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Poison in Italy | Poison in Andalusia | Poison in Aragon

 

Who and why

The use of poison is a common phenomenon in many parts of Europe. Poisoning is usually practiced by subjects who seek to defend - in a totally illegal and unfair manner - cattle grazing from terrestrial predators such as foxes, stray dogs, wolves, bears and lynx, or to protect the huntable species like partridges, pheasants, hares and ungulate from birds of prey, foxes, wolves, lynx, or also to protect the crops from bear’s foray.

Unfortunately, most of poisoned baits are intended to kill the wolf.

We must remember that the wolf, the main victim of poison, is a species of great importance for the control of populations such as wild boars (its favorite prey), and often people attribute to wolf attacks which are, instead, committed by stray dogs.

 

How

This practice is carried out by the scattering of poisoned baits, or even animal carcasses sprinkled with poison.

Many poisons are used for this purpose: molluscicides (metaldehyde, methiocarb), rodenticides (zinc phosphide, strychnine), pesticides (organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids, herbicides), cyanide, etc...

Some of them are easy to find because they are used in agriculture. Other poisons are prohibited for years, but nevertheless are still used. One example is strychnine, probably imported illegally in Italy from Eastern Europe, where it is more readily available.

In the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, as well as in other areas of central Italy (Abruzzo National Park, Monti Sibillini Regional Park, Velino Sirente Regional Park), the most used toxic substance is strychnine.

Often, poisoned baits are placed in various types of chunks of meat, or inside eggs. Sometimes they are also dissolved in drinks or sprinkled among the grains.

Poisons, ingested in large amounts, cause acute poisoning that provoke neurological, hemorrhagic or gastrointestinal symptoms followed by the death of the animal. Most poisons do not have a specific antidote.

 

Victims

In addition to being an illegal practice, the use of poison is a non-selective practice that can cause direct or indirect death of many species of animals, both domestic and wild.

Dogs, foxes, wolves, bears and wild boars are the direct victims of poisoning, but species such as the carrion birds of prey (red kite, vulture, Egyptian vulture, griffon vulture, golden eagle, etc...) are collateral victims, eating not only carcasses or poisoned baits, but also the animals which have died of poisoning. More rarely, poisoning aims specifically at killing carrion birds of prey.

Therefore, one single poisoned carcass can cause a real massacre, by killing a number of specimens belonging to different species.

The illegal use of poison is responsible or co-responsible (together with the killing with firearms), for the disappearance of brown bears and wolves from many parts of Europe, and even for the extinction or the drastic decline of many species of birds of prey.

 

Investigations

The illegal use of poison is a phenomenon that needs to be fought on many fronts and with different approaches. The most obvious and practiced measures are congruous and timely payment of killed livestock and damages to crops, together with a sensitization raising, in order to stimulate a cultural evolution in the categories involved.

Undoubtedly, the most difficult aspect to deal with is preventing the illegal use of poison, making the punishment for the crime more likely.

Today it is impossible to identify "on sight" the poisoned baits spread around the area, which are found randomly or only after they have made slaughter of animals, and the diagnostic tests on corpses and on baits are very difficult to make. Therefore, those responsible for the crime are rarely identified and punished.

The LIFE+ ANTIDOTO project, with Anti-poison Dog Units and the Strategy against the illegal use of poison, also aims to provide the tools to avoid that those who shed poisoned baits - as is the case today - have guaranteed the almost total impunity.

 

Mouthful poisoned with an insecticide (external dark granules)
Mouthful poisoned with an insecticide (external dark granules)
Mouthful poisoned with an insecticide (external dark granules)
Yong poisoned bearded vulture
Yong poisoned bearded vulture
Yong poisoned bearded vulture
Poisoned wolves (Photo courtesy of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park).
Poisoned wolves (Photo courtesy of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park).
Poisoned wolves (Photo courtesy of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park).
Poisoned wolf (Photo courtesy of the Monti Sibillini National Park).
Poisoned wolf (Photo courtesy of the Monti Sibillini National Park).
Poisoned wolf (Photo courtesy of the Monti Sibillini National Park).