Illegal trafficking of birds of prey is a matter of grave concern due to its negative impact on the conservation of affected species. IAF’s position on this is clear: these people are not true falconers, they are poachers and are condemned in the strongest terms. IAF takes a particular interest in stamping out illegal trafficking of birds and sits on the panel for the Bern Convention Special Focus Points for the Illegal killing, Trapping and Trade of Wil d Birds. One species particularly affected by illegal trafficking, and that IAF is working to protect, is Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata).
Bonelli’s eagle Each Spring, chicks in Sicilian nests of the Bonelli’s eagle become subject to robbery by criminals. The Bonelli’s eagle is endangered in Europe and Sicily represents one of the most important strongholds with some 39 active nests. Illegal wildlife traffickers and poaching gangs put the survival of this species at risk for mere economic gain, selling to unscrupulous animal collectors and wreaking irreparable damage on the species. These birds are then sold with fake CITES documents to unsuspecting buyers abroad.
Genuine falconers have nothing to do with the illegal trade and are ready to combat such unlawful and unacceptable crimes. The International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey has been in dialogue with the authorities and with other conservation groups since 2013 and proposes that, alongside strict monitoring, we need to identify the traffickers and the recipients of these protected species. This will require effective collaboration between falconers, conservation volunteers and publi c wildlife authorities. Every national falconry club in Europe already subscribes to IAF’s codes of ethics and conduct.
IAF is in the process of creating a Breeders Register where legitimate breeders of raptors, and particularly breeders of species of greatest concern such as Bonelli’s eagle, may register data on their breeding pairs, ring number or chip identification and CITES documents. This register will also hold genetic material of species subject to wildlife crime for secure banking a nd for DNA analysis (a widely-used tool for combatting wildlife crime). Falconers will be encouraged to buy their birds from genuine breeders who are registered in this way.
No time must be lost; the population of Bonelli’s Eagle is so fragile. The same attention must also be given to the last Egyptian vultures in Sicily and the most important European population of the lanner falcon. We need the determination to defend protected species, to stamp our illegal trafficking permanently and to prevent the disgrace of the good name of falconers.