This is my first time volunteering with CABS, a Germany-based campaigning/conservation organisation that tackles the widespread persecution of resident and migrant birds at key areas across Europe. Like many people, the appalling crimes that birds (particularly migrant ones) suffer across Europe sickens me, so I'm realistic but equally excited and grateful to have the opportunity to take part in this. I'm looking forward to going somewhere I've never been and experiencing it for myself. Conversely, I doubt very much I'm looking forward to seeing many birds, since there's a chance the ones I do will be hanging upside down with shattered legs or entangled in trapper's nets.
The Brescia camp in northern Italy has been running since the 1980s to tackle the widespread illegal poaching that occurs in the Lombardy region. Every autumn, as the last weary summer migrants pass through the Alps on their way south, with the first wintering birds on their heels, they begin funnelling through the food rich valleys in the area, where trappers wait with their nets and a range of crude, archaic traps and hunters ready their guns. And every autumn CABS volunteers are there, monitoring the situation, removing traps and working with the Italian Forest Police. Of the birds that are trapped indiscriminately, some are caught live to meet the demand for hunter's 'decoys' while others are destined for under the counter 'delicacies' in local restaurants. The proactive stance of groups like CABS and the continued pressure heaped on regional governments has seen successes of late in Italy but these still can't hide the sad, unjustifiable fate of millions of birds every year. It should be an interesting week, stay tuned...
Follow the CABS daily blog for updates.
An excerpt from Jonathan Franzen's essay, 'The Ugly Mediterranean':
Italy is a long, narrow gantlet for a winged migrant to run. Poachers in Brescia, in the north, trap a million songbirds annually for sale to restaurants offering pulenta e osei-polenta with little birds. The woods of Sardinia are full of wire snares, the Venetian wetlands are a slaughtering ground for wintering ducks, and Umbria, the home of St. Francis, has more registered hunters per capita than any other region. Hunters in Tuscany pursue their quotas of woodcock and wood pigeon and four legally shootable songbirds, including song thrush and skylark; but at dawn, in the mist, it’s hard to distinguish legal from illegal quarry, and who’s keeping track anyway? To the south, in Campania, much of which is controlled by the Camorra (the local mafia), the most inviting habitat for migratory waterfowl and waders is in fields flooded by the Camorra and rented to hunters for up to a thousand euros a day; songbird wholesalers from Brescia bring down refrigerated trucks to collect the take from small-time poachers; entire Campanian provinces are blanketed with traps for seven tuneful European finch species, and flush Camorristi pay handsomely for well-trained singers at the illegal bird markets there. Farther south, in Calabria and Sicily, the highly publicized springtime hunting of migrating honey buzzards has been reduced by intensive law enforcement and volunteer monitoring, but Calabria, especially, is still full of poachers who, if they can get away with it, will shoot anything that flies.
Reprinted from Telegraph article 8/11/10. All copyright/respect to Jonathan Franzen. Thanks to Lisa A.