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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Will shooting 240 raptors really help Lower Austria? - part 2

The story of raptors being shot in Lower Austria has been particularly interesting to me not because I am particulary against hunting, but because I was interested in how the whole process seems to have proceeded. The decree was described as being snuck through just before Christmas time and has lit some pretty intense fires both here in Austria, but also on many online forums around the world. But I struggled to find out anything from anyone other than green activists (who were just reciting what WWF had on their website) and embelishing with opinion. Eventually, I found the original decree of the Lower Austrian Govenment (Niederösterreich Beutegreiferverordnung 6500/14–0 Stammverordnung 95a/08 of 11 December 2008). Well, at least I think I found the right one ;-)

Basically, the decree details the number of Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo, Mäusebussard) and Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis, Habicht) that can be shot in each of the state's 25 municipal districts (Bezirk), totalling 200 buzzards and 40 goshawks.

Here is my (very rough) translation of some of the text. Please do not take it as given that I have translated it accurately, read the original and decide for yourself:

Scope and goal
(1) This decree relates to the following wildlife:
  1. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
  2. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
(2) The goal of this decree is the avoidance of possible risk for the bird species mentioed in (1), above, through the granting of an exception to the hunting/killing ban by regulating how it is carried out and under the following conditions:
  1. the sustainable use of the population in small numbers
  2. excluding the breeding, nesting, and raising periods
  3. making sure that only the species in question are affected
  4. reporting of all hunting
Information and reporting duty
  1. Before attempting to shoot one of the raptors, a registered hunter needs to contact the office of the Lower Austrian Hunting Association (Landesgeschäftsstelle des NÖ Landesjagdverbandes, Wickenburggasse 3, 1080 Wien, Tel. 01/40516360) to check how many (if any) of the raptors have already been shot and if the limit has been reached.
  2. In order for record keeping and scientific interest, each raptor shooting needs to be reported along with information such as the species, where and when it was shot, and any taf or ring information.
  3. Once a year (on 15 May), the hunting association needs to write a report based on the previous year's hunt.
All shot buzzards and goshawks need to be handed in to one of five people/companies from which they will be collected and used for an unnamed accompanying scientific study.
One of the things I found interesting is that much of the talk on the forums and the WWF Österreich website was about the decree and shoot being there to protect endangered species that are threatened by the Common Buzzard and Northern Goshawk. I am just learning this German language (and it is not easy!), but I found nothing that listed that as a reason, or any mention of the 26 endangered species referred to in protest reports/commentary.

Some things that stand out to me in the relevant European law (Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds) include:

Article 7 - neither species is in annex II (the list of species that - at the state's own discretion - may be hunted)

Article 9 states:

1. Member States may derogate from the provisions of Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8, where there is no other satisfactory solution, for the following reasons:

(a) - in the interests of public health and safety,

- in the interests of air safety,

- to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water,

- for the protection of flora and fauna;

(b) for the purposes of research and teaching, of re-population, of re-introduction and for the breeding necessary for these purposes;

(c) to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis, the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers.

So, I am not sure whether the Lower Austrian decree was meant to fall under the section "for the protection of flora and fauna" (for which I see no direct evidence in the decree document I read) or "for the purposes of research and teaching" (which also makes little sense).

All and all, this remains a bit of a puzzle to me.


Dale said...

This is certainly puzzling. There should at least be some justification in the order allowing the shooting. However, if politics in Austria is in any way similar to politics in the USA, it just depends on "whose ox is being gored." Maybe the chief legislator's pet chickens or racing doves are being taken by the raptors! Maybe its the pigeon racers who pushed this along. Just a thought.

R. Dale Caldwell, Ph.D.
Safety Harbor,FL USA

Anonymous said...

Good Work.


kshea said...


I've been out of the loop for several weeks not but was wondering if any new information surfaced? In Virginia (where I'm from here in the US) the USDA has culled the over 1200 vultures citing a recent instance at Dutch Gap Conservation area where the birds became a problem to vehicles as well as at the local power plant.

I'm not advocating this method for managing populations just curious how other countries approach it.


Dale Forbes said...

Hi K and others,
As at 20 Jan 09, 86 buzzards and 2 goshawks had been shot (according to numbers registered with the hunting association).
As far as I can tell, the decree is unlikely to be revoked: the hunting lobby is very strong, and a report by the "Research Institute for Wildlife Science and Ecology" at the Vienna Veterinary University (Forschungsinstitut für Wildtierkunde und Ökologie Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien Institutsleiter: Univ. Prof. Dr. Walter Arnold) suggests that 247 Buzzards and 45 Goshawks can be shot every year (a number they calculate as being 1% of the yearly average mortality) to help protect a list of 26 species that have some level of conservation concern (even if the predators mentioned do not in any way threaten the other species mentioned).

Justifying the shoot by the first criteria makes sense if it fulfills the requirements of European Law. Passing the shooting off under the guise of a conservation and research effort just reeks of pseudoscience and dishonesty.