed to achieving the objectives of the EU Biodiversity Action Plan, and to implementing the recommendations of the Larnaka Declaration, agreed at the European Conference on the Illegal Killing of Birds in Cyprus in 2011. The project also contributed to the implementation of the Sustainable Hunting Agreement signed between BirdLife International and FACE (the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation) in 2004. The project’s results can contribute to the conservation of many species included in the Annexes of the Birds Directive.

In terms of socio-economic benefits, the project’s activities focused on the importance of biodiversity and highlighted the potential of nature-friendly tourism in the hot spot areas in the three countries as an alternative to the income generated by illegal bird killing activities. There is therefore the potential for the project to bring economic benefits to local communities. Moreover, the improved techniques implemented by the law enforcement agencies, as a result of experience sharing and cooperation with local volunteers, resulted, at least in some instances, in more effective and cost-effective police investigation procedures.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  environmentally responsible behaviour‚  public awareness campaign

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals - CMS (01/11/1983)
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator LIPU Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli Onlus
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description LIPU (Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli), founded in 1965, is a registered non-profit national environmental association, the Italian partner of BirdLife International and a member of IUCN. LIPU’s main statutory goal is the protection of natural habitats and wild birds: it manages projects, establishes and manages nature reserves, and organises educational and awareness-raising campaigns. Activities are carried out by professional staff and greatly benefit from the contribution of volunteers. The LIPU Reserve system manages 30 protected areas throughout Italy. The LIPU Wildlife Rescue Centre system is made up of 12 wildlife hospitals taking care of 18 000 wounded animals. Thanks to its 100 local volunteer centres, LIPU can work at a local level by providing community services such as environmental patrolling and scientific education.
Partners Sociedad Espanola de Ornitología, Spain Hellenic Ornithological Society, Greece J. Walter Thompson Italia S.p.A., Italy


Project reference LIFE11 INF/IT/000253
Duration 01-AUG-2012 to 31-JAN -2016
Total budget 784,455.00 €
EU contribution 377,893.00 €
Project location Galicia(España) Asturias(España) Cantabria(España) País Vasco(España) Navarra(España) Rioja(España) Aragón(España) Madrid(España) Castilla-León(España) Castilla-La Mancha(España) Extremadura(España) Cataluña(España) Comunidad Valenciana(España) Baleares(España) Andalucía(España) Murcia(España) Ceuta y Melilla(España) Canarias(España) Anatoliki Makedonia, Thraki(Ellas) Kentriki Makedonia(Ellas) Dytiki Makedonia(Ellas) Thessalia(Ellas) Ipeiros(Ellas) Ionia Nisia(Ellas) Dytiki Ellada(Ellas) Sterea Ellada(Ellas) Peloponnisos(Ellas) Attiki(Ellas) Voreio Aigaio(Ellas) Notio Aigaio(Ellas) Kriti(Ellas) Piemonte(Italia) Valle d'Aosta(Italia) Liguria(Italia) Lombardia(Italia) Trentino-Alto Adige(Italia) Veneto(Italia) Friuli-Venezia Giulia(Italia) Emilia-Romagna(Italia) Toscana(Italia) Umbria(Italia) Marche(Italia) Lazio(Italia) Campania(Italia) Abruzzo(Italia) Molise(Italia) Puglia(Italia) Basilicata(Italia) Calabria(Italia) Sicilia(Italia) Sardegna(Italia)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication Project's Final technical report
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Greek/English version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Spanish/English version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Italian/English version)
Video link "To kill two birds with one stone" (64') (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkdLEuR_t6o)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version