Massive deaths from poisoned baits in northeastern Greece

19 March 2019

A dead Cinereous Vulture and a Golden Eagle have been recovered within a matter of days in February at the regional unit of Evros, in northern Greece, increasing the long list of rare and protected birds of prey that have been victims of human negligence. Both incidents occurred at a short distance from the protected area of Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park.

The Golden Eagle was recovered just a week after the finding of the dead Cinereous Vulture in a rural area. The Cinereous Vulture was fitted with satellite transmitter in the frame of Life Re-vultures by the Management Body of the National Park of the Dadia-Lefkimmi-Soufli forest. The bird of prey was found thanks to its satellite tag next to dead livestock animals that were tied with rope to nearby trees. Fragments of a broken cyanide capsule were detected in the carcass of one of these livestock animals, raising suspicions about poisoning. It must be highlighted that after a few days an unfortunate wolf also found horrible death at the same spot. An autopsy and a toxicological examination are being carried out in order to verify the cause of death of the animals and detect the poisonous substance.

Cyanide capsules are highly toxical poisoned baits that are produced and trafficked illegally putting a high risk for those who come in contact with them, since they cause respiratory arrest and sudden death. In 2015 this cyanide poison baits caused the massive death of foxes, sheepdogs, and hunting dogs in the area as well as the massive death incidents of foxes and dogs at neighboring Rhodope Prefecture.

Golden Eagles over much of Northern Greece rely heavily on tortoises as their go to, main staple food. During winter months, the scarcity or complete unavailability of tortoises forces them to turn to alternative sources of prey and including carrion. This renders them particularly vulnerable to poisoning, that has been identified as the main mortality factor for the species.

The Cinereous Vulture is a threatened and endangered species just as vulnerable since poisoned baits pose one of the main threats to its survival. Other factors that lead to the depletion of Cinereous Vultures and other birds of prey in the area are the installation of wind farms in foraging areas and electrocution by medium voltage power lines.  It must be noted that in the beginning of October a dead Griffon Vulture was found at a short distance from a wind turbine in the regional unit of Rhodope, most probably due to a collision with a wind turbine.


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