Bulgaria is about to adopt one of the most important national strategies for the conservation of biodiversity and endangered species – that of combating the illegal use of poisons and poison baits in nature.
In November a workshop was held in Sofia between responsible institutions and environmental NGOs to develop this strategy, whose main purpose is to find the best options for combating one of the biggest threats to wildlife, which poses an enormous risk to people as well.
The meeting was opened by Deputy Minister of Environment and Water Krasimir Zhivkov, who expressed recognition of the need and support of MoEW for this initiative. The first step in developing the national strategy was to analyze the available information on the use of poisons and poisonous baits, as well as the effects of these practices on the biodiversity in the country. The results of the discussion served to identify the main problems, namely: illegal import of plant protection products (PPPs); misuse of dangerous PPPs in intensive agriculture; unregulated storage of hazardous PPPs (old stocks and warehouses); the illegal use of legal PPPs for poison baits, mainly in connection with the human-predator conflict; poor detection and difficult demonstrability of the offender in poisoning; and the risk of lead poisoning. The roots of many of these problems are related to the lack of recognition of the problem of poisons as significant, both by the responsible institutions and by society.
Other identified direct or indirect causes of the poison problem are the lack of good coordination and clear responsibilities for action, sufficient commitment, capacity, financial and human resources; lack of good control over access to purchase and use of dangerous PPPs; non-implementation of effective preventive measures to mitigate the damage caused by predators (including stray dogs); gaps in national legislation. Based on the identified problems and the reasons for them, adequate activities have been designed to be included in the strategy.
Other important outcomes of the meeting are the conception of a national working group to implement the strategy and develop a protocol for action in cases of poisoning. This document clearly describes the steps and actions that need to be taken, as well as the responsibilities of the various institutions involved.
As Mr. Jovan Andevski, a representative of the VCF (author of the Balkan Vulture Action Plan and the Vulture MsAP), pointed out: “Bulgaria is one of the best examples of effective environmental protection at the Balkan level and a leading country in the region in dealing with some of the most endangered animals on the planet – the vultures. I am truly happy to see and directly participate in a joint process between institutions and the non-governmental sector to develop a national poison control strategy – an important missing element for the effective conservation of biodiversity in the country.”
The illegal use of poisons and poisonous baits against predators causes irreparable damage, especially to populations of predatory birds, including endangered species such as the Egyptian Vulture and the Imperial Eagle. The most recent reported case of the poisoning of protected species was in September when eight Griffon Vultures and one Golden Eagle were poisoned in the Svoge region, and over 30 Griffon Vultures were poisoned in the Kresna Gorge in March 2017. In 2016 near Strazhets village series of poisoning incidents have been reported, killing over 20 wild and domestic animals. In these cases, it is noticed that there is a lack of good synchronization between the various institutions responsible for ensuring proper sampling on the ground, securing the areas around poison baits, collecting carcasses of poisoned animals to prevent secondary poisoning, analyzing the collected samples for identification of the poisonous substances and identification of the perpetrators.
The organizer of the meeting is the BSPB within the framework of the LIFE projects “Conservation of black and griffon vultures in the cross-border Rhodope mountains” and “Egyptian Vulture New LIFE“. Among the main participants are representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Water, Executive Environment Agency, Ministry of Interior, Regional Directorate for Food Safety, National Diagnostic Veterinary Research Institute, Union of Hunters and Fishermen in Bulgaria, , IBEI – BAS, BPPS, Green Balkans, FWFF, VCF, the Association of Parks in Bulgaria, Balkani Wildlife Society, Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, Four Paws, Thracian and Agrarian Universities.