By Alice Taylor
During the last quarter of 2019, the Albanian Ornithological Society (AOS) found that illegal, toxic substances were being used by some farmers and shepherds in Albania.
The AOS conducted a survey in the south of Albania to investigate the use of poison bait against wildlife, why it is used, and the consequences of its use. It was carried out in the framework of the “Anti-Poisoning on Wildlife in Albania” supported by Vulture Conservation Foundation and the MAVA Foundation.
The Egyptian Vulture is Albania’s only breeding vulture species but its numbers are on the decline, mainly due to wildlife poisoning.
A total of 158 surveys were done across seven regions. As well as those that work on the land, the AOS interviewed locals, vets, and agricultural pharmacies. Areas surveyed included Pogradec, Korce, Kolonje, Permeet, Gjirokaster, Tepelene, and Sarande.
They found that 10% of respondents admitted to using poisoned bait. AOS identified a further 10% that could potentially be using them.
The main poison being used is known as “selino” and takes the form of a yellow powder. It was identified as 2,4 Dinitrophenol, a compound of Dinitriphenols which are highly toxic and can cause hyperthermia, fever, breathing problems, acidosis, tachycardia, coma and rapid death. It is categorised as a herbicide and is illegal to import into Albania, or trade within the county.
The driving factor behind the use of such baits was the shepherds/farmers fear of large carnivores such as wolves and bears.
Notably, respondents said they felt that government support for shepherds and this kind of worker was minimal or non-existent. Interviewees said there was no form of support or compensation for livestock lost to predators and the majority added they do not receive any kind of subsidy.
Under these conditions and in an effort to save their livelihood, farmers resort to other means to keep predators away and losses down.
AOS said that the findings of this study are “just the tip of the iceberg” of a major problem that has quietly killed Albanian wildlife for years. The organisation said they will continue to try combat the phenomenon as well as to provide a safer environment for wildlife.